Research Study Abstract

Travel to School by Public Transit: Rethinking Active Transportation

  • Presented on April 2014

Abstract: Travel by public transit is increasingly recognised as a ‘walk interrupted’ and therefore a potential means to engage in physical activity (PA). However, little is known about how taking public transit to and from school contributes to PA in youth. Our objective was to assess moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) during trips taken across different modes of school-travel. High-school students (n=49, 13.8±0.6 yrs, 63% male) from Vancouver wore accelerometers (GT3X+) and GPS monitors (QStarz). We identified school-trips (distance, duration, mode) in GIS software and time-aligned them with 1s accelerometry data to calculate minutes of ‘trip-based’ MVPA. We excluded students with no school-trips (n=11), school-trips not starting/ending at home (n=32 trips), school-trips with >15% missing GPS waypoints (n=26 trips), and 4 car trips (distance 1.8±0.6 km; duration 8.2±0.7 min; trip-based MVPA 0.2±0.2 min). We used multilevel models to account for multiple trips per student. Thirty-three students had 66 valid school-trips (n=35 transit, n=31 walk). Compared with walking trips, transit trips were of greater distance (2.7 vs. 0.9 km, p<0.001) and duration (22.1 vs. 14.4 min, p=0.020). Walking trips accrued 9.2 min of MVPA on average, but interestingly, MVPA during transit trips was only marginally lower, and not significantly different (7.2 min on average, p=0.088). Importantly, walking associated with public transit use to and from school can contribute meaningfully toward youth achieving recommended PA guidelines. Although trip-based MVPA may vary by community and transit locations, students and parents should consider public transit as an important mode of school-travel with potential positive health benefits.