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The TROLLEY Study: assessing travel, health, and equity impacts of a new light rail transit investment during the COVID-19 pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life in extraordinary ways impacting health and daily mobility. Public transit provides a strategy to improve individual and population health through increased active travel and reduced vehicle dependency, while ensuring equitable access to jobs, healthcare, education, and mitigating climate change. However, health safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic eroded ridership, which could have longstanding negative consequences. Research is needed to understand how mobility and health change as the pandemic recedes and how transit investments impact health and equity outcomes. The TROLLEY (TRansit Opportunities for HeaLth, Livability, Exercise and EquitY) study will prospectively investigate a diverse cohort of university employees after the opening of a new light rail transit (LRT) line and the easing of campus COVID-19 restrictions. Participants are current staff who live either < 1 mile, 1-2 miles, or  > 2 miles from LRT, with equal distribution across economic and racial/ethnic strata. The primary aim is to assess change in physical activity, travel mode, and vehicle miles travelled using accelerometer and GPS devices. Equity outcomes include household transportation and health-related expenditures. Change in health outcomes, including depressive symptoms, stress, quality of life, body mass index and behavior change constructs related to transit use will be assessed via self-report. Pre-pandemic variables will be retrospectively collected. Participants will be measured at 3 times over 2 years of follow up. Longitudinal changes in outcomes will be assessed using multilevel mixed effects models. Analyses will evaluate whether proximity to LRT, sociodemographic, and environmental factors modify change in outcomes over time. The TROLLEY study will utilize rigorous methods to advance our understanding of health, well-being, and equity-oriented outcomes of new LRT infrastructure through the COVID-19 recovery period, in a sample of demographically diverse adult workers whose employment location is accessed by new transit. Results will inform land use, transportation and health investments, and workplace interventions. Findings have the potential to elevate LRT as a public health priority and provide insight on how to ensure public transit meets the needs of vulnerable users and is more resilient in the face of future health pandemics. The TROLLEY study was registered at ( NCT04940481 ) June 17, 2021, and OSF Registries ( ) June 24, 2021, prior to participant enrollment.

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