The New York Times has a genuinely fascinating article today on a link between rail and reductions in obesity:

Riding the rails can leave users an average of 6.5 pounds lighter than others, and 81 percent less likely to become obese over time, according to the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Before this study, it was difficult to say for certain whether the features of the built environment, such as sprawl and miles of roadway, are directly responsible for obesity and related illness such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Research can get confusing since a complex mix of choices can lead to weight gain, including people’s attitudes.

In Charlotte, researchers managed to avoid most of these confounding factors…

It’s worth reading the whole thing. I can’t say that I’m 100 percent convinced yet, but the findings are consistent with a growing body of research on the connection between land use and health. And it makes sense: when you leave your car keys on the counter, your transportation choices necessarily become more active, even if it’s just walking to and from the transit stops.

In other encouraging news, the US Transportation Department reported today that traffic fatalities declined last year to the lowest level since 1950. Which is great. Until you remember that nearly 34,000 people died on the road last year. That’s seven times more than all the US casualties in Iraq since the war started in 2003. So it’s still a lot.