Health officials are calling for a bigger investment in public transit. And if statistics are any indication, our health depends on it.
According to Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, the move makes sense any way you slice it. “We’ll have lower rates of obesity, lower rates of diabetes. We’ll prevent what is a looming concern as the population of the greater Toronto area grows. We’re going to have a lot more health problems if we don’t fix this.”
A newly released report entitled, “Improving Healthy by Design in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area,” states that air pollution is estimated to cause between 712 and 997 premature deaths each year. Increased physical activity and a reduction in air pollution would prevent 330 of those premature deaths.
Another point in favour of their argument? Commute times. In 2006, the average commute took 82 minutes. By 2031, that commute time will increase to 109 minutes.
Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, has supported the public transit push for some time. “We can make linear neighbourhoods in those places where we are investing in transit. And thereby increasing the choice for people to live in mid-density neighbourhoods with a variety of different options for how they move from place to place.”
In Toronto, progress is steady. Construction is currently underway for the Eglinton Rail. When completed, it will provide 19 kilometres of light rail transit. “Transit really provides an opportunity to make great places by adding mid-rise, by widening sidewalks, by adding street trees,” Keesmaat said.
According to some of the city’s chief officials, this is a no-brainer; improving transit in the GTHA and community infrastructure promises big benefits for us all, and promises to keep this city vibrant and healthy.