Incorporating the Benefits of Transit-Oriented Development to Provide Access to Fresh and Healthy Food
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This report investigates how the lack of access to healthy food affects people with low to moderate incomes and examines ways that increasing access to healthy food can be incorporated into the existing benefits of transit-oriented development (TOD). This research indicates that TOD, and public transit more specifically, provides many benefits, but does not directly provide access to healthy food. Achieving access to healthy foods is contingent upon successful incorporation with TOD. Pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use communities provide relief from automobile-dependent lifestyles by increasing access to transit for visitors, residents and workers, enabling them to drive their cars less and ride transit more. TOD provides people with the option to choose where they live, work, and socialize with maximum access and minimum effort. The most successful TOD transit stations integrate seamlessly into the community  creating mobility options for those who live within a half-mile buffer of transit station locations, thus creating “activity nodes.” In activity nodes people experience many benefits including reduced traffic and reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which reduces air and water pollution; these effects also lead to asthma and environmental mutation/defects, respectively. Residents also experience increased safety via TOD design guidelines, which reduces the likelihood of walking in dimly lit streets. TOD can also increases ridership and bolster households’ disposable income. Other key benefits of TOD include decreasing infrastructure costs, encouraging economic development, and contributing to more affordable housing. Finally, residents living in with a half-mile of transit stations are more likely to use “active” modes of transportation, including walking to bus and rail stations, which can decrease the prevalence of obesity and heart disease . Research shows that regular physical activity in conjunction with a healthy diet provides substantial benefit in reducing morbidity and mortality . The benefits of TOD increase physical activity and lower pollution; however, these benefits fail to alleviate the barriers between residents and access to healthy food. Incorporating TOD with access to healthy food can help mitigate the prevalence of chronic disease and reduce transportation barriers to access fresh foods. Therefore, for the purpose of this research, a half-mile buffer was used to demarcate the area defined as TOD. Research indicates that residents living within half-mile buffer are more likely to depend on public transit. Several jurisdictions have researched and compiled best practices that have resulted in recommendations like re-locating markets that sell fresh food next to transit stops, increasing bus services to provide public transportation to stores, and adopting policies and zoning regulations that promote healthy alternatives like community gardens and farmers’ markets. Using these best practices and other innovative ideas, this document attempts to identify opportunities to mitigate the effects that a lack of resources has on the vulnerable population within the metro Atlanta region. Several key aspects are considered to ensure that a plan is implemented with minimal setbacks. This report culminates in policy recommendations and design guidelines for stakeholders to successfully mitigate the existence of barriers to healthy food access.