The Impact of Light Rail Transit (LRT) on Sustainable Travel and Obesity

Principal Investigator(s):

Jason Cao, Professor , Humphrey School of Public Affairs


Project summary:

Numerous studies have found associations among the built environment (BE), travel/physical activity, and obesity. These findings offer supportive evidence for using BE interventions to promote sustainable travel (in this case, transit travel and non-motorized travel) and prevent obesity. However, research has yet to establish whether people living in transit-friendly neighborhoods use transit more because the BE itself causes them to do so, or because people who like transit tend to choose residential neighborhoods conducive to transit (known as residential self-selection). If self-selection exists but is not controlled for, research may significantly overstate the impacts of the BE on sustainable travel and obesity. Practically, it is critical to evaluate moderation effects, as the associations between travel/physical activity and the BE tend to vary by different levels of BE and demographic characteristics. Thus, we may overstate some people's gain in sustainable travel and physical activity resulting from the LRT if these effects exist but are not considered. Further, the identification of moderation effects enables policymakers to design different policy instruments for different groups of people and different environments, in addition to environment and policy interventions. This research will therefore focus on moderation effects, the study of which has been limited to date.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2013004
  • Start date: 07/2012
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Environment and Energy
  • Topics: Rail, Transit planning