Transportation and land use are intricately related. Land use typically refers to the relative proximity of different land uses, typically recreational, commercial and residential, within a specified area. The patterns of placement can affect a person’s proximity to destinations for recreational activity and travel patterns to commercial and employment centers, which affect recreation transport choices (e.g. walking and cycling). Furthermore, public transit infrastructure is well developed in areas with highly mixed land uses and high population density since the short distances between residences and employment or commercial centers and the large numbers of potential riders is conducive to public transportation. Studies have shown that with increased accessibility to transit at both the origin and destination of the trip there is an increase in use of transit along with a decrease in automobile use. Accessibility is typically described as the distance between origin and destinations; for instance, short distance to nearest destinations, such as stores, transit stops, and parks, has been shown to increase number of walking and cycling trips, especially to shopping and school. Furthermore, residents of neighborhoods with a mix of land uses and pedestrian-friendly designs have been found to be travel less by car engage more frequently in walking and cycling.
Walking and cycling to destinations, are examples of physical activities that are incorporated into daily life or have an inherent meaning, or lifestyle activities, rather than structured exercise regimens, are potentially a better strategy for increasing physical activity. For example, walking a mile or more to and from a transit station can be an easier habit to make rather than going to the gym after work. Lifestyle activities are especially significant for people who dislike vigorous structured activity, do not have access to facilities, or do not have enough time for structured activities.
Land-use patterns in a community refer to the placement of various types of land in relation to each other. These land use types include, residential, commercial, recreational, and industrial. The patterns of placement can affect a person’s proximity to destinations for recreational activity and travel patterns to commercial and employment centers, which affect recreation transport choices (e.g. walking and cycling). Land use patterns may also affect environmental exposure to pollutants and disease agents when residential neighborhoods are in close proximity to industrial areas.
Downstream Health Effects
Land-use patterns can affect travel patterns, thereby affecting active transport, thus increasing physical activity, which has beneficial effects on health. Land use patterns may also affect environmental exposure to pollutants and disease agents. Social capital and neighborhood belongingness, which have positive effects on mental health, may also be affected by land use patterns.
Policies and Other Determinants
A number of policies can affect land-use patterns within a community and ultimately influence the public’s health outcomes. Some areas where land-use patterns are particularly important include:
- Mixed use development, which allows residential, retail and commercial uses in close proximity to one another, sometimes in the same building, encourages people to walk more and spend more time in their neighborhoods and less time in their cars, can provide opportunities for people in the community to interact more on an informal basis.
- Pedestrian-centered retail and commercial development, this is often combined with mixed use development to create informal opportunities for interaction. Many of the “great places” that attract visitors and residents are those public markets and shopping districts that provide a pedestrian-centered environment with cafes and other spaces for social interaction (see the Project for Public Spaces website)
- Parks and other recreational opportunities, including both facilities and programs, allow people to interact with others while at the same time create additional opportunities to increase and enhance physical activity.