Incorporating Public Health Into Transportation Decision-Making

Investments in transportation have the potential to significantly affect public health outcomes. Decisions to build highways, transit, or bikeways, for example, influence how residents and visitors move around a metropolitan area, and engage in physical activity. Personal travel habits and proximity to transportation infrastructure play a role in how likely people are to be physically active or be exposed to dangerous traffic and toxic pollution. For this study, the research team reviewed the literature that links transportation infrastructure, the surrounding built environment context, and public health outcomes such as chronic heart and lung diseases, obesity, and deathmortality. The team then researched publicly available data that planners could use to inform decision-makers about the public health effects of funding certain transportation investments. Finally, the team reviewed the guidelines of existing discretionary grant programs administered by the California Transportation Commission (CTC), and proposed improvements that would better incorporate available data on public health for consideration. These steps can positively influence funding decision-making for better public health outcomes in for Californians.

Principal Investigator: 
Dr. Bruce Appleyard
PI Contact Information:

San Diego State University

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

This report lays out a qualitative and quantitative approach by which transportation agencies can evaluate projects and programs for their public health impacts, both positive and negative. Previous research has established connections between transportation and public health through aspects such as vehicle crashes, pollution exposure, physical activity and fitness, access to health-related goods and services, and mental health impacts (Litman, 2013). Still, public health has also been overlooked as a consideration in traditional transportation planning practices.

This study’s review of existing research shows public health considerations need to be incorporated into transportation funding decision processes to lead to healthier, more livable communities and regions. 

There are five main areas where these quantitative and qualitative considerations of public health should be applied: 
•    Physical Activity and Mental Health 
•    Traffic Safety
•    Environmental Quality and Pollution Exposure 
•    The Negative Public Health Impacts of Road Projects; and 
•    The Positive Public Health Impacts of Transit Projects.

This report is intended to be useful for any state, regional, or local agency interested in incorporating public health measures into transportation decision making for the betterment of their communities.

Project Number: 



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