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Two “New” Best Practices

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Importance of walking to transit, and of high-density job centers

These studies date back to 2005 but they are “new” to our Best Practices database.

The first study, “Walking to Public Transit,” is one of the relatively few studies that examine the amount of physical activity associated with the use of transit, and when it was published in 2005 it was the first to quantify the activity. Nearly half of all Americans do not meet the Surgeon General’s recommendation to get 30 minutes of physical activity daily. But this study finds that Americans who use transit spend a median of 19 minutes a day walking to and from the bus or train, and that 29 percent of transit riders get at least 30 minutes of physical activity.

Who gets the most health benefits by walking 30 minutes from transit daily? People who live hear rail, people who live in high density areas, ethnic minorities, and people who live in households making less than $15,000 a year. The study concludes that providing more access to transit also provides more opportunities for physical activity since most transit trips begin and/or end with walking. “Walking To Public Transit: Steps to Help Meet Physical Activity Recommendations,” by Lilah Besser of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Andrea Dunn of the nonprofit Cooper Institute, was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2005 (Volume 29, Number 4).

The second study is “The Importance of Trip Destination in Determining Transit Share.” Most research and policy discussion about increasing transit’s mode share has focused on the importance of increasing residential densities. This study concludes, however, that the development and expansion of very large high-density job centers in urban and suburban downtowns is a better way to affect mode choice. This is because it’s easier to increase densities in downtown commercial areas where there is less political opposition, and because the densities can be much higher. Downtowns can also support higher quality transit service, which will attract more riders.

The study also concludes that the availability of a wide choice of destinations is a critical variable in determining transit’s mode share, even more so than residential characteristics. Destinations matter not only because overall transit share from a given trip origin is strongly dependent on the destination, but also because the impact of increasing residential density is very different depending on the availability of trip destinations. “The Importance of Trip Destination in Determining Transit Share,” by Gary Barnes, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, was published in the Journal of Public Transportation in 2005 (Volume 8, Number 2).