Northeast Corridor Intercity Travel Study

As part of its mission to implement a long-term regional investment strategy for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), the Northeast Corridor Commission is interested in all long-distance travel in the NEC Region. While the Commission enjoys access to quality data on rail and air travel, no such data has yet been available for automobile and intercity bus travel. To fill this data gap, RSG was commissioned to conduct separate studies of intercity automobile and bus travel around the NEC.

The Northeast Corridor Auto Origin-Destination Study examined intercity automobile travel volumes and patterns in the entire NEC Region. It employed novel analysis of observed travel behavior through the collection of anonymous toll transaction data, photographic license plate capture, and a large-scale driver survey. The Northeast Corridor Intercity Bus Study consisted of a survey of bus passengers coupled with a careful compilation of bus schedule data. Using both of these datasets in tandem yielded an accurate picture of bus travel. The bus study covered a similar geographic extent to the auto study.

Results of both studies were compared with available data for rail and air travel. This summary report describes estimates of mode split for major submarket pairs as well as information on trip purpose and why travelers chose a particular mode. Demographic information for surveyed bus and automobile travelers is also provided. Greater New York (a very large area that includes the five boroughs of NYC, Southern New York State, Northeastern New Jersey, and Southwestern Connecticut) is the major generator/magnet on the corridor for all trips. Trips to or from greater New York account for 78% of intercity auto trips, 91% of intercity rail trips, 64% of intercity air trips, and 91% of intercity bus trips in the region. The greater Philadelphia/Trenton area and Connecticut are also major auto markets.

Both intercity bus and auto trips are much more likely to be taken for leisure than business. Auto travelers on the corridor underestimate the cost of gas and other operating expenses associated with driving. Time savings, lower cost, and the need for a vehicle at the destination are the top reasons cited for choosing auto, while price is by far the most commonly cited reason for choosing bus.

Automobile trips were more likely than bus trips to involve several other travelers in the party; roughly 50% of all auto trips and 26% of bus trips were taken by a party of more than one. About 38% of drivers and 54% of bus travelers say they would have taken the train had their chosen mode not been an option.

Flowchart and Estimates of Annual Intercity Person-Trips for Top Submarkets Across All Modes