Health and Equity in Transportation Planning (AB 441)
Decisions about transportation have an enormous impact on health. Children living closer to a freeway, for example, are more likely to develop asthma. When people have access to affordable public transportation, they tend to walk or bike to and from train stations, increasing their physical activity and, in effect, decreasing their risk for chronic disease. AB 441 would help ensure city, county, and regional governments consider the health and equity implications of planning and development decisions. Transportation systems designed with health and equity in mind not only mitigate the potential negative impacts of auto-dependent transportation, but can also create infrastructure that encourages alternative modes of transportation-including walking and biking.
Here are some related stories:
- A recent article reporting on air quality in the United States notes the relationship between income and the risk from air pollutants. According to Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association, "[People with low incomes] live closer to sources that are producing the pollution. You don't have high rent housing near a power plant, or downwind from an industrial site contributing to a problem, or near a busy highway ... You also have folks who have higher incidents of diseases, which makes them at higher risk ... often it's harder for them to get medical care."
- An article in The Sacramento Bee illustrates that not all community environments are created equally. An analysis of two neighboring communities found that residents of Oak Park- a blighted, predominantly low-income community-are more than 3 times as likely to go to the emergency room for asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, and can expect to live 3.5 years fewer than their more affluent neighbors. As stated by Jonathan London, director of the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis, "Where you live influences deeply your exposure to bad stuff, like air pollution, water pollution and violence, and it reduces your access to good stuff, like good jobs, good food, healthy air, healthy water, a peaceful environment, street trees."
Here are some talking points to continue to broaden the frame and discussion of this issue:
- All communities deserve a fair chance to be healthy. And it shouldn't be determined by your zip code. The burden of poor air quality, sidewalks in disrepair, and limited access to reliable public transit is not shared equally among Californians. Lower income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected, and the health impact of transportation decisions on surrounding residents is often overlooked.
- A good solution solves multiple problems. Effective transportation planning strategies-from building sidewalks and bike lanes to traffic calming-can help build prosperous, inclusive communities, while simultaneously addressing many of the leading health, environmental, and economic issues of today (including injury and death rates, physical inactivity-related chronic illnesses, and climate change).
For those who can't make it to ENACT Day, join us virtually on Twitter on May 16 (@strat_alliance) for updates on the day's events. We'll be live-tweeting throughout the day-using the hashtag #ENACT2012-and invite you to join the conversation.