Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Public Transit <-> Public Health: The Link?

Is it possible that public transportation is actually “good for you”? Is there a link between transit and health, individual and collective? Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (Canada) reports that a number of recent studies do show that high quality public transit service can improve public health by...

  • Increasing physical activity (people who use public transit on a particular are about 3 times more likely to achieve the basic amount of walking required for public health as people who drive and do not use public transit)

  • Reducing per capita traffic fatalities (residents of cities with high quality public transit have about a quarter of the per-capita traffic fatality rates as residents of more automobile-dependent communities)

  • Increased affordability and therefore less stress and more money left in the household budget for healthy food and other necessities (residents of cities with high quality public transportation spend about 20% small portion of household budgets on transportation, and this effect is probably larger for lower-income households)

  • Improved accessibility for non-drivers, and therefore less difficulty reaching medical services and healthy food.
These factors cannot overcome other demographic and economic factors that reduce poor people's health, but it does suggest that everybody, particularly poor people, are much better off in a transit oriented community than in an automobile-dependent community.

Todd Alexander Litman -
Victoria Transport Policy Institute - “Efficiency - Equity - Clarity”
Victoria, Canada

For information see:

Heather Allen (2008), Sit Next To Someone Different Every Day - How Public Transport Contributes To Inclusive Communities, Thredbo Conference (

APTA (2003), The Route to Better Personal Health, American Public Transportation Association (; at

David Bassett, John Pucher, Ralph Buehler, Dixie L. Thompson, and Scott E. Crouter (2008), Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Vol. 5 (, pp. 795-814.

Reid Ewing, et al. (2003), “Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Physical Activity, Obesity, and Morbidity,” American Journal of Health Promotion, Vol. 18, No. 1 (, Sept/Oct. 2003, pp. 47-57; at .

Lawrence Frank, Sarah Kavage and Todd Litman (2006), Promoting Public Health Through Smart Growth: Building Healthier Communities Through Transportation And Land Use Policies, Smart Growth BC (; at

Ugo Lachapelle and Lawrence D . Frank (2008), “Mode Of Transport, Employer-Sponsored Public Transit Pass, And Physical Activity,” Journal Of Public Health Policy (

Todd Litman (2003), “Integrating Public Health Objectives in Transportation Decision-Making,” American Journal of Health Promotion, Vol. 18, No. 1 (, Sept./Oct. 2003, pp. 103-108; at

Todd Litman (2004), If Health Matters: Integrating Public Health Objectives into Transportation Decision-Making, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (; at .

Todd Litman (2007), Community Cohesion As A Transport Planning Objective, VTPI (; at

Todd Litman (2008), Evaluating Transportation Affordability, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (; at

Todd Litman (2008), Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs, VTPI (; at .

Todd Litman and Steven Fitzroy (2006), Safe Travels: Evaluating Mobility Management Traffic Safety Benefits, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (; at

William H. Lucy (2003), “Mortality Risk Associated With Leaving Home: Recognizing the Relevance of the Built Environment,” American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 93, No. 9, September 2003, pp. 1564-1569; at

Richard E. Wener and Gary W. Evans, (2007), “A Morning Stroll: Levels of Physical Activity in Car and Mass Transit Commuting,” Environment and Behavior, Vol. 39, No. 1, 62-74 (

Print this article