Live Longer by Commuting Less

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This USA Today post is about a year old, but the information it shares about the link between long commutes and poor health is still quite relevant and worth knowing about. The story references a study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

"This is the first study to show that people who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure...all of these are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers."

There are plenty of reasons for the links between a long commute and ill health.

One reason is time. Time spent behind the windshield robs you of time to exercise. Ironically, you need more time to exercise if you're driving a lot because driving is such a stationary activity.

You also have less time to cook healthy foods. People who drive longer are often much more prone to reach for fast food, which can quickly take a toll on one's health and well-being.

People with long commutes usually have to get up earlier, which means inviting the poor health problems that come with inadequate sleep. 

Then there's the stress. You're losing time with your family. You're not getting anything productive done. And traffic is stressful too. 

Traffic jams, rude drivers and harsh weather conditions are enough to raise anybody's blood pressure. Stress results in hormonal changes and weaker immune systems, too.

Public transportation helps by reducing the amount of traffic on the road, which reduces the time and stress involved in making the daily commute. It also offers many commuters the option of taking a stress-free trip to work.

Instead of slamming on the breaks to avoid someone who just cut you off you could sit back in a clean, climate-controlled bus or van, enjoying a book, a game on your smart phone, or the chance to catch a short nap. You could even sip your morning coffee instead of gulping it down between lane changes.

Public transportation can't reduce distances, so if you still live 45 miles away from your job you're still going to suffer from some of the issues of reduced time and increased stress. But public transportation options can still help that time pass far more pleasantly, which is better for your health overall.

Sustainability through Public Transit

Monday, May 06, 2013
By: Dave Doran, CTAI District 5 Mobility Manager

Many consider public transit to be a cost effective and practical alternative to driving. Indeed, public transit services provide citizens with an economical choice on how to move about their community, but these services also provide significant values in terms of sustainability. Public transit use increases both short and long-term sustainability in multiple sectors of our economy including business, personal and regional health and the environment. 

The use of public transit can free up financial resources individuals might otherwise have dedicated to the operation and maintenance of a personal vehicle. This has the potential to create more economic stability within the individual’s family / household and ultimately less stress for resources. In the long term, increased use of transit also creates jobs -generating more economic prosperity in a progressive industry and reducing American consumption and dependence on non-renewable and foreign energy sources.  The use of other forms of transit, like shuttles and vanpools, is also good for employers and their business development. Having a vanpool or another transportation choice to get employees to work can allow employers to draw a more competitive workforce from beyond the immediate vicinity and from the greater region. It can also increase safety and punctuality to the worksite, and reduce absenteeism and stress in the workforce; all of which increase productivity and generate added corporate revenue. This industry potential can also draw more businesses to Idaho communities creating increased regional economic prosperity.

By taking cars off the road, public transit also reduces carbon dioxide and other harmful particulate matter emitted into the atmosphere through vehicle emissions, which improves regional air quality and citizen health. In addition, most public transit trips begin and end with a pedestrian or bicycle trip to and from the transit stop. Consequently, those who use transit as a regular source of transportation are more likely to be physically active than their single-occupancy-vehicle driving counterparts. This is a critical thought when you consider that in 2011, 27% of Idaho adults were considered obese and that over $320 million dollars was spent in Idaho in 2010 on related health concerns (Landis Nov. 9, 12). Having a more physically active society will ultimately reduce obesity rates and expenditures on other health related concerns, sustaining a healthier environment on multiple planes. 

Public transportation services also provide a sustainable contribution to communities by ultimately preserving tax-based infrastructure and departmental expenditures dedicated to maintaining roads and bridges. This is essential for states like Idaho who have large transportation networks covering many miles of roads, with a small population base to adequately support such infrastructure.

Additionally, public transportation industries are becoming more sustainable in and of themselves. Through the incorporation of intermodal transit facilities,and moving one step further by implementing architecturally certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for those facilities, transit agencies like Pocatello Regional Transit (PRT) are paving the way for sustaining public transit services in a strained national economic state. With the utility cost savings PRT will soon realize in their LEED –Silver certified intermodal transit facility, public funds can potentially be dedicated to expand and improve service operations. Additionally,considering technological advancements in alternative fuel sources like compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid propane auto-gas, transit agencies have additional opportunities to increase their already dedicated involvement in sustaining the health, environment and economic stability of our country. 

