There is clear evidence that people who live close to public transport or in Transit Oriented Developments (TODs), that reduce car dependence, reap significant health benefits.
“Public transit systems can generate positive health impacts by encouraging greater numbers of users to walk to station stops and maintain more physically active lives,” concluded one study in the US, which found that people who travelled on a newly opened light rail line had on average reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI) by 1.18 within 18 months, equivalent to a 165cm person losing 2.9kg.
The same study found people using the new line reduced their odds of becoming obese over time by 81 percent.
Rail commuters are four times more likely to walk more than 10,000 steps a day compared to those who travel to work by car.
It has also been found that public transport pass holders aged over 62 had a 3cm smaller waist circumference than those without a pass.
“Public transportation and transit-oriented development tend to increase physical activity, since most public transit trips involve walking links, transit-oriented development includes walking and cycling improvements,” observed a paper by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
There is also ample data that demonstrates that living near public transport is good for your sense of mental well-being. Apart from reducing the stress associated with driving in peak hour, commuting on public transport improves community cohesion by promoting more interaction between neighbours.
One study in the Italian city of Turin also found the incidence of people on antidepressant medications decreased with improved access to public transport and amenities such as green areas and public services.
“Fewer prescriptions have been given to women and elderly individuals living in areas well-serviced by public transport,” it found.
It has been found that physical activity associated with public transport use can reduce stress and anxiety, and help older people feel more socially connected.
Benefiting your hip pocket
The other benefit of living in a TOD is that it can dramatically reduce the second largest expense for most households – transportation.
One study in the US found households living in transit-oriented developments in California were saving US$1232 a year in transport costs compared to more car dependent households.
“TOD households save money on car ownership, which is largely consistent with the finding that they tend to own fewer cars. On average, a TOD household spends $2369 less than non-TOD households per year on vehicle ownership,” said the study, which also found TOD households drove less kilometres each day.
The cost of car ownership has only been compounded in the past year with the strong lift in petrol prices, and in Sydney, the rising cost of tolls.
The Australian Automobile Association estimates the average Sydney household at the end of 2022 spent more than $490 a week on transport costs (excluding parking costs), which was made up of $94 in road tolls, $96 in fuel and more than $250 in other car-related costs. At same time, public transport only made up $50 of average household weekly public transport costs.
So the next time you consider buying an apartment in close proximity to a rail stop, don’t just consider the convenience factor but also the impact it will have on your well-being.