Quantifying Health Costs Of Auto-Dependency

Can health care costs be factored into transportation investments? Should they? The American Public Health Association says an emphatic 'yes' to both. Results are reported in a 12-page report that includes cost savings from walkable urban design.
June 2, 2010, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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APHA, in this new report, attempts to quantify all costs associated with a 'car-centric society'. They argue that "these costs have been ignored for too long as decision-makers hash out transportation policies. Instead, transportation projects usually focus on construction costs", etc. ignoring not only the costs of air pollution, traffic crashes, but also those associated with the more sedentary lifestyle made possible by auto-based, suburban, low density development.

"Health impacts and costs have typically not been considered in the transportation policy, planning, and funding decision-making process. There are few standards or models for estimating health costs."

From Executive Summary: "The combustion engine and the creation of the highway system increased mobility. However, investments in highways have come at the expense of other transportation modes." It "has led to a heavier reliance on vehicles and roadways and less on walking, bicycling and transit use" that has been exacerbated by the suburban development it enabled, resulting in "profound negative impacts on human health: decreased opportunities for physical activity, and increased exposure to air pollution, and the number of traffic crashes."

"An investment in a "healthier" transportation system is critical."

Thanks to Daily Grist

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Published on Friday, May 28, 2010 in Grist
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