*Landis, Bruce W. “The Dollars and Sense of Bicycling and Walking: Idaho’s Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Stakeholders Groups’ Kick-off” Roadshow.”  Nov. 9, 2012.

Proximity to Transit Linked to Home Value and other Advantages

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What factors do home owners look for when deciding what and where to purchase? As the adage goes, "Location, Location, Location." However, the question is then, location in relation to what? The answer may well be Transit.

Never more apparent that during an economic recession, the real estate market can be a volatile place. However, those properties which are easily accessible to public transportation, regardless of form, weather digs in the market much more gracefully. In fact, recent data indicates that properties within a half mile of a bus stop or train station performed 42 percent better than those properties that were inaccessible. This varies by market, of course, but overwhelmingly true that if you want to make a stable real estate investment, proximity to transit is a strong indicator. As reported by US News, "In Boston, residential property in the rapid transit area outperformed other properties in the region by 129 percent. In the Chicago, public transit area home values performed 30 percent better than the region; in San Francisco, 37 percent; Minneapolis-St Paul, 48 percent; and in Phoenix, 37 percent." 

Besides the obvious advantages of more options for travel and lower cost of transportation when mass transit is nearby, home owners who invested in property near public transit are likely to find also a greater breadth of job opportunities within reach. Those who live in communities which are built up and around transit have access to two and in some cases even three times as many jobs. 

"Investment in public transportation corridors can be a true economic driver," says Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association, as quoted by US News. "It's more than just getting people from point A to point B. Cities that have good public transit have on the whole been much more resilient through the backend of this recession — you can't get people back to work if they can't get there."

Mass Transit Use Up Overall, But not Everywhere

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Despite the recent good news that US ridership of public transportation was nearly record-breaking this year, the fact remains that this just isn't true everywhere. While overall usage of mass transit is improving, there are certainly markets within the United States where public transportation isn't even receiving basic care and maintenance, nonetheless being cultivated as an essential part of our communities.

Interestingly, and rather poignantly, many of the areas wherein mass transit failed to thrive were areas where legislation that would have instituted funding measures failed to pass. No one likes paying more taxes, but keeping our communities' infrastructure maintained and supported is crucial to developing neighborhoods that thrive. Sadly, in the cases of cities like Atlanta, Georgia, and Tacoma, Washington, it seems that a passing vote in favor of increases of a mere penny or a fraction of a percentage increase in sales tax would have made the difference. One can only wonder if perhaps similar votes will go differently in communities wherein transit ridership is lagging the next time around, but it seems an obvious guess that without the willingness to put into supporting and renewing our public transit, the system will continue to deteriorate and eventually will fail. For more, read the full article at The Atlantic Cities.

Transit Ridership in 2012 Second Highest of All Time

Friday, March 15, 2013

For a variety of reasons, from concerns over pollution to enjoying some quiet time during their commute, more people are utilizing Mass Transit, saving money on their travels, and helping ease traffic congestion by doing so.

As reported by CNN, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association, the numbers are in for 2012. Since data collection began in 1957, 2012 ranks as the year with the second highest ridership on mass transit, coming in just below 2008. With an increase of 1.5% over 2011-- equal to about 154.3 million rides-- 2012's numbers are especially impressive considering the blows that mass transit took because of intense weather conditions including 'Superstorm Sandy', which left much of the East Coast crippled. 

What factors are influencing more consumers to utilize mass transit? The advantages are plentiful and becoming more and more obvious to cost-concerned travelers. Although many riders started using buses and trains as a way to avoid the $4+ gas prices, most stuck with the lifestyle change after realizing it also spared them from traffic and the general unpleasantness of rush hour commuting! While on a bus or train, one can read, get some work done, even take a nap. We're also seeing more communities implementing public transit and improving older systems, improving the experience just that much more. 

Mass transit seems to be gaining support from voters across the country as well. It has even been theorized that this shift in favor of public transportation may be largely attributed to younger riders, so perhaps we'll continue to see these strides in ridership. Whatever the reason behind this boost, sustaining this increased usage of mass transit can only aid in creating several factors which are beneficial to our communities: a reduction in pollution, eased congestion and less traffic, and an overall healthier demographic of people.