Transit environments for physical activity: Relationship between micro-scale built environment features surrounding light rail stations and ridership in Houston, Texas

Academic Article


  • Introduction: Health professionals promote transport-related physical activity because travelers oftentimes walk or bike to and from transit stops or stations. Although previous studies have examined the associations between macro-scale built environment features surrounding light rail transit (LRT) stations (e.g., density) and LRT ridership, this study examined the associations between numerous micro-scale features (e.g., street-level noise pollution) and ridership. Methods: This analysis originated from the Houston Travel-Related Activity in Neighborhoods (TRAIN) Study, a project evaluating how an LRT extension impacted adult physical activity in Houston, Texas. In 2014, researchers used the Analytic Audit Tool to quantify 58 micro-scale built environment features within six categories: Land Use Environment, Transportation Environment, Facilities, Aesthetics, Signage, and Social Environment. Feature data were obtained from 590 street segments within 0.25 miles of 22 LRT stations. For each station, separate composite indices were created per category by averaging the computed feature scores (1–7) within each category, with higher scores signifying more physical activity-promoting features. Station-level LRT ridership data were obtained from monthly ridership reports for the 12 months following station opening. Linear mixed models were constructed to examine the associations of the six built environment categories with ridership, adjusting for season, weekday vs. weekend day, and station as a random intercept. Results: Holding all other variables constant, every one-unit increase in composite index scores for Transportation Environment and Social Environment was associated with an increase in daily ridership by 425 and 488 riders, respectively (p < 0.05). Every one-unit increase in composite index score for Signage was associated with a decrease of 722 riders daily (p < 0.05). The relations of Land Use Environment, Facilities, and Aesthetics with ridership were statistically null (p > 0.05). Conclusions: Enhancements to the Transportation Environment and Social Environment may slightly increase overall LRT ridership, and consequently, utilitarian physical activity.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 11196268
  • Author List

  • Lanza K; Oluyomi A; Durand C; Gabriel KP; Knell G; Hoelscher DM; Ranjit N; Salvo D; Walker TJ; Kohl HW
  • Volume

  • 19