The Transportation Prescription: Bold New Ideas for Healthy, Equitable Transportation Reform in America

July 23, 2009

Traditional transportation policy has been crafted to move cars faster and further. Missing from the equation is how transportation, or lack thereof, affected people’s quality of life: their health, their opportunities and their vitality. The consequences of these policies are felt today with high levels of air pollution, injury, and lack of access to critical goods and services.

Also, given our focus on cars, non-automobile related transportation options have been neglected; a lack of walking and biking infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks and bike paths have added to the alarming increase in obesity in the U.S. All of these impacts are felt particularly strongly in low-income communities and communities of color adding to rampant health disparities in our nation.

The Transportation Prescription: Bold New Ideas for Healthy, Equitable Transportation Reform in America, a report by PolicyLink and Prevention Institute, commissioned by the Convergence Partnership, is a policy guide that analyzes the intersection of transportation, health and equity. This report provides key policy and program recommendations that can improve health outcomes in vulnerable communities, create economic opportunity, and enhance environmental quality.

This report also features a foreword by Rep. Jim Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and one of the primary authors of the upcoming federal transportation bill – an over $500 billion investment that will set transportation policy and funding in the United States for approximately the next six years.

“For too long now, our transportation decision-making has failed to address the impacts that our infrastructure network has on public health and equity,” Rep. Oberstar said. “The asphalt poured and lane miles constructed enhanced our mobility and strengthened our economic growth; but too often, this auto-centric mindset took hold and crowded out opportunities to invest in a truly sustainable inter-modal transportation system, in particular a system that meets the needs of underserved communities.”

The Transportation Prescription outlines 11 key policy proposals, including:

  • Encouraging and funding healthy and environmentally responsible transportation options like buses, light rail, subways, biking, and walking;
  • Targeting transportation investments to low-income communities and communities of color in order to provide much needed access and lower health disparities;
  • Opening up the transportation planning process by involving local residents and committing to accountability and transparency so community members can have a say in what their needs are;
  • Promoting the health benefits of reducing injuries from traffic crashes, encouraging physical activity, and improving respiratory health.

The Transportation Prescription provides a summary of an in-depth review of the intersection of health, equity and transportation, by key academics and advocates in the field. The nearly 200-page analysis will be published separately in August in a report called Healthy, Equitable Transportation Policy: Recommendations and Research.