Planning decisions often have significant indirect effects. As planners, our challenge is to clearly describe these impacts and quantify them as much as possible so they can be incorporated into decision making. An example of this is the effect that transportation planning decisions have on human health. These impacts are significant but often overlooked or undervalued in the planning process. I have worked on several research projects that explore the nexus between transport planning decisions and public health, and are developing practical tools for incorporating them into planning. Let me share some of my current thinking about this issue.
The graph below shows the most recent USDOT vehicle-travel data covering the last 25 years. Although vehicle-miles of travel (VMT) grew steadily during most of the Twentieth Century, in recent years the growth rate stopped and even declined a little. It is now about 10% below where it would have been had past trends continued.
Spanish football fans are celebrating in the streets, while in The Netherlands they are drowning their sorrows, but the real winners of the 2010 World Cup are the people of South Africa. Long after the last vuvuzela is sounded, residents and visitors will enjoy the legacy of new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems build in South Africa’s four major cities.
Many ancient religions required animal sacrifice to satisfy their gods’ desires. We now sacrifice pelicans, marine mammals and sea turtles to satisfy our desire for cheap oil.
Time is a limited and valuable resource. As much as possible, people should spend the precious hours of their lives in the most satisfying and productive possible ways. This has important implications for transportation planning, since most people spend a significant amount of time in transport, and travel time savings are often the greatest projected benefits of transport projects such as roadway and transit service improvements.
My career is based, to a large degree, on my master’s thesis, which was a comprehensive evaluation of the full costs of various forms of transport. This provides a framework for determining optimal pricing, calculating the benefits of mode shifting and demand management strategies, and for comprehensive analysis of policy and planning decisions.
There are various ways to define building sustainability. A narrow perspective assumes that sustainable development simply means that buildings minimize energy consumption and climate change emissions, but a broader perspective recognizes that sustainability requires consideration of additional economic, social and other environmental impacts, such as lifecycle affordability, social equity, community integration, public health and safety, and land use impacts.
We live in a wonderful age! Scientists have proven that many simple, affordable, and often enjoyable activities make us healthier and happier: breath fresh air, avoid dangerous driving, be physically active, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, maintain friendships, play games, and avoid excessive stress. Even chocolate, red wine and sex are perscribed, in moderation, for health sake.
The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and Paralympics are over now. City Planner Brent Toderian described in a recent Planetizen blog how the event showcased Vancouver’s Urbanism, including the quality of its neighborhoods, streets and public transit system, and the delight of a shared community experience.