• Aug 19th 2010 at 2:55PM
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To follow up on our recent article titled "Overweight and overfueled - fat America uses more gas" we thought we'd offer some additional information that's relevant to the topic. A recent study conducted by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) suggests that U.S. drivers may be overweight partially due to factors beyond their immediate control. The APTA study found that:
People who live in communities with high-quality public transportation drive less, exercise more, live longer, and are generally healthier than residents of communities that lack quality public transit.
How does public transportation directly effect your health? Well, according to APTA president William Millar:
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.
But the causal relationship between public transportation and health does not end there. A recent report compiled by Trust for America's Health and the U.S. Census Bureau concludes that "driving is why you're fat." In a roundabout way, the report suggests that states with a higher percentage of people who commute via bike, public transportation or by walking, are indeed much less likely to report a high rate of obesity. In fact, this online transparency, put together by Good.is, shows the causal relationship between means of transportation and each state's reported obesity rate. After glancing over the graphic, maybe you'll want to join the majority of the U.S. by demanding better public transportation. Hit the jump for more info from the APTA and click here (PDF) to read its recently published study titled "Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits."

[Source: Good.is, Trust for America's Health, American Public Transportation Association | Image: tyger_lyllie C.C. License 2.0]


Residents Who Live Near Public Transportation Live Healthier, Longer Lives, Study Finds

A new report, released by the American Public Transportation Association, which surveys current research has found that people who live in communities with high-quality public transportation drive less, exercise more, live longer, and are generally healthier than residents of communities that lack quality public transit.

Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits, a study conducted for APTA by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute aggregates the findings of several recent studies and concludes that people living in transit-oriented "smart growth" communities enjoy several health benefits, not seen in other communities, including residents drive less, exposing them to a lower risk of fatal vehicle accidents.

Such communities also have less pollution, because public transportation produces far less emissions per passenger mile than private automobiles. In addition, people who live near quality public transit are more likely to undertake regular physical activity than residents of automobile-dependent communities.

"Public transportation enhances the overall quality of life of an individual and a community," said APTA president William Millar. "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 APTA report notes, transportation activity also plays a role in lessening an individual's risk in five of the 10 leading causes of reduced lifespan, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent CDC study evaluated causes of potential years of life lost, including cancer, heart disease, motor vehicle crashes, and other causes. For example, "Pollution contributes to cancer and congenital anomalies [birth defects], and sedentary living ... contributes to heart disease and strokes," Litman wrote.

One solution is smart growth communities, according to Litman, who cited a 2003 study finding that urban residents had significantly lower violent death rates, whether from vehicle accidents or other causes.

Litman also noted that the 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, KS, the rate was almost 40 per 100,000.

Moreover, other recent studies have found that users of public transportation walk more than those who do not use public transit, regardless of income.

The health benefits of public transportation should be given greater consideration in transportation planning, Litman concluded. "A growing portion of households want to rely more on alternative modes and live in more accessible, multi-modal communities," he wrote. "Accommodating this demand would provide benefits to users and society, including significant health benefits.

# # #

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passenger services, and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Does driving make you fat? Can public transportation, biking and walking keep you skinny?"

      No, and not necessarily. Next question.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I was about 60lbs lighter when i was riding my bike 15 miles a day to commute to work. I want to do that again..
      • 5 Years Ago
      Using the argument of the people wanting to raise the gas tax to cut consumption, we can raise the taxes in groceries to cut consumption and make it harder to be fat?....

      BTW being sarcastic lol..
      • 5 Years Ago
      The only thing that makes you fat is consistently consuming more calories than your body burns.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Car ownership is not a direct cause for decreased excercise. If you take a bus to work instead of driving how are you getting more excercise if you are sitting? Lack of excercise is a persoanl decision. As fitfan said what makes people fat is consuming more calories than you burn. Eat less excercise more, it's not rocket science.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Which is why driving and having jobs involving no physical labor is really bad for you. That's the majority of jobs now. Most people sit in front of a computer these days.

        I think most people ( and animals ) naturally have a tendency to overeat a little bit. Over a long period of time this adds up.. with no physical activity to even that out, that's a problem.

        • 5 Years Ago
        And car ownership is a direct cause of decreased exercise.
        • 5 Years Ago
        And walking to your driveway to get in your car and from the parking lot to your desk burns a lot fewer calories then walking 15 minutes to a subway station and 15 minutes from the station to work.
      • 5 Years Ago
      HEY that's Boston in the header image. I'd recognize it anywhere.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I would have missed that: I used to work downtown (by the Fan Pier) and lived in Brighton. Green Line from Park St, rarely saw the Orange...

        Don't recall seeing many fat people on the train, except when the suburban ParknRiders would come in and clog the Green Line for the Sox games...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Orange Line represents.

        (I think that's a complete sentence these days)
      • 5 Years Ago
      In a perfect world, sure, I'd take public transit. But those of us that live in some suburban or rural areas simply don't have viable public transportation options available to us. It's the bus, or nothing. And frankly, the bus routes or times may not be convenient for our work hours or location.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Eric, you're missing the "Duh" tag on this post.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Does driving make you fat?"

      dumb question.
      Eating too much does.
      Anymore brain busters...?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The other thing we miss from all of this is that fat American's make cars themselves heavier. When you have to fit up to 4 x 250lbs adults then that is much different than allowing for 4 x 175lbs adults. That extra 300 lbs means you have to add extra steel to handle the load and the extra 300 lbs of total weight. The extra body weight plus the extra steel means a bigger engine. A bigger engine means yet more weight which means more steel structure which means....you get the point. It doesn't go forever, but it keeps adding in a circular way until it peaks out.

      I'd be willing to bet that having to allow for an extra 300 lbs of human weight in the vehicle adds at least another 200-300 lbs to the car itself. Therefore this extra vehicle weight is on every car and hauled around all the time even if there is only a 125lb female driver. We all get the extra vehicle weight.

      Bad mojo folks. Bad for our health, bad for our economy, bad for our fuel consumption. We're too fat.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This doesn't explain why economy cars have gained 1000lb in the past 30 years :)
        It has to do more with safety design more than anything else.

        I mean, weight loading is not that big of a deal. a 30lb bike will hold a 300lb person easily. The main problem is suspension and how much shock travel / how stiff of a spring rate a car has. Too stiff and the ride quality will suck.. but you have to handle X amount of weight at the same time without the shocks bottoming out constantly.

        Back to safety... back in the day, we didn't have to worry about colliding with SUVs.. and economy cars wouldn't go over 100mph..

        Emissions equipment has fought engine power too. Having owned lots of mid 90's cars, i know from experience that OBD2 cut the power of smaller engines considerably.. one example of this is the 1.5L Honda powertrains pre '96. They had less power output total, but actually a better torque curve than the 96+ OBD2 1.6L motors. And a lot of cars during that transitional period had their power downrated in 96 if they kept the same engine but added extra emissions controls.
        We have had advancements past that, such as precatalytic convertors, more oxygen sensors, and extremely stringent engine programming that choke motors even more.

        An even better example is CA spec PZEV VS non-pzev cars. CA spec cars typically lose 5-10hp in the translation :... which sucks on an economy car that needs all the power it can get anyway.

        There is a lot more going on than just passenger weight.
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