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Public transportation systems

Health Factors: Housing & Transit
Decision Makers: Community Development Professionals Local Government State Government Federal Government Grantmakers
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 50-99% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

Public transportation systems are available for use by the general public, run on a scheduled timetable, and can include buses, trains, trams, trolleybuses, ferries, or rapid transit (e.g., subways, undergrounds, light rail transit (LRT), bus rapid transit (BRT), or metro services). Community-wide transportation systems are most common in urban areas, and are often supported by federal and municipal funds.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased access to public transit
Increased use of public transit
Increased physical activity
Reduced vehicle miles traveled
Reduced emissions

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that introducing or expanding public transportation systems in urban areas increases access to and use of public transit, especially in dense, centralized cities (Baum-Snow 2005, Boarnet 2013, Cao 2014, TRB-Callaghan 2007, TRB-Polzin 2003, TRB-Cooper 2003). Introducing or expanding public transportation systems is also a suggested strategy to increase physical activity and access to safe, healthy, convenient, and affordable transportation (CDC-Transportation, Wener 2007).

Introducing new rail lines in urban areas can increase ridership in cities where many people commute to the central business district by car, and can significantly reduce trip time for commuters and other travelers (Baum-Snow 2005, Boarnet 2013). Model-based research suggests that subsidizing and investing in public transportation infrastructure overall can curb urban sprawl, reduce automobile use, and promote more active transport options (Su 2008).

Lowering fares and increasing the frequency and quality of transit service are the most effective ways to increase ridership for existing public transit systems (Taylor 2013, Taylor 2009). Differences in fare prices and service quality explain much of the variation in ridership between metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) (Taylor 2013, Taylor 2009), especially for MSAs with 1 to 5 million people (TRB-Thompson 2006).

Public transportation systems produce significantly lower emissions per passenger mile than private vehicles, especially when operating with full passenger loads (US DOT-FTA Transit and climate). Introducing or expanding a light rail transit (LRT) system can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions among households living within half a mile of a LRT station (Boarnet 2013). LRT systems produce fewer emissions than bus rail transit (BRT) systems; however, technology developments continue to improve emissions for both systems (TRB-Puchalsky 2005). Emissions reductions for LRT and BRT systems are strongly influenced by both regulations in a given area and the systems’ component technologies (TRB-Puchalsky 2005).

Public transportation systems have a good safety record. Private vehicle transportation (passenger cars, light trucks, and motorcycles) accounted for over 75% of transportation fatalities in 2011. Public transportation (school, intercity, transit bus, light rail transit, and subway) accounted for just 0.5% of transportation fatalities in the same year (US DOT-BTS Fatalities).

Expanding public transportation infrastructure may decrease disparities in access to services, employment, and recreation opportunities for individuals with low incomes, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly (CDC-Active living strategies 2013). However, new public transportation stops can make a neighborhood more attractive, leading to increased rents and, potentially, the displacement of long-time residents if policies to preserve affordable housing are not in place (MAPC-Displacement).

Implementation

United States

In 2013, just over 55% of US households reported having access to public transportation. Overall, access is highest in Northern and Western cities and lowest in Southern cities (ASCE-2013 Report card).

Many municipalities have introduced or expanded public transportation systems to increase transit access and use; some very successful, multi-faceted transit systems include New York, NY (NYC MTA); San Francisco, CA (SF MTA); Boston, MA (MBTA); Washington, DC (WMATA); Philadelphia, PA (SEPTA); Chicago, IL (CTA); Seattle, WA (Seattle Transit); Baltimore, MD (Maryland MTA); Los Angeles, CA (LA Metro); and Portland, OR (TriMet).

Most states receive some federal subsidies for mass transit (AASHTO Transportation Funding 2010).

Wisconsin

Wisconsin has numerous public transit systems throughout the state and the WI Department of Transportation has public transportation maps and get around guides available on their website (WisDOT-Public Transit).

