Transportation


Reliable transportation is a vital community condition for health and well-being. People need safe, accessible, and affordable transportation to go about their daily lives. Transportation shapes our health in other ways as well. Decisions about transportation policy and investments can prioritize health and well-being by:

  • Prioritizing safety to reduce transportation-related injuries and deaths

  • Seeking strategies that reduce climate change emissions including public transportation investments

  • Expanding multi-modal transportation and “active transportation and recreation” facilities

  • Centering people who are low-income and transit-dependent (e.g., disabled, with health conditions, involved with the justice system)

  • Promoting transportation options that encourage physical activity, such as walking, cycling, and public transit use, can help individuals meet their daily physical activity needs, which is important for preventing chronic diseases

  • Providing accessible and affordable transportation options to help mitigate social isolation and its effects to improve social connectedness and mental health


The transportation sector has significant implications for public health, affecting physical activity levels, air quality, access to healthcare, road safety, and social isolation. Physical inactivity, influenced by transportation systems, is a leading risk factor for global mortality, while air pollution from transportation contributes to millions of premature deaths annually. People who live in areas with limited public transit options or who are reliant on cars for transportation may have less access to healthy food options and be at increased risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death worldwide, resulting in over 1.3 million fatalities in 2016 alone.


Car-centric transportation policies, along with racial and socioeconomic segregation in planning and development, have significantly shaped our current transportation landscape, leading to certain challenges. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has played a crucial role in enhancing transportation accessibility for individuals with disabilities. By mandating accessible options in public transit systems, such as wheelchair ramps, lifts, accessible stations, and support in taxis and ride-sharing services, the ADA has made transportation more inclusive and accommodating for people with disabilities.


Low-income and minority communities, including communities of color, older adults, and individuals with disabilities, face disproportionate challenges due to their proximity to highways and high-traffic areas. These marginalized groups are often more reliant on public transit and require affordable and accessible transportation options that cater to their specific needs.


Today, there is increasing recognition of the need for equitable, sustainable transportation systems.

There are several factors that influence transportation issues, including:


  1. Transportation policies and infrastructure: Many cities and communities still prioritize car-centric transportation policies and infrastructure, which can contribute to increased rates of air pollution, traffic injuries and fatalities, and sedentary lifestyles.

  2. Climate change: The transportation sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change and can have negative impacts on public health.

  3. Equity and accessibility: Many communities, particularly those that are low-income, communities of color, and rural, still lack access to safe and affordable transportation options, which can contribute to health disparities and limit access to healthcare services, healthy food options, and other important resources.


Promoting equity in transportation and public health requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the social determinants of health and ensures that all community members have access to safe, affordable, and sustainable transportation options. The transportation system has significant impacts on economic, environmental, social, and equity outcomes. It affects economic development, environmental sustainability, social mobility, and access to essential services. Lack of access to safe and affordable transportation options can result in social isolation and limited opportunities. At the local level, transportation systems and policies can have significant impacts on—access to safe, affordable, and efficient transportation can reduce health disparities, and promote social inclusion. 


Changemakers and stewards can influence transportation and public health at scale by collaborating with stakeholders, listening to people with lived experience in a given community to learn about transportation challenges,  advocating for policy change, educating communities, and investing in transportation infrastructure and public health initiatives. Individuals can make a difference in promoting transportation-related public health initiatives by choosing active transportation, advocating for infrastructure improvements, encouraging community involvement in transportation planning, and supporting local transportation initiatives and projects that advance health and minimize disparities.


