199375 Impact of Light Rail Transit on Physical Activity

Monday, November 9, 2009: 4:30 PM

John M. MacDonald, PhD , Department of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Robert Stokes, PhD , Department of Culture and Communication, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Deborah Cohen, MD, MPH , RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
This study examined the associations between perceived and objective measures of the social and physical environments of neighborhoods and meeting public health recommended levels of physical activity and the use of public transit before and after the opening of a new light rail transit system. Measures of neighborhood social and physical environments, walking and exercise, and perceptions and use of public transit were derived from a telephone survey of 839 adults residing near a new light rail transit system in Charlotte, NC. These data were merged with local land use indicators including residential density, household proximity to public parks, and the density of walking attractors such as commercial food establishments. Two waves of interviews were collected between 2006 and 2008. The likelihood of meeting public health recommended levels of vigorous exercise and moderate physical activity through walking was higher for those residing in neighborhoods with lower levels of perceived social and physical disorder. More positive perceptions of the public transit environment was associated with an increased likelihood of its use on a weekly basis. A higher density of food establishments in one's neighborhood was associated with meeting exercise requirements and weekly transit use. The opening of a new light rail transit system had no systematic effect compared to preexisting correlations. Strategies that promote improving neighborhood and transit environments and increase mixed land use zoning could be effective health interventions to increase physical activity and reduce the reliance on automobiles.

Learning Objectives:
Explain the purported effect of light rail transit on physical activity. Evaluate the effect of a new light rail transit system on residents exposed to the new system. Discuss the implications for research on transit systems as a method of reducing obesity rates.

Keywords: Exercise, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Education and research experiences that are relevant to examining the effect of the built environment on health outcomes
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.