Amongst numerous air quality benefits that lead to cleaner air with less pollution, public transportation also contributes to many health benefits for individuals. Studies from the American Public Transportation Association and the Victoria Transport Policy Institute support this concept:
- Individuals who use public transportation get three times the amount of physical activity per day of those who don’t (approximately 19 minutes instead of 6 minutes) by walking to stops and destinations. Inadequate physical activity contributes to numerous health problems, causing an estimated 200,000 annual deaths in the U.S., and significantly increasing medical costs. Among physically able adults, average annual medical expenditures are 32% lower for those who achieve physical activity targets ($1,019 per year) than for those who are sedentary ($1,349 per year).
- Riding the bus also reduces stress. Public transportation improves access to education and employment, which in turn leads to better long-term economic opportunities. In fact, 12 percent of transit riders are traveling to schools and almost 60 percent are going to work. It also provides access to social and recreational activities, allowing individuals to participate in events they otherwise couldn’t. Furthermore, public transit benefits community cohesion by promoting positive interactions between neighbors.
- Transit contributes to lower rates of respiratory and heart disease. The health effects of mobile source pollution can be severe and even life-threatening, particularly to children, older adults and adults with respiratory illnesses. Many groups are at greater risk because of chronic lung or cardiovascular disease, including people with diabetes, whose cardiovascular systems are threatened by particle pollution.
- Traffic casualty rates tend to decline as public transit travel increases in an area. Residents of transit-oriented communities have only about a quarter the per capita traffic fatality rate as residents of sprawled, automobile-dependent communities. According to a 2006 report, public transit has 0.03 fatal accidents per 100 million miles—about 1/25th the rate for automobiles; injuries as well as fatalities are reduced.
In addition, many public transportation agencies offer mobility services for elderly adults and persons with disabilities. These services provide access to medical appointments and social trips that would often go missed. TransIT Services of Frederick County provided 36,731 paratransit trips in Fiscal Year 2014. Register for TransIT-plus at https://frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?nid=221.
Although the health benefits of public transit may seem obvious, you can never understand the true benefit of riding the bus, biking to work, carpooling, or using the train until you have tried it for yourself. Learn more about the aforementioned facts at http://www.vtpi.org/tran_health.pdf and visit www.frederickcountymd.gov/transit for tips, tricks and tools to help your commute.