Thursday, August 26, 2010

Public Transit: Health Provider

Yes, a bus can take a person to the doctor, to work, to the supermarket, but, according to a study commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), just having rail or bus fixed-route transit in your town or neighborhood increases the chances that you are living a healthy lifestyle and reaping its benefits. Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits, prepared by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, shows that it is not so much the bus or the train itself that provides health benefits as the accouterments of places that have invested in transit and the lifestyle of walking to a stop or a station: walkable streets, less car use - whether a trip is part transit or not, fewer car crashes (injuries and fatalities), less pollution, more exercise, and fewer health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. What transit does accomplish for health is making possible healthier choices than those mobility options that disproportionately pollute, cause serious injury and death, and make it inconvenient to get in that all-important daily exercise.

APTA's website is filled stories of the benefits of transit. In addition to health, the annual savings average of transit over car use was pegged this year at $9,381, an average far exceeded in many major cities. If you live in Brooklyn, for example, you could save over $13,000 (of course your housing costs would be impossible, so you might want to consider a move carefully).

Planning Sustainable Communities

The Administration intends to encourage more communities to become healthier and more environmentally sustainable through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants.

The Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations has posted advice for regions planning to apply for the grants. This includes a good explanation of what federal and other dollars may be used as matching funds. This planning grant program intends to "support metropolitan and multijurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of these issues specific to their region."

Another good source of information on this topic is the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC). It has a page devoted to the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants and how to apply.

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