Highlights from the TRB Health and Transportation Subcommittee
E-Circular 239 is the culmination of a three-year effort by the Task Force on Arterials and Public Health. The purpose of the Task Force, and the Circular, is to inform the planning, design and operation of arterial roadways considering public health.

The Task Force accomplished its mission by identifying over 250 research topics, questions, concerns and gaps in our knowledge base when it comes to arterial roadways and public health. The questions are presented in such a way that anyone with an interest could pick one and develop it as a focus of study. In looking through the Circular, you will notice that the primary focus of the Task Force was arterial roadways; however, the issues presented extend well into the broader health and transportation paradigm.

Link to the TRB Task Force on Arterials and Public Health website
Task Force proposal

Diverse organizations in transportation and public health including TRB, ITE, APHA, IPATH, as well as an academic community spanning multiple disciplines, are promoting a focus on the interrelationships between transportation infrastructure, behavior, and their joint influences on human health and the built, natural, and social environment. These activities suggest an intense interest in advancing both strong evidence for best practices that integrate transportation and health goals, as well as specific and accessible guidance for transportation practitioners. Additionally, health researchers need guidance on research questions that contribute to transportation research and practice. Considering these considerations, we call for a deep and focused discussion on how best to advance the integration of health and transportation research and practice. Considering the history and emergence of public health as a legitimate transportation concern with many research questions, the nation’s transportation research structure needs to increase the prominence of this subject area.

This report documents a session from the 2014 TRB Annual Meeting about the role of public health in transportation decisions. The session offered perspectives from three senior state transportation officials and a state health commissioner who have been part of these discussions. The session was organized by the TRB Subcommittee on Health and Transportation (ADD50-01). 

This report contains the notes taken from a TRB Cross-Cutting Group session about public health and transportation held at the 2013 TRB Annual Meeting. The report also includes survey results from 179 TRB Committees about their interest in topics at the intersection of public health and transportation.

5. Transit Planning with Public Health in Mind, TCRP Proposal (Submitted 2013)

The aim of this project is to provide public transit agencies and planners with information on how and where to include public health in the planning and decision-making processes, focusing on the planning, development, and operation of public transit systems and in agency programs. The project also addresses how public health agencies can consider transit in their planning, as well as institutional arrangements where transit and public health agencies can work better together to advance a common agenda. 
6. Quantifying Health Costs and Health Benefits of Transportation, NCHRP Synthesis Proposal (Submitted 2013)

The aim of this synthesis is to document practices and research focused on public health cost-benefit analyses of transportation infrastructure and policies. The synthesis will create a resource identifying: (a) where health costs and benefits are being considered in transportation plans and projects; (b) how they are being considered; (c) the known data sources and methods used to carry out the analyses; and, (d) identify gaps in our knowledge and suggest approaches to fill those gaps.

The purpose of this synthesis is to investigate practices and research focused on public health analyses of transportation infrastructure and policies with a focus on approaches that are aligned with performance management programs. The synthesis will create a resource identifying: (a) where health is being included in performance management programs to inform decision-making; (b) how health is measured and reported in connection with performance management; (c) potential health-related performance measures for transportation agencies; (d) information from state departments of public health on potential partnering pathways with state DOTs; and (e) gaps in current practice and potential approaches to fill those gaps. 

Article from Public Roads (Raynault and Christopher, 2013) documenting case studies from across the country illustrating how metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and states are collaborating at the crossroads of public health and transportation.

TRB 2016 Workshop proceedings

10. Synthesis of the Impacts of Public Transit on Health, TCRP Synthesis Proposal (Submitted 2017)

Scope: What are the impacts of public transit on health? This question has been repeatedly asked over the past decade in both the public transit and public health communities. While there is some evidence that public transit can have a positive impact on our health, such evidence has not been synthesized in a form that would assist state and regional transportation planners in making decisions about transit to promote the health of their communities. Better resources showing the links between public transit and health would be invaluable when trying to secure resources to design, build, maintain, and operate public transit systems

Comprehensive Operational Analyses (COA) are a regular practice in the transit industry and vary in format and topics covered. COAs can include an in-depth study that identifies the transit system’s strengths and areas for improvements and suggestions to improve efficiency and increase usage. What is missing from the COA is a systematic means explaining how to weave population/public health concerns through the various elements. This problem statement calls for: (1) An assessment of the state of the COA practice; (2) A guidebook to bring a population/public health perspective to the COA elements; and (3) A checklist-type evaluation that agencies can use to quickly assess how well they may be considering population/public health in their organization without doing a complete COA.

This Health and Transportation Data Inventory provides transportation and public health researchers and practitioners an introduction to
useful data sources, tools, and methods for exploring connections between transportation systems and public health. The first section, data inventory, briefly discusses and provides links to data resources. The second section, commonly used tools, catalogs data warehousing resources and models with particular applicability to transportation and public health. Finally, section three summarizes key data gaps, emerging data resources, and research trends in the field.

This inventory is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all data resources relevant to transportation and health and will continue to evolve as a living document. If you would like to contribute additional data resources, tools, methods, or emerging trends, please email Theodore Mansfield at [e-mail].