Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Evening with Dr. Lawrence Frank

Transit riders are 3.42 times more likely to get enough moderate exercise in a week. Youth from households with no cars were 6.8 times more likely to walk a half-mile per day. Technology breakthroughs will only account to 45-50% of the emissions reductions necessary to hit targets. This emphasis on statistics was the backbone of the presentation Brighton native Larry Frank gave to approximately 140 catechumens of sustainability interested in the unhealthy consequences of the sprawl living arrangement.

What began as a university grant designed to help metro Atlanta devise a plan to improve air quality by evaluating travel tendencies blossomed into a statistical data set complete with Bayesian factors. These figures show significant correlation between those who live in suburban neighborhoods only traversable by automobile and significant health costs for the maintenance of that lifestyle.

A man who calls himself a "Pracademic," Frank seeks to bridge knowledge and action through many actual measurements. The effect of what actually happens on the ground coupled with statistical inference yields nearly irrefutable truths such as that time spent in a car is a better indicator of obesity than walk distance, that Metro Atlantans drive over 100 million miles per day (incidentally longer than the distance to the sun), and that for men, walkability is a predictor of high Body Mass Index, but not for women, whose BMI is inclined to increase directly corresponding to access to fast food (but not for men, interestingly).

Frank feels neighborhood design for health is consistent with dense traditional neighborhood design. Noting that the State of California will see its senior population double in 10 years, he advocates for even sidewalks and short street crossings. He advocates for auto insurance reform which would make insurance vehicle use an incremental cost rather than a sunk cost to deter unnecessary motoring. Especially harmful from an emissions standpoint, says Frank, are the exceedingly short trips like traveling from the parking lot at Pittsford Plaza to the parking lot of the Pittsford Wegmans.

Frank wrapped up his remarks by appealing to leadership to engage creative youth in the policy discussions steering transportation investment, that which drives the direction of development.

The final lecture in this year's Reshaping Rochester lecture series will be held May 10th at 7PM at the Memorial Art Gallery, once the University of Rochester's Cutler Union. John Robert Smith, President and CEO of Reconnecting America will present "Getting on the Right Track." Reconnect Rochester has a hand in the promotion of the event (click for more promotional material) and will be party to a joint meeting with Mr. Smith and top Transit Authority representatives.

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