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Study Documents the Public Health Effects of Long School Commutes

Richard Florida cites new research to argue that car culture and car oriented communities are the main culprits in the unhealthy lifestyles of U.S. school children.
May 9, 2019, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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School Buses and Homes
Luciano Mortula - LGM

"Long commutes to school have negative impacts on children’s well-being, especially on sleep and exercise," writes Richard Florida, broadcasting news about a new study by researchers at Cal Poly, Rutgers University, and UCLA, published by the Journal of Planning Education and Research.

The study "takes a detailed look at how lengthy commutes affect the time kids devote to other daily activities," by analyzing "more than 2,700 high-school students’ responses from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, spanning from 2003 to 2015."

There is good news to be found in the study's findings, according to Florida. The average commute was short (a8 minutes), and the most common commute was even shorter (five minutes and 10 minutes).

There is also bad news. There are a small number of students who commute more than an hour, which take a "substantial toll" on the exercise and sleep on those students. "Each additional minute of commuting is associated with an even greater 1.3-minute reduction in sleep," explains Florida. "To put that in perspective, if one student had a 10-minute commute, and a second had a 30- minute commute, the second student would get an average of 26 minutes less sleep."

Longer commutes take an even larger toll on exercise, as explained in the source article.

Florida's big point, however, is about how sprawling land use patterns force long commutes on many students, and given a shortage of realistic solutions to that problem in the near term, schools will have to take specific, effective action in shortening commute times for students.

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Published on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 in CityLab
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