In the midst of nationwide transit service cuts, more than one million rural households do not have a car

Many transit agencies have been forced to drastically scale back services due to rapidly declining revenues, and rural providers are no exception. Many were already operating on incredibly tight budgets, serving large geographic areas with a small staff of part-time drivers. While it is easy to see how pandemic-related service cuts will impact people in urban areas who rely on transit, the impacts will likely be just as devastating for many rural communities, especially the pockets of rural America with disproportionately low car ownership.

The risk of premature death from transportation noise

The health risks of exposure to transportation noise may not command the same attention as those of exposure to particulate matter or motor vehicle crashes. But it turns out that prolonged exposure to noise is a serious matter, with numerous deleterious health effects—from sleep disruption and behavioral changes, to hearing loss, hypertension, and heart disease. New research focusing on Houston, Texas, attributes nearly as many premature deaths to transportation noise as to motor vehicle crashes, and shows that low-income households are at heightened risk of death from transportation noise exposure.

Exposure to particulate pollution shown to increase COVID-19 death rate

A new paper under review presents evidence that exposure to pollution—including that from motor vehicles—reduces the survival rate of individuals who have contracted COVID-19. Those most at risk of death have underlying diseases which may be due to, or exacerbated by, long-term pollution exposure. This adds to the mounting awareness that disadvantaged communities may disproportionately bear the brunt of the effects of COVID-19.

New report discusses how transportation officials can support health equity

Smart Growth America recently released a new report, The State of Transportation and Health Equity, a field scan looking at the intersection of transportation and health equity in the U.S. today. The report summarizes lessons based on interviews with 92 experts working across disciplines at the local, state, and federal levels across the country. It identifies the biggest challenges to health equity facing our transportation system and strategies to address them. SGA will be hosting a webinar about the report on Thursday, January 23, at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Places with most crash exposure also fear enforcement bias

Low-income and minority Americans face a dilemma: They are disproportionately victimized by our transportation system. And while law enforcement could help, those same Americans are subject to profiling and fines that can lead to economic ruin. SSTI’s mid-November Community of Practice meeting, attended by CEOs and top staff from a dozen state DOTs, took on this problem. Jill Locantore, executive director of Walk Denver, gave us permission to share her presentation, and we can also summarize the thrust of the conversation.

Priced parking is fair and effective at lowering car use

New research out of California looks at the effect of priced parking on commuter mode choice and transportation costs for low-income households. Findings from two studies suggest raising the price of commuter parking by 10 percent could lower car use by as much as three percentage points and, while residential parking permits could hit low-income households hardest, few households would be disproportionately affected. Moreover, revenues from paid parking could offset any potential burden.

Inequities in allocation of bike infrastructure investments

The pressing need for safer active transportation infrastructure cannot be overlooked anymore, with 2019 being the deadliest year of the century for pedestrians and cyclists. Although federal spending on active transportation increased from 1990 to 2017, equity advocates claim that these investments are not serving all communities. A recent study that looked at the intersection of bicycle infrastructure and socioeconomic status of residents in 22 U.S. cities strengthens this claim.

Some bias is evident when ticketing speeders in Burlington, Vermont

The negative safety effects of speeding are well established. The enforcement of speed limits is justified to reduce crashes. But does officer discretion when giving tickets result in bias against one group or another? The results of an analysis of speeding stops in Burlington, VT, show that young drivers, male drivers, and drivers belonging to what the researchers termed a non-white “minority” group are more likely to receive a speeding ticket, rather than a warning.