Across large- and mid-sized cities, projects and initiatives that link transportation and the built environment to public health are gaining ground. A recent study by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) reports that a multi-sectored and collaborative approach to planning can improve the quality of life in diverse communities.
A healthy network of transport options and strong design that integrates transit-oriented development means better overall health for the residents of a community.
- High quality transportation reduces pollution related to emissions.
- Easily accessible transportation significantly reduces traffic and safety issues. And in the U.S., the most sprawling communities have the most traffic fatalities per capita, while areas that employ smart growth have reduced traffic incidents.
- Use of public transportation induces exercise and planning that incorporates walkability, increasing the number of residents meeting physical activity requirements.
- Good design and transportation systems improve access to services and goods.
As communities age and incidents of diet-related diseases continue to rise across the globe, planning to improve opportunities for healthy living is increasingly significant.
In the U.S., initiatives like the Kellogg Food and Fitness Initiative provide grants for innovative projects, from rural Holyoke, Mass. to Oakland, Calif. to look specifically at these linkages. To learn more about these types of initiatives, see our previous posts about the links between health and transport.
However, the VTPI report notes that the outcome of a community’s health remains complex: “There are often several steps between a planning decision and its ultimate health impacts.” The gap between policy and practice can be considerable.
Nonetheless, for cities and towns confronted with multiple barriers to physical activity, transit-oriented development is an important first step to improving quality of life.