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Living Near Public Transportation May Lengthen Your Life

The American Public Transportation Association released "Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits," a comprehensive survey of recent research on smart growth communities, that argues people who live near high-quality public transportation "drive less, exercise more, and live longer, and are generally healthier than residents of communities without high-quality public transportation." The Victoria Transport Policy Institute and Todd Litman conducted the survey of existing research studies and concluded that living in communities with public transit "provides large health benefits."

APTA president William Millar said: "Public transportation enhances the overall quality of life of an individual and a community. Use of public transit simply means that you walk more which increases fitness levels and leads to healthier citizens. More importantly, increasing use of public transit may be the most effective traffic safety counter measure a community can employ." The survey authors contend: "Such communities also have less pollution because public transportation produces far less emissions per passenger mile than private automobiles."

A number of the 10 leading causes of reduced lifespan identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are transportation-related. Cancer and heart disease can be linked to transportation. The report authors sum-up: "Pollution contributes to cancer and congenital anomalies [birth defects], and sedentary living contributes to heart disease and strokes."

In addition, smart growth communities can reduce violent death rates from vehicle accidents, another top-10 killer listed by the CDC. "10  U.S. counties with the 'smartest,' most transit-oriented growth have approximately one-fourth the traffic fatality rates as those counties with the most sprawling development. For example, the traffic fatality rate for the Bronx, NY was approximately four per 100,000 residents.  However, for Miami, Kansas, the rate was almost 40 per 100,000."

The APTA-commissioned survey found that the long-term health benefits of living near high-quality public transportation accrue regardless of income.  Also, demand for multi-modal transportation and the neighborhoods these networks help create cuts across income levels. "A growing portion of households want to rely more on alternative modes and live in more accessible, multi-modal communities."

Read the report and see the CDC's recommendations for improving health through transportation policy, which calls for expanding transportation options available to communities.

Also, see Millar's comments at The Atlantic's Future of the City forum and an interview with Jeff Speck, author of "The Smart Growth Manual"

Image credit: Greenwork Sheffield / Yahoo! Green