Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Health Care Savings From Walking, Biking & Riding Transit

A 2007 study that estimates the impact that a healthy lifestyle that includes light rail transit ridership will have on health care costs has been added to the Resource Center's best practices database.

"Estimating the effects of light rail transit on health care costs" seeks to assess the dollar value of public health benefits derived from land use policies that support walking, biking, and transit. The researchers looked spefically at the potential cost savings in public health that will be realized from the investment in a light rail transit system in Charlotte, NC.

"Our results indicate that investing in light rail is associated with a 9-year cumulative public health cost savings of $12.6 million," the researchers report. "While these results suggest that there is a sizable public health benefit associated with the adoption of light rail, they also indicate that the effects are relatively small compared to the costs associated with constructing and operating such systems."

The researchers note that planning efforts that focus solely on the health impact of modifications in the built environment are likely to overstate the economic benefits.

Several members of this research team came back in 2010 and produced the report "The Effect of Light Rail Transit on Body Mass Index and Physical Activity," which concluded that improving neighborhood environments and increasing the public’s use of light rail systems could provide improvements in health outcomes for millions of individuals.