Evaluating Public Transport Health Impacts

In the last days on the Sustran Global South Forum, Gregorio Villacorta of Metro of Lima (Peru) posted the following question to the group: “We would like to find some paper about road safety and social inclusion relationated to Metros, or other massive public transport.” In the usual good spirit of Sustran there were immediately several communications offering to lend a hand. This one from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute is one that we think is well worth sharing here.

Litman writes on 6 Feb. 2012:

See my report, “Evaluating Public Transport Health Impacts” (http://www.vtpi.org/tran_health.pdf ) which summarizes various research indicating that residents of cities with high quality public transport systems tend to have much lower traffic fatality rates than residents of more automobile-dependent communities.

Also see:

APHA (2010), The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation: Backgrounder, American Public Health Association (www.apha.org); at www.apha.org/advocacy/reports/reports 

ATSB (2007), International Road Safety Comparisons: The 2005 Report A Comparison of Road Safety Statistics in OECD Nations and Australia, Australian Transport Safety Bureau (www.atsb.gov.au); at www.atsb.gov.au/publications/2007/pdf/Int_comp_05.pdf.

G. Chi, et al. (2011), Gasoline Price Effects on Traffic Safety in Urban and Rural Areas: Evidence from Minnesota, 1998–2007, presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting (www.trb.org); at http://nexus.umn.edu/Papers/GasolinePricesAndTrafficSafetyMinnesota.pdf.

Eric Dumbaugh and Robert Rae (2009), “Safe Urban Form: Revisiting the Relationship Between Community Design and Traffic Safety,” Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 75, No. 3, Summer 2009; at http://pdfserve.informaworld.com/891216__911996851.pdf.

Michelle Ernst and Lilly Shoup (2009), Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods), Transport for America (http://t4america.org); at http://t4america.org/docs/dangerousbydesign/dangerous_by_design.pdf.

Reid Ewing and Eric Dumbaugh (2009), “The Built Environment and Traffic Safety: A Review of Empirical Evidence,” Journal of Planning Literature, Vol. 23 No. 4, May 2009, pp. 347-367.

Lawrence Frank, Sarah Kavage and Todd Litman (2006), Promoting Public Health Through Smart Growth: Building Healthier Communities Through Transportation And Land Use Policies, Smart Growth BC (www.smartgrowth.bc.ca); at www.vtpi.org/sgbc_health.pdf.

Samjin Lim, Wonchol Kim, Sangmoon Jung and Myungsoon Chang (2006), “Bus Traffic Accident Analysis: Before and after Transportation Reform in Seoul,” Seoul Studies Journal, Seoul Development Institute (www.sdi.re.kr).

Todd Litman (2005), “Terrorism, Transit and Public Safety: Evaluating the Risks,” Journal of Public Transit, Vol. 8, No. 4 (www.nctr.usf.edu/jpt/journal.htm), pp. 33-46.; at www.vtpi.org/transitrisk.pdf.

Todd Litman (2009), “Transportation Policy and Injury Control,” Injury Prevention, Vol. 15, Issue 6 (http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/15/6/362.full); at www.vtpi.org/tpic.pdf.

Gordon Lovegrove and Terek Sayed (2006), “Macro-level Collision Prediction Model For Evaluating Neighborhood Level Traffic Safety,” Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, Vol. 33, No. 5 (http://pubs.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/rp/rp2_tocs_e?cjce_cjce5-06_33), May, pp. 609-621.

William H. Lucy (2003), “Mortality Risk Associated With Leaving Home: Recognizing the Relevance of the Built Environment,” American Journal of Public Health, Vol 93, No. 9, September 2003, pp. 1564-1569; at www.ajph.org/cgi/content/full/93/9/1564.

Murray May, Paul J. Tranter and James R. Warn (2011), “Progressing Road Safety Through Deep Change And Transformational Leadership,” Journal of Transport Geography, Vol. 19, pp. 1423-1430; abstract at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966692311001098.

Ari Rabl and Audrey de Nazelle (2012), “Benefits of Shift From Car to Active Transport,” Transport Policy, Vol. 19, pp. 121-131; at www.citeulike.org/article/9904895.

David Rojas-Rueda, Audrey de Nazelle, Marko Tainio and Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen (2011), “The Health Risks And Benefits Of Cycling In Urban Environments Compared With Car Use: Health Impact Assessment Study,” BMJ, 343:d4521 (www.bmj.com); at www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4521.full.

Joachim Scheiner and Christian Holz-Rau (2011), “A Residential Location Approach To Traffic Safety: Two Case Studies From Germany,” Accident Analysis & Prevention (www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00014575), Vol. 43, Is. 1, January, pp. 307-322

Maria Segui‐Gomez, et al. (2011), “Exposure to Traffic and Risk of Hospitalization Due to Injuries,” Journal of Risk Analysis, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 466-474 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2010.01509.x); at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2010.01509.x/abstract

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About the author:

Todd Litman is  executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative solutions to transport problems. His work helps to expand the range of impacts and options considered in transportation decision-making, improve evaluation techniques, and make specialized technical concepts accessible to a larger audience. He can be reached at: 1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada. Email: litman@vtpi.org.

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2 responses to “Evaluating Public Transport Health Impacts

  1. I guess I would make two comments: (1) Donald Appleyard’s study of streets in San Francisco with high traffic vs. low traffic and the impact on relationships with others on the block is a very good explanation of the impact on traffic and road width on quality of life.

    (2) Similarly, David Engwicht in _Reclaiming Our Cities and Towns: Better Living Through Less Traffic_ has an extended discussion about “exchange” (interaction of all types, not just commerce) and how traffic and road widening reduces the amount of space within communities dedicated to exchange.

  2. Interesting bottom line on Todd’s report “Evaluating Public Transport Health Impacts:”

    “When all impacts are considered, improving public transit can be one of the most cost effective ways to achieve public health objectives, and public health improvements are among the largest benefits provided by high quality public transit and transit-oriented development.”

    Talk about music to a subway builder’s ears! She can go straight to the prime minister and get some funding from the immunization budget and those guys working on sewage treatment.

    Seriously, there are some qualifications and boundaries on the report’s bottom line, right? Maybe they are in a different report.

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