Implementation Resources

ALBD - Active Living by Design (ALBD). Increasing physical activity and healthy eating through community design. Accessed on June 16, 2017
APHA-Transportation toolkit - American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA online toolkit: Transportation and health toolkit. Accessed on June 1, 2017
APTA-Resources - American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Resource library. Accessed on June 1, 2017
APTA-Transit facts - American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Where Public Transportation Goes Community Grows. Transit facts at a glance. Accessed on June 2, 2017
ESPA - Easter Seals Project ACTION (ESPA). Accessible community transportation in our nation. Accessed on June 1, 2017
TDM-Public transit - TDM Encyclopedia. Public transit improvements. Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Accessed on June 1, 2017
ULI Building healthy places - Urban Land Institute (ULI) Building Healthy Places Initiative. Building healthy places toolkit: Strategies for enhancing health in the built environment. Accessed on June 2, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Baum-Snow 2005 - Baum-Snow N, Kahn ME. Effects of urban rail transit expansions: Evidence from sixteen cities, 1970–2000. Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs. 2005;(6):147. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Boarnet 2013 - Boarnet MG, Hong A, Lee J, et al. The exposition light rail line study: A before-and-after study of the impact of new light rail transit service. University of Southern California. 2013. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Cao 2014* - Cao X, Schoner J. The influence of light rail transit on transit use: An exploration of station area residents along the Hiawatha line in Minneapolis. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 2014;59:134-143. Accessed on June 1, 2017
CDC-Active living strategies 2013 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A practitioner's guide for advancing health equity, community strategies for preventing chronic disease: Active living strategies. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2013. Accessed on June 1, 2017
CDC-Transportation - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC transportation recommendations - brief. Accessed on June 1, 2017
MAPC-Displacement - Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) Massachusetts. Dimensions of Displacement: Baseline data for managing neighborhood change in Somerville's Green Line Corridor. 2014. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Su 2008* - Su Q, DeSalvo JS. The effect of transportation subsidies on urban sprawl. Journal of Regional Science. 2008;48(3):567-94. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Taylor 2009* - Taylor BD, Miller D, Iseki H, Fink C. Nature and/or nurture? Analyzing the determinants of transit ridership across US urbanized areas. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 2009;43(1):60-77. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Taylor 2013 - Taylor JC, Johnson RK. Farm to school as a strategy to increase children's fruit and vegetable consumption in the United States: Research and recommendations. Nutrition Bulletin. 2013;38(1):70-9. Accessed on June 1, 2017
TRB-Callaghan 2007* - Callaghan L, Vincent W. Preliminary evaluation of metro orange line bus rapid transit project. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2007;2034(1):37-44. Accessed on June 1, 2017
TRB-Cooper 2003 - Cooper G, Furmaniak T. Portland streetcar: A two-year report card. Transportation Research Circular E-C058: 9th National Light Rail Transit Conference. Transportation Research Board (TRB); 2003. Accessed on February 1, 2016
TRB-Polzin 2003 - Polzin SE, Page OA. Ridership trends of new start rail projects. Transportation Research Circular E-C058: 9th National Light Rail Transit Conference. Transportation Research Board (TRB); 2003. Accessed on June 1, 2017
TRB-Puchalsky 2005* - Puchalsky CM. Comparison of emissions from light rail transit and bus rapid transit. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2005;1927(1):31-37. Accessed on June 1, 2017
TRB-Thompson 2006* - Thompson GL, Brown JR. Explaining variation in transit ridership in US metropolitan areas between 1990 and 2000: Multivariate analysis. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2006;1986(1):172-181. Accessed on June 2, 2017
US DOT-BTS Fatalities - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). National Transportation Statistics: Transportation fatalities. Washington, DC. Accessed on June 21, 2017
US DOT-FTA Transit and climate - US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Public transportation's role in responding to climate change. 2010. Accessed on June 20, 2017
Wener 2007* - Wener RE, Evans GW. A morning stroll: Levels of physical activity in car and mass transit commuting. Environment and Behavior. 2007;39(1):62-74. Accessed on June 1, 2017

Citations - Implementation

AASHTO Transportation Funding 2010 - Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Office of Survey Programs. Survey of state funding for public transportation - Final report 2010. Washington, DC: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO); 2010:Code SSFP-4. Accessed on June 1, 2017
ASCE-2013 Report card - American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). 2013 Report card for America’s infrastructure findings. 2013. Accessed on June 1, 2017
CTA - Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Travel info. Accessed on June 1, 2017
LA Metro - Los Angeles Metro (LA Metro). Transit information. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Maryland MTA - Maryland Department of Transportation Transit Administration (Maryland MTA). Transit information. Accessed on June 1, 2017
MBTA - Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Transit information. Accessed on June 1, 2017
NYC MTA - New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NYC MTA). Transit information. Accessed on June 1, 2017
Seattle Transit - City of Seattle. Transit. Accessed on June 1, 2017
SEPTA - Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). Transit information. Accessed on June 1, 2017
SF MTA - San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SF MTA). Transportation choices. Accessed on June 1, 2017
TriMet - TriMet. TriMet provides bus, light rail, and commuter rail transit services in the Portland, Oregon metro area. Accessed on June 1, 2017
WisDOT-Public Transit - Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Travel by public transit. Accessed on June 1, 2017
WMATA - Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Transit information. Accessed on June 1, 2017

Page Last Updated

March 17, 2016

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