For many people, public transit provides access to employment, education, and other destinations necessary for living a healthy life. Transit is an essential mobility service, particularly for those who cannot afford or do not wish to own a car. Transit is especially important for low-income households and people with disabilities.
Increasing transit access includes improving the safety and convenience of transit stops and stations, providing information about transit routes and times, and enhancing connectivity with other modes of travel (e.g., bicycle racks on the bus).
Improved transit access is a recommended strategy for increasing walking and physical activity (Community Guide, 2016) and a scientifically supported strategy for increasing transit access and use (County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 2017). Transit access, as measured by distance to transit stops or stations, has a small effect on reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) (Stevens, 2017, paywall) and therefore, associated greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Potential co-benefits of improved transit access include congestion reduction and reduced noise and air pollution (Community Guide, 2016).
Equity and Inclusion
- Public transit is a central feature of civil rights and transportation equity. Improving transit access improves equity for those who are unable to drive. When investing in transit improvements, consider which demographic groups benefit--who is the expanded access for?
- The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires that public transit agencies make their transit services accessible for people with disabilities. However, many transit agencies have not fully complied with the requirements. The less accessible public transit (i.e., "fixed route") transit is, the more that people with disabilities must rely on paratransit service, which is expensive to provide and often inconvenient for users (AARP, 2011). If your community lacks accessible transit, work with disability advocacy organizations, including your local Center for Independent Living, to improve transit access.
- Strategies that involve changes to the physical environment, particularly the introduction of light rail, may increase the attractiveness of an area. An increased demand for housing may result in increased property values or rents and could lead to involuntary displacement if appropriate mitigation strategies are not put into place. Practitioners can evaluate the risk of displacement through the methods described by Chapple et al. (2017) or Bates (2013).
- There are concerns that transit-oriented development, which is generally built near light rail stations, can displace low-income residents in favor of higher-income residents. Transit-oriented development projects can require affordable housing to ensure that residents who rely on transit can afford to live nearby.
Guides & Reports
Research Reports & Briefs
Fact Sheets & Infographics
Transit-oriented development and health: A Health Impact Assessment to inform the Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund
Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Conservation Law Foundation & Department of Public Health, 2013