Alternative Transportation and Your Health

Walking and Transit: A Healthy Combination

Daily Walking Trips and Transit Travel Chart. The chart compares the daily walking trips between a transit user and a non-transit user, segmented among income level amidst all users. On the X-axis there is the percentage of users. On the Y-axis is the income of users: it shows users who make $30K in the first column, with 60% of transit users having a daily walking trip while 12% of non-transit users have a daily walking trip; $30K - $60K users are in the second column, with 62% of transit users having a daily walking trip while 9% of non-transit users have a daily walking trip; over $60K users are in the third column, with 58% of transit users having a daily walking trip while 8% of non-transit users have a daily walking trip; and the total users is shown in the fourth and last column, with 60% of transit users having a daily walking trip while 9% of non-transit users have a daily walking trip.

Time Spent Walking Chart, which shows three distinct values. The first graphic shows that the average time most American spend walking each day is six minutes. The second graphic shows that the median time public transit users spend walking each day is nineteen minutes. The third graphic shows that the daily walking time recommended by Centers for Disease Control is twenty-two minutes.

Health Benefits of Using Public Transit

Health Benefit Public Transit Impacts Consideration In Conventional Planning
Traffic safety. Reduced traffic crash injuries, disabilities and deaths. Significant reductions in per capita injuries and deaths, particularly if total vehicle travel is reduced. Considers per-mile crash and injury rates, but often ignores mileage reduction safety benefits.
Pollution reduction. Reduced exposure to harmful air, water and noise pollution. Generally reduces emissions per passenger-mile and per capita, particularly if transit uses alternative fuels or state-of-the-art emission controls. Considers differences in emission rates per vehicle-mile, but often ignores mileage reduction impacts.
Physical fitness. Increased physical activity by walking and cycling. Since most transit trips involve walking or cycling links, and Transit-Oriented Development improves nonmotorized conditions, transit improvements tend to increase fitness. Not generally considered a transportation planning issue and generally overlooked in quantitative analysis.
Mental health. Reduced emotional stress. High quality transit and transit oriented development can reduce emotional stresses and improve access to economic, social and recreational opportunities. Not generally considered a transportation planning issue and generally overlooked in quantitative analysis.
Affordability. Reduced financial burdens, particularly for lower- income households. Public transit and transit-oriented development can reduce transportation costs, which leaves money to purchase housing, healthy food and medical care. Sometimes considered but not generally quantified.
Basic mobility. Ability for people to access essential goods and services. Public transit and transit-oriented development provide basic mobility and accessibility. Sometimes considered when evaluating specific policies and projects, but not generally quantified.
Source: Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits 14 June 2010. Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, for The American Public Transportation Association.

Public Transportation: A Link to Better Health and Equity Facsheet (PDF)

"Improving public transportation not only links people to . . .goods and services, but also helps communities achieve public health benefits.”


CDC Recommendations for Improving Health through Transportation Policy

CDC LogoExpanding the availability of, safety for, and access to a variety of transportation options and integrating health-enhancing choices into transportation policy has the potential to save lives by preventing chronic diseases, reducing and preventing motor-vehicle-related injury and deaths, improving environmental health, while stimulating economic development, and ensuring access for all people. CDC Recommendations for Improving Health through Transportation Policy (PDF).

It seems imperative that new transportation options be developed and implemented in order to help alleviate the public health problems related to worsening air quality in the United States.”

Richard J. Jackson, MD, Director National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Courtesy of APTA, "The Benefits of Public Transportation")

Bicycles and Transit: A Healthy Combination

Scene of a woman loading a bicycle onto a metrorail. Bicycles and Transit Flyer PDF opens in a new window.

Public Transit and Your Health

  • Commuting by light rail is linked to weight loss—and light rail commuters are about 80% less likely to become obese over time.

  • Traffic accidents decline as public transit usage increases—keeping communities safer. In fact, the fatality rate associated with transportation-related injuries in public transportation is approximately 1/25th that associated with automobiles.

  • Over 140 million Americans—about 25 percent of them children—live, work, and play in areas where air quality does not meet national air quality standards. Harmful motor vehicle emissions account for 25% to 51% of air pollutants in these areas.

  • Communities that are walkable and have access to transit generally have a lower dependence on automobiles and encourage physical activity.

  • Studies have found that men who commute to work on public transportation are 44.6% less likely to be overweight or obese due to increased active commuting.

The Public Health Benefits of Transit Flyer PDF opens in a new window.

A quality transit system is an essential element to creating healthier communities. Transit encourages riders to walk as a part of their daily routine, helps reduce crash rates, improves air quality and can reduce isolation.






The Benefits of Public Transportation: The Route to Better Personal Health

The Route to Better Personal Health Flyer PDF opens in a new window.

"As more and more vehicles crowd onto the nation’s roadways, they threaten our physical and mental well-being in a variety of ways, as well as the ability of healthcare providers to deliver critical services.”