The Transit to Trails Act Would Increase Green Space Access for Underserved Communities

Studies show that people of color have less access to green spaces and public lands. One study found that transportation costs are a factor. The recently reintroduced Transit to Trails Act aims to fix that problem. 

The Transit to Trails Act would increase access to public parks and transportation. It was reintroduced by U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). The bill establishes a grant program to fund transportation to green spaces and public lands accessible for underserved communities. The Department of Transportation would administer the grant program. The Act would provide access to green spaces for those with limited personal transportation. Other details include:

  • Creating transportation systems from underserved communities to public lands
  • Expanding access to outdoor recreation for urban and rural areas

“Everyone deserves access to green spaces, not just those who can afford to drive to them,” said Rep. Gomez, in a statement. “That’s why I’m proud to partner with Senator Booker on this legislation that will remove barriers between our cities and our parks to ensure everyone, regardless of their zip code, can enjoy the beautiful outdoors.”

“The Transit to Trails Act is an important step towards making sure that everyone can enjoy our public lands and waters,” said Senator Booker. “By encouraging more transportation options to our nation’s valuable outdoor spaces, this bill will help promote public health and provide more opportunities for all Americans, particularly those in underserved communities, to enjoy the great outdoors.”

Benefits of Access to Green Spaces

The term greenspace in urban contexts describes public lands designed for recreation. Access to greenspaces provides a plethora of mental and physical health benefits. Researchers linked access to greenspace, tree canopies, and parks with life expectancy in Los Angeles’ neighborhoods. Another study linked living in greener environments with better mental health and lower all-cause mortality. 

“Getting out in nature is essential for our mental health and physical wellbeing, especially for our children,” said Rep. Gomez. “But many cities are built in a way that makes America’s national parks and public lands inaccessible for underserved communities.”

Access to greenery can help solve two of the biggest problems we face. Canadian researchers analyzed climate change and chronic diseases and the benefits of green spaces. They linked access to greenspace with climate mitigation by providing shade and reducing the heat island effect. They also associated greenspace access with lower rates of cardiovascular disease

A study from Denmark’s University of Aarhus found that exposure to greenspace reduces in childhood reduces the risk of developing psychiatric disorders as teenagers or adults. Researchers tracked residential green space around almost a million Danes, correlating it with their mental health outcomes. They used data from the Danish Civil Registration System and Landsat satellite archive. They found that people who grew up with the least amount of green space close by had up to a 55 percent increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders. 

Other studies find similar associations between access to greenspace and mental health. Researchers monitored 2,600 children aged seven to 10 in Barcelona, Spain, for over a year. They found that the children exposed to greenspace within and around schools had better memory capacities and were more attentive. Another Spanish study analyzed data from nearly 3,600 people in Spain, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and the U.K. The results showed that adults less exposed to natural spaces during childhood had lower mental health scores. 

Photo by Thomas Le on Unsplash

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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