Benchmarking the health and public transit Connection in the GTHA: An analysis of survey microdata
Auteurs: Evan Castel et Steven Farber
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Study context: where, why, and how? The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is Ontario’s economic engine, and it is growing rapidly. Within this context, transit is a vital public good that offers far-reaching economic, social and health benefits, and needs to keep pace with this growth. But the benchmarks to track transit-health connections do not exist, and our understanding of the connections between transit and health in the GTHA is limited. We address these gaps by leveraging health and social survey data from Statistics Canada and – for the first time in the GTHA – linking them with measures of transit access, level of service, and built environment conditions. This allows us to offer a novel overview of the transit-health relationships in the GTHA. Goals Four research goals underpin this study: 1. to benchmark the current state of the transit-health relationships in the GTHA; 2. to quantify these relationships across a large set of health outcomes; 3. to probe these relationships for vulnerable subpopulations within the GTHA; 4. to take account of possibly confounding influences (built environment but also individual-level factors) that might otherwise mask the relationships between transit and health. Key findings Our methodology successfully leveraged two Statistics Canada datasets that surveyed almost 13,000 GTHA respondents. These secure-access datasets, coupled with our generated transit and built environment data, were large enough to detect statistically significant relationships across nine outcomes (general health, mental health, knowing of neighbours, favours done for neighbours, life satisfaction, obesity, walking to school or work, diabetes, and asthma). Key findings include a negative relationship between bus stop proximity, obesity and diabetes, but a positive influence of streetcar and subway proximity on knowing neighbours. In particular, the positive effects of higher-order transit were felt more at 800-1200m distance to subway stations, indicating a trade-off between the positive effects of subway on walking in one’s neighbourhood and the negative effect of crowdedness on wellbeing, broadly. Future opportunities This wide-ranging first survey of health outcomes brings to light many interesting relationships that can inform evidence-based policymaking. It also flags methodological challenges that deserve further investigation at a tightly focussed, more targeted level. Among other opportunities identified in this report, even larger datasets and individual-level data on automobile and transit use will lead to deeper understandings of the transit-health relationships identified here.
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