Presentation at the 2014 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Background and Purpose
Walking for transportation, which can include walking that takes place at the beginning or end of a trip taken by public transportation, can provide individuals with the opportunity to meet recommended levels of physical activity. Previous studies have demonstrated that individuals who walk to and from public transportation stops engage in more daily physical activity than those who do not.[1-5] More evidence is needed, however, to better understand the relationship between walking for transportation and public transportation use and more specifically, the mechanisms through which this relationship occurs. A growing body of evidence has also suggested that perceptions of built environment characteristics can influence walking for transportation.[6-8] Despite this evidence, little is known about how these perceived environmental factors influence public transportation use.
The aims of this study were to: (1) further assess the relationship between individual factors, public transportation use, and walking for transportation, specifically in a low-income community of color; and (2) examine the association among individual and perceived environmental factors and public transportation use.
This cross-sectional study was conducted in 2012. We used questionnaire data from 772 adults living in St. Louis, Missouri. We used the International Physical Activity Questionnaire long form to assess walking for transportation and public transportation use. The abbreviated Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale was used to examine perceptions of the environment. Two different models were tested using multinomial logistic regression with walking for transportation and public transportation use as the outcome variables. Model 1 examined the association between individual factors and public transportation use with walking for transportation. Model 2 examined the association between individual and perceived environmental factors with public transportation use.
Most participants were women and adults less than 50 years old. The majority of the sample was employed outside of the home and 27% had an annual income less than $10,000.
Multinomial logistic regression analyses revealed that the odds of walking for transportation for 1-149 minutes/previous week and =150 minutes/previous week (OR=2.11, CI=1.31-3.40 and OR=2.08, CI=1.27-3.42, respectively) were higher for individuals who reported using public transportation 1-4 days in the previous week in comparison to individuals who did not use public transportation. Similarly, the use of public transportation for five or more days in the previous week was positively related to walking for transportation. Compared to individuals who did not use public transportation, individuals who used public transportation for five or more days in the previous week were 3.47 times more likely to walk for transportation for 1-149 minutes/previous week and 8.61 times more likely to walk for transportation for more than 150 minutes/previous week (CI=1.47-8.19 and CI=3.87-19.20, respectively).
Model 2 revealed that the odds of using public transportation more than once a week (1-4 days/previous week) was greater among individuals between 50-59 years old (OR=1.98, CI=1.06-3.70) in comparison to individuals between 18-29 years old. However, adults over 60 years old were less likely to use public transportation five or more days in the previous week (OR=.34, CI=.14-.86) compared to individuals between 18-29 years old. Employed individuals were less likely than unemployed individuals to use public transportation more than once a week (1-4 days/previous week: OR=.56, CI=.35-.92).
Participants who reported high traffic speed and high crime in their neighborhood were less likely to use public transportation. More specifically, individuals who reported that traffic exceeded the posted speed limits in their neighborhood were less likely to use public transportation for 1-4 days in the previous week (OR=.54, CI=.36-.81) compared to those who did not report high traffic speed in their neighborhood. Similarly, individuals who perceived high crime in their neighborhood had lower odds of using public transportation for more than five days in the previous week (OR=.50, CI=.28-.87) compared to those who did not report high crime.
Using a diverse sample of adults where many participants were unemployed and used public transportation as their primary mode of transport, we found that individuals that use public transportation more frequently are more likely to meet physical activity recommendations by walking for transportation. Our study results are consistent with earlier research demonstrating that regular public transportation use is associated with increased physical activity and that walking for transportation appears to occur in combination with public transportation.[1-5] Of the perceived environmental factors assessed, our study results indicated that high traffic speed and high neighborhood crime were negatively associated with public transportation use. To our knowledge, no studies to date have investigated the relationship between perceived built environment attributes and public transportation use.
Implications for Practice and Policy
Programs, policies, and infrastructure changes to improve the perception and actual safety from traffic and crime may be an important investment to increase public transportation use in similar urban communities, and thereby increase levels of walking.
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Support / Funding Source
This study was supported by the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (1660-94758A) and the John Hopkins Global Center on Childhood Obesity (2001656847).