Public Transit is Crucial for Adolescent Health


The following was submitted to ecoRI News as a letter to the editor.

As an adolescent health doctor and parent of two teens, I wanted to write a thank-you note to the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA). In my work, I care for adolescents in Boston and teach at the medical schools at Brown University and Harvard University. From these experiences, it’s clear to me that public transportation is crucial for adolescent public health.

My teen patients use buses and the subway to get to their health appointments safely and affordably; and to go to school, work, and other places. They don’t have to be driving age — younger teens can safely navigate the system as well. My partner and I have two teens age 15 and 18. They get free bus passes from their Providence public high school and love these passes. They have become adept at navigating the system and telling my partner and me how to get from point A to point B by bus.

In addition to safe and affordable travel and access to health care, there are other great health benefits of public transportation: less air pollution, less contribution to global warming, to name a few. I love that RIPTA, and other public transportation, allows teens to be safely independent and supports their health and equity. I’m so appreciative that we’ve avoided cuts to RIPTA during this state legislative session and hope we can continue to support public transportation, for our teens and all of us, in the future.

Joanna Brown, MD, MPH, specializes in adolescent, family and pediatric medicine.


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  1. I lived in the Boston area and could not wait until my daughter was old enough to ride the bus on her own (mostly with a friend at first). It’s really terrific for kids not to have to depend on their parents all the time, and they also feel comfortable with the idea of public transportation when visiting other cities. (She now lives in Queens and doesn’t own a car.)

  2. I grew up taking public transpertation alone from the age of 8, which is the traditional age NYC kids start to do it. I could go to the dentist without asking for help. I could go to the Museum of Natural History by myself. Owning a car would have meant I had to have a full time job my whole life instead of making every day an adventure and every day an opportunity to do the right thing for my planet. Use public transportation and human-powered transportation. You will be happier and healthier. Best thing we could do in this country is turn the suburbs back to forest and farms and move everyone not farming in to the city.

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