Units of transportation measurement

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The units of transportation measurement describes the unit of measurement used to measure the quantity and traffic of transportation used in transportation statistics, planning, and their related fields.

Units of transportation quantity[edit]

The currently popular units are:

Length of journey[edit]

  • kilometre (km) or kilometer is a metric unit used to measure the length of a journey outside the USA;
  • the international statute mile (mi) is used in the USA; 1 mi = 1.609344 km
  • nautical mile is rarely used to derive units of transportation quantity.

Traffic flow[edit]

  • vehicle-kilometre as a measure of traffic flow, determined by multiplying the number of vehicles on a given road or traffic network by the average length of their trips measured in kilometres.[1]
  • vehicle-mile same as before but measures the trip expressed in miles.


Payload quantity[edit]

  • passenger or person (p)


Passenger-distance is the distance (km or miles) travelled by passengers on transit vehicles; determined by multiplying the number of unlinked passenger trips by the average length of their trips.

  • passenger-kilometre or pkm internationally;
  • passenger-mile (or pmi ?) sometimes in the USA; 1 pmi = 1.609344 pkm

Passengers per bus hour[edit]

A system may carry a high number of passengers per distance (km or mile) but a relatively low number of passengers per bus hour if vehicles operate in congested areas and thus travel at slower speed.

Passengers per bus distance[edit]

A transit system serving a community with a widely dispersed population must operate circuitous routes that tend to carry fewer passengers per distance (km or mile). A higher number is more favorable.


A simple unit of freight is the kilogram-kilometre (kgkm), the service of moving one kilogram of payload a distance of one kilometre.

Payload quantity[edit]

1 t = (1/0.907) short tons = 1.102 short tons.


  • kilogram-kilometre or kgkm, moving 1 kg of cargo a distance of 1 km;
  • tonne-kilometre or tkm; 1 tkm = 1,000 kgkm;
  • ton-mile in the USA: 1 ton-mile * ( 0.907185 t / short ton) * ( 1.609344 km / mile ) = 1.460 tkm[2]
  • kilometre-tonne (unit: kmt) — the transportation of one tonne over one kilometre [3][4]


Outside the USA and internationally the metric units (pkm and tkm) are used. (In aviation where United States customary units are still widely used, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) releases its statistics in the metric units.)

In the USA, sometimes United States customary units are used.

(Please comment on the usage in the United Kingdom.)


The dimension of the measure is the product of the payload mass and the distance transported.


A semi truck traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago (approximate distance 2,015 miles) carrying 14 short tons of cargo delivers a service of 14 * 2,015 = 28,210 ton-miles of freight (equal to about 41,187 tkm).

Intermodal containers[edit]

Intermodal container traffic is commonly measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), rather than cargo weight, e.g. a TEU-km would be the equivalent of one twenty-foot container transported one kilometer.[5]

Units of transportation density[edit]

Transportation density can be defined as the payload per period, say passenger / day or tonne / day. This can be used as the measure of intensity of the transportation on a particular section or point of transportation infrastructure, say road or railway. This can be used in comparison with the construction, running costs of the infrastructure.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "vehicle-km". Environmental Terminology Discovery Service. European Environment Agency. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  2. ^ http://www.icao.int/dataplus/Documents/GLOSSARY.docx
  3. ^ Duden - Wörterbuch der Abkürzungen. Von Josef Werlin. 4., neu bearbeitete und erweiterte Auflage. Mannheim, Leipzig, Wien, Zürich: Dudenverlag 1999; http://www.duden.de/duden-suche/werke/abklex/000/012/kmt.12117.html
  4. ^ Woxikon - http://abkuerzungen.woxikon.de/abkuerzung/kmt.php
  5. ^ http://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=4319

External links[edit]

Here is an example of transportation statistics.