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May 27, 2011

Lack of transportation is hurting our health

by Nicole Schlosser - Also by this author

This week saw the release of three different reports providing concrete evidence that transportation conditions in the U.S. are wanting.

Apparently, in many places, traffic and our commutes are killing us prematurely, we can’t walk anywhere safely and even huge gas price increases will not get us out of our cars; they will just put us into more fuel-efficient ones.

The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA) at the School of Public Health’s study, "The Public Health Costs of Traffic Congestion: A Health Risk Assessment," says that the fine particulate matter that comes from traffic congestion led to more than 2,200 premature deaths in the U.S. last year.

Adding to the concern for public health was Transportation For America’s "Dangerous by Design 2011: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths." The report shows how roadway designs promoted by federal investment endanger people on foot. Findings show that pedestrians account for nearly 12 percent of total U.S. traffic fatalities.

However, “state departments of transportation have largely ignored pedestrian safety from a budgetary perspective, allocating only about 1.5 percent of available federal funds to projects that retrofit dangerous roads or create safe alternatives.”

Most compelling to me was a new Gallup poll that found that Americans are most likely to say they would seek vehicles that get better gas mileage if gas prices keep rising but don't go above the $5-per-gallon range. Americans are second most likely to say they would use mass transit.

On the face of it, that was an impressive showing for transit, but going deeper into the results, a striking 52 percent of respondents said that they wouldn’t take public transit no matter how much gas prices increase. That number didn’t include low income Americans, — defined as earning $30,000 per year or less, which I assume means per household — who made up 32 percent of respondents. Not surprisingly, they were the most likely of all the income groups to turn to transit to mitigate the hit that gas prices are taking to their budgets.

Still, even knowing how many people opt to get into their cars every day instead of taking the time to figure out their transit options and make the switch, that number seemed high to me. If more people knew how much traffic congestion, long commutes and lack of walkability in many areas impact us in an unhealthy way, would they change their habits or become more supportive of public transit in their community? Will this information have any impact on those holding the purse strings in Congress?

Nicole Schlosser

Senior Editor


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  • Joe D. Acosta, CCTM, WSO-CSSD[ May 27th, 2011 @ 1:52pm ]

    It is alarming to me that such a high percent of our (polled representative) population sample are not willing to consider public transit as an alternative, if not on a regular basis commuting to/from work for example, but at least maybe once a week. I have a theory that I would love to see realized in our foreign-oil-dependent country. First, I understand that mass transit may not work for everyone, but if 50% of our work force would use public transit one day of the week to/from their work place, we may drop our dependence on fuel by 10% overall, not to mention our dependence on our precious automobiles and in turn help reduce air pollution, thereby making a considerable contribution to bettering our environment. Additionally, those who take advantage of not driving occasionally may actually experience better quality of life. This may present itself in many ways such as reduced emotional or mental stress when not driving in congested traffic (maybe traffic would even seem less congested when not being the Operator), or by taking time to read a book, or even partake in some other enjoyable pastime. Maybe, we may even pick up a face-to-face conversation with someone riding with us, and we would do this more safely than speaking to someone via cell phone while driving. And for those of us who have tended to lag behind at work, might we actually leave the office at a more reasonable time in keeping with a public transportation schedule, thereby improving our time management skills (as I have)? There are overall many benefits (for the self and our communities) besides saving money in utilizing public transportation, not to mention utilizing something we all subsidize already. What if substantially more people used public transportation, might it improve as well with greater utilization? We should all promote public transportation. Try it if you haven’t tried using public transit.

  • MileHighSigns.com[ May 29th, 2011 @ 12:14am ]

    Public Transportation fails when it doesn't offer door-to-door service. If I could have a seamless commute with Taxi pickup at my door, transfer at park-n-ride to bus travel to next park & ride station, get into taxi that takes me to the door of my destination, I think that would attract additional ridership. Add business-class seating to busses along with tray tables like airplanes and a flat screen with news and stock ticker and I will gladly use public transportation. I would even pay a subscription fee for the business-class upgrade. Let me load a transport-debit card for payment. Offer tax credits for using public transportation. Insist that City/State Employees use Public Transportation at least 25%-30% of each year to commute to work. Build in more bike paths that pass through park-n-ride stations, too.

  • Frank[ June 2nd, 2011 @ 2:41pm ]

    It does not manner when it comes to Transit. through the Article has a value point. Offices having been building farther and father into the Burbs, where there is only limited Transit. or it take for ever, picking up lazy people after a block or 2. Thank goodness I moved. where I lived into downtown Minneapolis was 4 bus stops for a bunch of stupid lazy morons that can't walk a block or 1.5 blocks. that is why it fails. to the point, it's faster walking. Also, such as Minneapolis. the Insane Lane only works at Rush Hour. then the point fails for a bunch of whiny morons. point is, the toll is for 1 person or free for car pooling. Therefore, making I-394 outdated, and it was to be build and stop To Thanks to the whining filthy rich basters. only making the commute worst 40 years later. Mean while 35 W south was outdated when it was completed in the typical 1964 and took 45 years to be up dated. The Twin Cities had Transit at one time, then the Street Cars close down in the 50's. $5 gallon. People did not stop @ $4 a gallon. Get real. Fuel Prices Sky Rocket in the 70's. and the Traffic is worst today vs in the 70's. Europe has Transit. a group Americas have no clue about Europe's Rapid Transit.

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Janna Starcic

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Nicole Schlosser

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