New Study: “The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation”
I recently finished a class at Lehigh taught by State Representative Bob Freeman. The class, called Land Use Management and the Politics of Sprawl, really started me thinking about the interconnectedness of our transportation planning, the health of the public, and our land use patterns. One thing that is very clear to me after taking the class is our incredible dependence on cars. As someone who loves to drive and has always had a car, I found this realization rather humbling. The fact is, we have created a world in which we live on one island, work on a different island, and ‘play’ on various other islands. Meanwhile, the car–our boat– is the only way to get from one island to the next.
To travel to a store within one mile often requires a car trip. Of course we could hastily blame this on laziness, but it is more and more common for roads to be built without any consideration to pedestrian traffic. In class we discussed the effects of these trends and our discussions often brought us to issues of public health, wasted land, and economic distress. A recent study conducted by the American Public Health Association provides evidence of these effects and proposes that we look at transportation funding and planning through a very different lens.
The study, “The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation,” highlights the lack of consideration that is given to health costs in transportation planning. In other words, when decision-makers decide which transportation projects are priorities, they rarely take into account the health costs associated with the various options. As a result, we miss out on opportunities to fund transportation projects that are actually most efficient.
The current process by which transportation funding decisions are made generally does little to consider the long-term costs and benefits to health, safety and equity.Our systemof transportation investment has resulted in many benefits for the U.S. and its residents, but today’s growing, aging and urbanizing population has different needs and expectations for a transportation system.
The study also includes three case studies: Traffic Safety Case Study, Air Pollution Case Study, and Physical Activity Case Study.