One of the biggest and most touted health benefits of electric-powered light rail systems – like the proposed Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension – is the decrease in air pollution. It’s a no-brainer. A viable transportation alternative leads to less cars, which means less smog going into our immediate atmosphere, thus increasing the amount of clean air we breathe and improving our quality of life. And obviously, as we face our century’s newest challenge of global warming, public transportation agencies and advocates have been touting these same benefits. It’s a meaningful argument, because unfortunately there are those who can attest to the impact of pollution on their health.
But what about the impact of vehicle dependency on our lifestyle? The modern day obesity epidemic can certainly be attributed to several different lifestyle factors, one of which is the inactivity that comes with a reliance on personal transportation. So would public transportation riders see any improvement in this aspect? Most likely.
From Science Daily, the Journal of Public Health Policy recently published findings that people who take public transportation were three times more likely to meet the US Surgeon General’s recommendation of 30 minutes of physical activity per day – an amount that (even in short bouts of activity) is considered enough to reduce “obesity levels, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.” The reason is simple: people who use public transportation have to walk more than their auto-dependent counterparts. And these “short walks throughout our day are historically how we have gotten our activity,” which unfortunately have been phased out of many people’s daily routines.
While the study found a positive correlation between public transportation use and meeting the daily physical activity recommendations to starve off obesity, it also found (obviously) the exact opposite negative correlation for car use.
So to correct the question in our headline: Would we see a positive correlation between the health of San Gabriel Valley residents and the opening (and operation) of the Foothill Extension?