Study: Transit Not a Panacea for Walkability After All

One of the key assumptions of a new partnership between the planning and public health professions is that transit encourages more active mobility than possible with a car-centric lifestyle. But new research casts doubt on those assumptions.

1 minute read

September 17, 2016, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Expo Line

Eric Garcetti / Flickr

"New findings by the University of Southern California and UC Irvine published in Transportation Research should give 'walkability' proselytizers some pause," according to an article by Laura Bliss. "This is one of the most comprehensive studies to date examining how access to light rail influences physical activity, and it found that having rapid transit nearby can boost steps for some—but can decrease them for others."

The study focused on physical activity by 200 participants living near Phase I of the new Expo Line in Los Angeles, which opened in 2012. According to Bliss, researchers found that although transit use increased after the new line opened, "there didn’t seem to be a significant jump in how physically active they were." When controlling for how physically active the subjects were to begin with, "individuals who were already pretty active turned out to be somewhat negatively affected by light rail access."

Bliss provides additional details on the finding of the study, and also noted how the experimental approach of this study differs from the cross-sectional approach of many previous studies that "found strong correlations between physical activity and transit use."

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