What’s the Latest Research in Transportation and Health?

Transportation and Health report from SafeTREC in 2010.

Transportation is increasingly looked to as a cause of and a primary solution to the country’s obesity, air and water quality issues. This is an emerging issue; in the past year or two the topic has been on more and more conference agendas. More and more health professionals and bike-ped stakeholders are calling for changes to transportation funding and policy at all levels of government to reduce transportation’s impact on individual and community health.

This Tuesday USDOT will sponsor a webinar (1pm ET) to discuss planning research initiatives planned or underway that are related to transportation and health.

A 2010 Harvard study concluded:

“We estimate traffic congestion-related PM2.5, NOx and SO2 emissions in 83 cities caused approximately 4,000 premature deaths in the year 2000, with a monetized value of approximately $31 billion (in 2007 dollars). This compares to the estimated $60 billion congested-related cost of wasted time and fuel in these communities during the same year. . . .

Our estimates of the total public health cost of traffic congestion in the U.S. are likely conservative, in that they consider only the impacts in 83 urban areas and only the cost of related mortality and not the costs that could be associated with related morbidity, health care, insurance, accidents, and other factors. Our analyses indicate that the public health impacts of congestion are significant enough in magnitude, at least in some urban areas, to be considered in future evaluations of the benefits of policies to mitigate congestion (“The Public Health Costs of Traffic Congestion, Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.)”

Another report in 2011 suggested “policy interventions” be pursued to reduce transportation-related emissions, reduce transportation’s contribution to climate change, increase investments in bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and decrease fatalities (“Policy Interventions for Safer, Healthier People and Communities,” Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, at UC Berkeley).

Also in 2010, the well-respected RAND Corporation published a study concluding that air pollution in California is causing over $193 million in hospital-based medical care each year. The costs are mostly related to respiratory illnesses such as asthma and pneumonia. Over two thirds of the costs are covered by government run medical programs like Medicare and Medi-Cal (“The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending“)