In a step towards establishing rules specific to obstructive sleep apnea—a condition that can cause daytime drowsiness and reduced reaction time—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Rail Administration have issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address the challenge of finding a balance between government’s interest in protecting public safety on highways and the industry’s workforce concerns about the ability of truckers to earn a living.
Research in the last ten years has linked walkability, improved pedestrian environments, mixed-use development, and even older housing stock—a proxy for neighborhoods built for walking as opposed to driving—with improved public health measures related to weight. A new longitudinal study from McGill University is the first to study changes in body mass index over a relatively long time period as a function of walkability.
As part of an ongoing effort to raise the profile of the interaction of transportation infrastructure and health, FHWA recently released a new tool. The Health in Transportation Corridor Planning Framework can be found on FHWA’s Health in Transportation website. The tool offers a step-by-step and scalable framework for transportation professionals seeking to include health considerations into their corridor planning activities.
The World Health Organization considers road noise a health hazard, and various studies have found that road noise can have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing. A study by researchers in Montreal investigated whether residents age 15 years and under and over 65, as well as low-income populations and visible minorities, were more likely to live in areas with high road noise.
How does the transportation system affect the health of your community? The health impacts of transportation decisions are more than crash rates and air quality, as shown by the Transportation and Health Tool from USDOT and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The tool’s web page allows easy comparisons between metropolitan areas and states and also provides resources to help improve these indicators.
The U.S. is among the countries that need tougher traffic laws if we hope to reach the World Health Organization’s goal of halving the 1.25 million annual traffic deaths world-wide by 2020. The WHO argues that these deaths—49 percent of which occur among pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists—are preventable if countries follow a set of best practices regarding transportation.
At the November 4 Moving Together conference on healthy transportation, MassDOT will unveil their new design and planning guide for separated bike lanes. Lou Rabito, Complete Streets Engineer at MassDOT, thinks this is the first state guide to reference the CROW design manual from the Netherlands, considered by many advocates as the global gold standard.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a “call to action” encouraging Americans to walk more as a way to improve health and wellbeing, and to spur improvement in the walkability of American communities. In a blog post about the report’s release, Emily Badger, at the Washington Post, notes that policies of the federal government during the last century—subsidies for suburban sprawl development, low gas taxes, and highway investments—bear a large responsibility for making walking more difficult.
Recent studies show that travel times and costs for all commuters are increasing, particularly in the past five years, and a recent Citi Premier commuter index documents average commuting costs. These costs are regressive in nature, creating a particular burden for lower-income commuters, who are much more likely to live farther from employment and have long commutes and travel times, regardless of mode. The inequitable impacts of this challenge manifests in lost opportunity for lower-income commuters.
A study done by Cambridge Systematics for NCHRP Project 20-65 examined the indirect economic benefits to society of state investment in public transportation. The study found there are substantial cost savings to other government programs due to increased access to jobs, health care, and education. In many economic impact analyses, these indirect benefits are less well-documented than job creation through capital and operational spending, effects on local development patterns, and direct benefits to riders such as cost or time savings leading to increased productivity.