Caitlin Hendee | Denver Business Journal

Kathleen Lavine | Denver Business Journal
Kathleen Lavine | Denver Business Journal

If Colorado communities were looking for one more reason to shift towards transit-oriented development, they may have found it.

Cities that have denser, more compact living conditions are likely to have lower disease rates and obesity rates, according to a new University of Colorado Denver study.

“While it is possible to lead an active, healthy lifestyle in most any type of neighborhood, our findings suggest that people living in more compact cities do tend to have better health outcomes,” said Wesley Marshall, assistant professor of engineering at CU Denver.

Wesley co-authored the study with Norman Garrick, associate professor of engineering at the University of Connecticut. The study, published in the Journal of Transport & Health, analyzed the street network configuration of 24 California cities with populations between 30,000 and just over 100,000 — in particular, the frequency of street intersections, as a measure of urban compactness.

Then, it used health-survey data from a sampling of 42,000 to 51,000 adults for the years 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 to see how the intersection designs affected rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and asthma. The more intersections, the lower the obesity rates at the neighborhood level, and the lower obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and disease rates at the city level, the study found.

That could be good news for Colorado officials who are touting transit-oriented development, or TOD, that places compact clusters of homes and businesses near transit stations, and how important it is to creating jobs, attracting millennials and building a more environmentally-sustainable city infrastructure. Read more