Public Health and Transportation Case Studies

This page highlights case studies showing how communities of all types – urban, rural, suburban – and with budgets of all sizes are addressing the intersection of transportation and public health, often with special attention given to equity. While there is no single ‘best’ solution that is appropriate for every community, there are many implementable strategies in the case studies below that can help to build and maintain transportation systems that support health and equity for all users. Given that transportation decisions have important impacts on health and equity, these examples highlight successful programs that show the potential to improve health and equity in communities through transportation decision-making, planning and operations.

 

HIAs

 

Health impact assessments (HIAs) offer decision-makers an opportunity to ensure that health and equity are considered when shaping future transportation policy and systems. Background information on HIAs is available from APHA (fact sheet), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Human Impact Partners.

 

Below are examples of transportation-related HIAs:  

To view archived webinars on HIAs, visit:

To find completed and in progress HIAs, visit:

 

Community Design

 

Complete Streets in Los Angeles County (CA)

In Baldwin Park in Los Angeles County, approximately 39 percent of the children are overweight. Its new complete streets policy vows to “create a safe and efficient transportation system that promotes the health and mobility of all Baldwin Park citizens and visitors.” With help from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the city is making five corridors safe for all users and is adopting a new street design manual for future projects. The complete streets policy also helped the city access Safe Routes to School funding. Under the Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC) program, Baldwin Park has a new way to reduce childhood obesity in low-income communities by making improvements to the built environment.

 

Active Living Resolution in El Paso (TX)

In El Paso, the Chamizal neighborhood is a predominantly Latino community, where 41 percent of adults have little English proficiency and 70 percent have no high school diploma. There is also limited access to healthy foods for its residents, and obesity is a health problem in the community. The city council in El Paso, Texas, passed a resolution to use local policies to improve residents’ access to healthy eating and active living. The resolution implements a five-year obesity-prevention action plan covering the built environment, by encouraging more walking and biking, as well as improved access to healthy foods.

 

Greenworks Philadelphia (PA)
In 2009, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Sustainability released a plan to make Philadelphia the nation’s greenest city by 2015. Many of the plan’s targets are directly linked to health and equity. The plan includes the specific goal of improving air quality to improve residents’ health, which the city hopes to achieve by reducing traffic congestion, increasing the use of low-emission vehicles and reducing overall vehicle miles traveled. The city is working to improve the walkability of Philadelphia and the accessibility of the opportunities for physical activity by aiming to provide recreation resources within a 10-minute walk of 75% of residents.

 

Public Transportation

 

Safe Routes to Transit (CA)

The Safe Routes to Transit (SR2T) Program in California awarded $20 million in grants to encourage walking and bicycling to regional transit, as well as to reduce congestion. SR2T promotes bicycling and walking to transit stations by funding projects and plans that facilitate non-motorized trips. The grant funds may be used for bicycle storage at transit stations, safety enhancements and removal of infrastructure barriers that hinder walking and biking near transit stations.

 

Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service (OH)
The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) was awarded a grant under the FTA’s State of Good Repair program to replace 43 of their 56 paratransit buses. These buses are specialized to serve older passengers and individuals with disabilities. The new models will be safer and more energy-efficient, and will accommodate up to 12 passengers and four wheelchairs. The transit service increases the mobility of individuals who are unable to drive or use a standard bus, and provides those individuals access to goods and services. In addition, the grant will allow TARTA to expand its increasingly popular call-a-ride service to suburban residents and local college students, among others.

 

Walking and Biking Programs

 

Isanti County (MN) Active Living Partnership

The Isanti County Active Living partnership is helping to create safe biking and walking routes in three cities in Minnesota. This partnership is a model for promoting policy changes that are supportive of health; the partnership exists in a multijurisdictional and predominantly rural setting. A local faith-based organization formed the senior walking program and assisted the Cambridge Medical Center with its obesity program, which has included providing "Walk the Town" maps for distribution in waiting rooms and examination rooms.

 

City of Kirkland (WA) Active Transportation Plan

The City of Kirkland, Washington developed a plan to address all forms of non-motorized transportation in the community. The title of the active transportation plan, More People, More Places, More Often, indicates the plan vision. The plan focuses on goals such as reducing crash rates, increasing the number of children who use active transportation to travel to and from school, removing physical barriers to walking and making bicycling more convenient. 

 

Prescription Trails (NM)

Prescription Trails works to increase physical activity among New Mexicans, especially those who are physically inactive or do not exercise at all. The program also identifies routes that are both safe and accessible to patients and families of all ages and abilities. With local programs in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, Prescription Trails is a multi-agency partnership managed by New Mexico Health Care Takes On Diabetes, a coalition of 30 health care organizations that works to reduce the negative health effects associated with diabetes among New Mexicans. 

Student Neighborhood Access Program (UT) 

In 2009, the Utah Department of Transportation launched the Student Neighborhood Access Program  in collaboration with the national Safe Routes to School program. The program has a web-based software tool that allows students to map safe routes to bike and walk within a mile of their school. UDOT has promoted this program through school assemblies and other entertainment events. The program has yielded increases in active transportation, and also increases in the use of safety equipment, such as bicycle helmets.

 

WalkSafe (FL)
The WalkSafe program was designed in response to the startlingly high rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Florida. WalkSafe works with local organizations to improve neighborhood walkability and conducts research on collisions in order to identify specific dangers in the built environment and traffic patterns. Results show that the program has helped to bring considerable improvements: between 2001 and 2007, WalkSafe contributed to a 43 percent countywide decrease in pedestrian injuries. 

Safe Routes for Seniors (NY)
The NYC Department of Transportation partnered with Transportation Alternatives to create the Safe Routes for Seniors campaign, aiming to address the disproportionately high rate of senior pedestrian fatalities in NYC, and encourage senior citizens to walk more. Their recommendations focused on taking into account the sensory and physical changes that occur with age when designing streets and included installing medians and high-visibility crosswalks, repairing and extending curbs and pedestrian ramps, keeping streets as flat as possible, and increasing the time allowed for pedestrians to cross the street.

 

 

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