Foot-based audit of streets adjacent to new light rail stations in Houston, Texas: Measurement of health-related characteristics of the built environment for physical activity research

Academic Article


  • Background: Active travel to and from a transit station may provide significant amounts of physical activity and improve health. The ease with which people can traverse the distance to the transit station may impede or support active travel. Therefore, transit stations that have features that are supportive of utilitarian physical activity would be desirable. This study aimed to characterize the built environment surrounding new light rail transit (LRT) stations in the City of Houston, Texas. Methods: In 2014, we used a series of systematic protocols and a standardized environmental audit instrument, the Analytic Audit Tool, to collect data on segments (streets) that surround 22 LRT stations that were being newly built. Using Geographic Information System (GIS), we assembled all the segments that intersect a 0.25-mile circular buffer around each station for the audit exercise. Several 3- to 4-member teams of trained auditors completed the audit exercise on a subset of these identified segments. Our analysis were descriptive in nature. We provided the frequency distributions of audited features across the study area. We also followed an original algorithm to produce several composite index scores for our study area. The composite index score is indicative of the prevalence of physical activity friendly/unfriendly features in the study area. Results: In all, we audited a total of 590 segments covering a total of 218 US Census blocks, and eight City of Houston super neighborhoods. Findings suggest the environment around the new LRT stations may not be supportive of physical activity. In general, the audited segments lacked land use integration; had abandoned buildings, had uneven sidewalks; were not bike-friendly, had minimal presence of public-recreational facilities that would support physical activity; and had significant physical disorder. Notably, certain attractive and comfort features were frequently to usually available. Conclusions: Current findings, which will be compared to follow-up audit data, can be useful for future researchers and practitioners interested in the built environment around LRT stations.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • BMC Public Health  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Oluyomi AO; Knell G; Durand CP; Mercader C; Salvo D; Sener IN; Gabriel KP; Hoelscher DM; Kohl HW
  • Volume

  • 19
  • Issue

  • 1