Breaking Down the Blueprint: T4′s Objective for Improved Public Health and SafetyMay 20, 2009
By Stephen Lee Davis
When we think about our daily commutes to work, walks to the grocery store, or bus rides our kids take to school, there are few things more important than making sure these activities keep us healthy and safe.
After all, the numbers related to these issues are simply staggering — more than 37,000 people killed on our roads in 2008, between $40 and $60 billion in annual health care costs from negative air quality associated with transportation, more than 16 percent of children, and 66 percent of adults, considered overweight or obese due in large part due to a lack of physical activity.
Transportation for America believes that a renewed transportation system must Ensure Safety for All Transportation Users and Improve Public Health Outcomes — a goal that will require some critical changes in the way we approach transportation policy. For that reason, we’ve made it one of six top-line objectives in our Blueprint.
In another post later on this week, we’ll provide you with some of the details for reaching these outcomes; but for now, we wanted to talk about three of our “performance objectives” — measurable outcomes that will come from a new transportation program — that are essential for meeting this goal:
- Triple walking, biking and public transportation usage.
- Improve public safety and lower congestion costs by reducing traffic crashes 50%.
- Achieve zero percent population exposure to at-risk levels of air pollution
Establishing these performance targets in the next transportation bill, and holding states, metro areas, and localities accountable for working towards them, is absolutely critical towards making our roads safer, our air less polluted, and our communities — particularly disadvantages ones — more conducive to healthy activities like walking and biking.
On the surface, it seems slightly obvious to say that if we want to achieve better outcomes, we need to define our goals and make sure that we have a system in place to measure our success. The problem, of course, is that federal policy has never actually established what these goals are.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director American Public Health Association (a T4 coalition member) said in our recent webinar on safety and public health that the next transportation bill presents a “huge opportunity to benefit the public health” with some major reforms. Unfortunately, he added, there is also an opportunity to do nothing, which will end up harming Americans through more vehicular crashes, less active communities, and worsening air quality.
Let’s make sure the next transportation bill helps make Americans safer and healthier. Check back with us later this week to get a look at some of the specific programs and policies related to public health and safety that Transportation for America is recommending be included in the next transportation bill.