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Fixin' Healthcare

Monday, October 31, 2005

King County, Seattle, Washington

Residents of "walkable" communities have more opportunities to breathe cleaner air, drive fewer miles and lead healthier lifestyles, according to a report from King County.

Sustaining prosperity and improving the livability of King County's growing communities were the genesis of the King County Land Use, Transportation, Air Quality and Health Study. The report explores the linkage between how communities and transportation systems are built, and their effect on everything from driving habits to physical fitness.

Among its findings, the study shows that:
  • Residents of the most walkable areas of King County were more physically active - and less overweight - than those in areas with fewer pedestrian-friendly amenities.
  • Better connected streets, sidewalks and pathways can increase transportation efficiency and reduce automobile dependency as well as improve air quality and the health of residents.
  • Residents walk more when a variety of retail services are available nearby.
  • Transit and walking go together - people choose to walk more when transit choices are near.
  • The more interconnected the area, the fewer the miles that are driven.

These findings will be used as a tool to assist in the planning and evaluation of county policies and development projects that touch on issues including health care, housing, transportation and recreation. In King County they are coming up with the best practices, guidelines and policies that promote healthy living and physical activity.

The Executive Director of the Puget Clean Air Agency pointed to the study's conclusions on air quality and the built environment. "The fact that well-connected street networks promote the reduction of greenhouse gases is very compelling. The data show that good planning can literally help clear the air."

King County Executive Ron Sims said the study also lends support to his commitment to build the nation's premier network of bicycle and pedestrian trails. "These routes for recreation and alternative transportation are good for the environment, for reducing congestation and for the health of the residents of King County."

The study was conducted by Larry Frank, who drew on experts from the fields of land use, transportation, air quality, health care, finance, architecture and community advocacy.

Executive Summary: King County Land Use, Transportation, Air Quality and Health Study.

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