Synergies Between Public Transit Use and Non-motorized Transportation: Towards More Active Lifestyles and Increased Access

Research Team: Ugo Lachapelle and Dr. Lawrence Frank.

The built environment affects the availability of transportation modes. A low density neighbourhood is typically difficult to serve by transit, and distances within it prohibit walking. Most research linking urban transportation to levels of physical activity has focused on the relationship between the built environment, travel, and physical activity. Multimodal transportation trips involving public transit, walking and cycling hold great promise for increased health, environmental and social benefits. Supportive built environment features, as well as routes serving a transit stop, wait time and distance to activity centres all potentially affect public transit use and, indirectly, transportation related walking and cycling.

In this project, we ask: what features of a transit system and its surroundings favour active transportation and multimodal trip chains? How does transit availability and use affect physical activity levels and regional accessibility of different socio-economic groups? Are walking and cycling to public transit substitutes for leisure time walking and sport or do they favour a generally more active behaviour? What type of investments and policy can support quality multimodal service?

We seek to develop tools and techniques that can be used by planners and transit agencies to increase ridership, enhance access for all users, and better manage the transit network to derive social, environmental and health benefits. Our goal is to provide objective evidence to public transportation planners to help define and create indicators of transit level of service adapted to (a) increase access for the transit captive population, (b) increase the share of choice riders that actually choose transit and (c) reach “captive car users”.

We feel public transit is the backbone of a city with walking amenities and a strong walking culture. An integrated approach to transportation investment that links walking, cycling, and transit use is a central element of a healthy, equitable and sustainable city.

A study from this research entitled “Transit and health: Mode of transport, employer-sponsored transit pass programs, and physical activity” was recently published in the Journal of Public Health Policy. The article can be downloaded here.

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