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7 STUDIES: ACTIVE TRANS SATISFACTION, OBESITY, DIABETES & CHRONIC DISEASE IMPACTS
-> It seems that not driving has all sorts of positive health benefits. A recent Canadian study (The Happy Commuter: A Comparison of Commuter Satisfaction across Modes: http://bit.ly/1EhfoIN) sorted people by mode of travel — walking, biking, driving, bus, intercity train, and intracity metro — and found that people who walk, bike, or take the intercity train are more satisfied with their commutes than others.

A 2010 study conducted in Hamilton, Ontario (Enjoyment of Commute: A Comparison of Different Transportation Modes: http://bit.ly/1JWV841), found that bikers and walkers were more satisfied with their commutes than anyone else, as did a nationwide Canadian survey (Commuting to Work: Results of the 2010 General Social Survey: http://bit.ly/1dhpqED) done the same year.

A British study (Associations between Active Commuting, Body Fat, and Body Mass Index: Population Based, Cross Sectional Study in the United Kingdom: http://bmj.co/1edalUD) found that people who walk, bike, or take any form of public transit have lower rates of obesity than people who drive, after controlling for other forms of exercise and socioeconomic factors.

People who walk or bike to work also have lower rates of diabetes (Active Travel to Work and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in the United Kingdom: http://bit.ly/1Jwnh3R) and cardiovascular disease (Active Commuting and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: http://bit.ly/1EhgF2o). [Biking or Walking to Work will Make you Happier and Healthier by Joseph Stromberg: http://bit.ly/1AiukLq]

Impact of Changes in Mode of Travel to Work on Changes in Body Mass Index Survey: evidence from the British Household Panel (http://bmj.co/1JwmIXS) found that workers who switched from driving to walking, bicycling or taking public transportation had a significant average reduction in body mass index equal to about 2.2 pounds per person. [http://bit.ly/1c2mRon]

CENSUS UNDERCOUNTS WALKING AND BIKING
-> The U.S. Census is the most widely cited source of data about how Americans get around, but it only asks about commute trips, and commuting only accounts for about 16 percent of total household travel. What happens when you measure the other 84 percent? Researchers at the University of Minnesota set out to design a better way to track how people move around the Twin Cities region.

The UMN team found that driving decreased in the region between 2000 and 2010, while biking and walking grew. Cycling rose over that period from 1.4 to 2.2 percent of trips. That’s about 190,000 daily trips, or a 58 percent increase. Meanwhile, walking grew from 4.5 to 6.6 percent of trips, a 44 percent increase, or almost three quarters of a million daily trips. Residents of the Twin Cities region typically make about 12 million total daily trips. What’s especially interesting is that the share of biking and walking trips in the UMN survey is much bigger than what the Census indicates — about two to three times larger. [http://bit.ly/1rW2snN]

IMPACT OF SRTS PROGRAMS ON WALKING & BIKING
-> The Impact of Safe Routes to School Programs on Walking and Biking (http://bit.ly/1cOiXQL) research review highlights findings from studies conducted in several states and cities that have examined walking or biking rates, safety, and economic issues associated with Safe Routes to School. Key finding and recommendations:

  • Actively commuting to and from school could improve mental and physical health.
  • SRTS has increased the number of students who walk or bike to and from school.
  • Unsafe routes make it harder for students to walk or bike to and from school. SRTS has made it safer for students to walk or bike to or from school.
  • SRTS can lower health care and transportation costs for school districts and families.
  • Communities can take action on SRTS through subdivision regulations that require sidewalks, education facility plans that ensure access to school by foot and bicycle, school wellness policies that include Safe Routs to School, and capital improvement plans that prioritize engineering improvements near schools. [http://bit.ly/1Hg9idC]

ADDING NEW ROAD CAPACITY DOESN’T IMPROVE CONGESTION
-> Decades of traffic data across the United States shows that adding new road capacity doesn't actually improve congestion. The latest example of this is the widening of Los Angeles' I-405 freeway, which was completed last May after five years of construction and a cost of over $1 billion. "The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening (405 Commutes Now a Minute Worse Than Before Carpool Lane: http://bit.ly/1AcBVLL),” says Matthew Turner, a Brown University economist.

The main reason, Turner has found, is simple — adding road capacity spurs people to drive more miles, either by taking more trips by car or taking longer trips than they otherwise would have. He and University of Pennsylvania economist Gilles Duranton call this the "fundamental rule" of road congestion (The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US cities: http://bit.ly/1Hevghc): adding road capacity just increases the total number of miles traveled by all vehicles.

In an influential 2011 paper, they looked at the total capacity of highways in each metropolitan area in the US and compared it with the total number of vehicle miles traveled. They found a one-to-one correlation: the more highway capacity a metro area had, the more miles its vehicles traveled on them. A 10 percent increase in capacity, for instance, meant a 10 percent increase in vehicle miles, on average. [http://bit.ly/1S6NEBa]

POLL: VOTERS WANT FEDERAL FUNDING FOR TRAILS, WALKING, & BIKING
-> A recent Rails-to-Trails Conservancy poll (American Voters Expect Federal Investment in Walking and Bicycling: http://bit.ly/1QZ6KaT) found that four times as many voters favor increasing or maintaining current levels of federal investment in walking and biking paths. The survey found that support was strongest among Democrats, but an overwhelming majority of Republicans also supported the federal role in building infrastructure for biking and walking. The message that active transportation is affordable and produces a strong return on investment seems to resonate strongly with voters. [http://bit.ly/1LfO6s5]

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