APTA | Passenger Transport
August 3, 2009

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6 DBE opportunities


11 RFPs


Developing a Healthy, Sustainable, Livable Transportation System Network
BY NINA WALFOORT, Director of Marketing, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY

The Transit Authority of River City (TARC) is not only working to make its operations and buildings less energy-consuming and more sustainable; it is also joining with community partners to make the transportation network in Louisville healthier and more livable.

With active participation in the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement and the Louisville Metro Health Department, TARC is helping to envision a healthy community that reduces car dependency by offering opportunities to walk, bicycle, and use public transit. The health benefits of active transportation—which includes walking, bicycling, or taking TARC—include more physical activity, greater social interaction, and reduced stress when compared to driving.

By advocating for greater consideration of pedestrians and bicyclists in transportation planning, TARC is also advocating for its riders, most of whom walk and some of whom bike to their bus stop.

“Building our transportation systems so that people have options for how they travel and the greatest degree of connectivity is key to building healthy, livable communities,” said Executive Director J. Barry Barker. “It’s only logical that a transit agency like TARC would join with the public health sector to improve community walkability and enhance the safety and sustainability of our transportation system.”

The TARC team has worked to increase pedestrian mobility and advocate for active transportation in the following ways:

* Playing a leadership role in building and improving sidewalks to increase transportation access for people with disabilities through New Freedom funding. The addition of a new TARC position—infrastructure manager—has allowed the sidewalk program jointly managed by TARC and the city’s Public Works Department to make significant advances in the past year.
* Chairing the Healthy Hometown Active Living Committee and providing leadership to the “Street Sense” campaign to educate cyclists and pedestrians on safe practices around vehicles, including buses. The rollout of the Street Sense campaign this month will prominently feature a TARC wrapped bus with the new branding for the campaign.
* Helping coordinate last year’s Pedestrian Summit, which resulted in the creation of a Community Walkability Plan to address infrastructure needs, encourage walking, and enhance street safety.
* Serving on the mayor’s Bicycle Task Force, which helps to build bike lanes and encourage bicycling with events like the Mayor’s Hike and Bike and Ride to Work Day.
* Serving on the design standards committee for the Louisville Loop, a 100-mile bike-pedestrian path currently under construction.

By supporting public health initiatives on walkability and bicycling, TARC is on the forefront of a community design vision gaining traction throughout the country that accommodates all modes; makes jobs and activity centers accessible without a private car; and designs new development with full access to public transportation.

One indication of how transportation has become integrated with health issues is the recent publication of an American Public Health Association (APHA) report titled At the Intersection of Public Health and Transportation: Promoting Health Transportation Policy. Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, director of the association, writes in the preface to the report that the upcoming transportation authorization bill is an opportunity to “promote health as a critical consideration in transportation policy.”

The APHA report calls for building healthy communities through transportation improvements that encourage walking, biking, and public transportation use, stating: “Current research demonstrates that how we build our transportation systems, how and what modality we use on them, and how we get people and things from one place to another affects our health.”

Today, the average American driver spends 443 hours per year, or 55 working days, behind the wheel of a car. Meanwhile, public health research shows that transit users, like walkers and bicyclists, are more likely than drivers to meet the surgeon general’s recommendation of 30 minutes of physical activity daily. A 2004 study found that Americans who use transit spend a median of 19 minutes daily walking to and from transit and 29 percent of transit users achieve their 30 minutes of physical activity just by walking to transit.

Public transportation is a key piece of sustainability in our nation’s energy use, air quality, and job access—and it plays a key role in sustaining the health of our transportation network.

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