Research Recap, April 11: Childhood Obesity, Young Drivers, Optimizing Transportation

Photo by Ed Yourdon.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Location Determines Childhood Obesity

Unhealthy food and a lack of physical activity are the most basic factors that lead to childhood obesity. When looking more closely at the roots of the health epidemic across various communities, the role of location yields a more complex puzzle. According to an article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, contributing factors have a place-to-place variation. Researchers found that teens who live in rural areas get most of their recommended one-hour daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at school, according to a study led by Daniel Rainham of the Environmental Science Program at Dalhousie University. Teens who live in suburban and urban environments, however, get most of their active time while traveling from place to place.

Young Americans Postpone Driving

The Great Recession, rising fuel prices and the increasing popularity of technology are encouraging young Americans to drive less, CalPIRG Education Fund reports. Analysis based on several national transportation studies show that younger drivers are actively searching for alternative transportation methods and driving less when they do choose private vehicles. Between 2001 and 2009, the average yearly number of vehicle-miles traveled by 16- to 34-year olds dropped 23 percent—2,400 miles per capita.

Optimizing Transportation

A new study by the Mineta Transportation Institute, “Model-based Transportation Performance: A Comparative Framework and Literature Synthesis,” linking transportation performance measures with data from simulation tools, develops a common framework by which to compare many of the various measures, and synthesizes the types and the results of these measures as implemented to date. The study identifies transportation investments and related policy decisions that will optimize transportation, environmental, economic and equity outcomes. One of the findings of the study is that the survey of performance measures suggests that most of the recommended measures have not been implemented in transportation and land use planning studies in the United States. More of the measures have been implemented in European studies.

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