Resources & Tools


Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Transforming Systems for Wellbeing and Equity
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Community Commons
This is an infographic that depicts how transportation infrastructure, emissions from vehicles, transit and active transportation, and safety
Transportation Access and Quality Affect Health
Resource
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Screen capture of Kern County's Land-Use and Transportation Plan webpage
Kern County’s Land-Use and Transportation Plan
Resource
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Screenshot of Health and equity
U.S. Department of Transportation: Health and Equity
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by U.S. Department of Transportation
First page of Transportation and Civil Rights article
Transportation and Civil Rights
Resource - Journal Article
Brought to you by Poverty and Race Research Action Council
Cover page of Toolkit to Integrate Health and Equity Into Comprehensive Plans PDF
Toolkit to Integrate Health and Equity Into Comprehensive Plans
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by American Planning Association
Cover of Beyond Traffic 2045
Beyond Traffic 2045
Resource - Report
Brought to you by U.S. Department of Transportation
Screen shot of Thriving Together: Reliable Transportation webpage
Thriving Together: Reliable Transportation
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by Well Being Trust
First page of CDC Recommendations for Improving Health through Transportation Policy
CDC Recommendations for Improving Health through Transportation Policy
Resource - Policy Brief
Brought to you by CDC
Cover page of Re-Programming Mobility: The Digital Transformation of Transportation in the United States
Re-Programming Mobility: The Digital Transformation of Transportation in the United States
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management
First page of Advancing Equitable Community-Based Transportation Planning
Advancing Equitable Community-Based Transportation Planning
Resource - Evaluation
Brought to you by University of California, Berkeley
First page of District of Columbia B24-0429: Metro for D.C. Amendment Act of 2021 Health Note
District of Columbia B24-0429: Metro for D.C. Amendment Act of 2021
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Health Impact Project
Cover Page fo Why and How Measuring Access to Opportunity
The Why and How of Measuring Access to Opportunity: A Guide to Performance Management
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Smart Growth America
Screen capture of Transportation Research Board Publications
Transportation Research Board Publications
Resource - Website/webpage
A screen grab of Building for all Portal
Building for All Portal
Resource - Data Bank/repository
Brought to you by Waka Toa Ora
Cover page for Paying Our Way transportation finance report
Paying our Way
Resource
Screen capture of Public Transportation in the U.S.: A Driver of Health and Equity
Public Transportation in the U.S.: A Driver Of Health and Equity
Resource - Policy Brief
Brought to you by Health Affairs
Screen shot of the front cover of the guide
Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by National Association of City Transportation Officials
Cover Page for Foot Traffic Ahead
Foot Traffic Ahead
Resource - Case Study
Brought to you by Smart Growth America
Cover page for The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Walking
Step it Up! The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities
Resource
Brought to you by Office of the Surgeon General of the United States
Cover page of Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design and Development
Smart Growth Guidelines for Sustainable Design and Development
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by EPA
Graphic depicting key elements of the Health Impact Assessment Report entitled Georgetown Mobility Study which includes icons related to the following: built environment, healthcare access, food access, neighborhood safety, Safe and affordable public transit, environmental health; ; ; Mixed methods; basic needs for health and safety, basic needs for health and safety, basic needs for health and safety, reliable transportation, thriving natural world
Georgetown Mobility Study
Resource - Assessment
Screen capture of Creating Liveable and Sustainable Communities
Creating Livable and Sustainable Communities
Resource - Report
Brought to you by AARP
Screen capture of Public Transportation Is a Human Right article
Public Transportation Is a Human Right
Story - Written
Brought to you by Jacobin
Published on 07/03/2020
Screen capture of Public Transit Agencies Join the Fight to Curb Overdose Deaths article
Public Transit Agencies Join the Fight to Curb Overdose Deaths
Story - Written
Brought to you by Bloomberg L.P.
Published on 01/18/2024
Jay Walljasper Tribute
Story - Written
Brought to you by Community Commons
people standing on a public bus
Bringing the Vital Conditions to Life: Reliable Transportation
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Screen capture of Racism Has Shaped Public Transit, and It's Riddled With Inequities article
Racism Has Shaped Public Transit, and It’s Riddled With Inequities
Story - Written
Brought to you by Rice University
Published on 08/24/2020
screenshot of the front page of the story
What It Looks Like to Reconnect Black Communities Torn Apart by Highways
Story - Written
Brought to you by Bloomberg L.P.
Screen capture of Longer Commutes, Shorter Lives: The Costs of Not Investing in America article
Longer Commutes, Shorter Lives: The Costs of Not Investing in America
Story - Written
Brought to you by NYT
Published on 10/17/2023
Screen capture of A Brief History of How Racism Shaped Interstate Highways story
A Brief History of How Racism Shaped Interstate Highways
Story - Written
Brought to you by NPR
Published on 04/07/2021
Staff Pick!
Screen capture of eTOD Social Impact Calculator webpage
eTOD Social Impact Calculator
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
A screen grab of Walk Score website
Walk Score
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox
Screen shot of Is the Metro Accessible?
Is the Metro Accessible?
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
A screen grab of Stormwater Management Calculator tool
Stormwater Management Calculator
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Screen capture of the Rural Transportation Toolkit
Rural Transportation Toolkit
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox
A screen grab of TOD Database dataset
TOD Database
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
A screen grab of Affirmatively Furthering Housing tool
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
Tool - Data/mapping Tool

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Reliable Transportation