USDOT releases health and transportation tool

By Robbie Webber

How does the transportation system affect the health of your community? The health impacts of transportation decisions are more than crash rates and air quality, as shown by the Transportation and Health Tool from USDOT and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The tool’s web page allows easy comparisons between metropolitan areas and states and also provides resources to help improve these indicators.

Because comparisons across multiple geographic areas and indicators can be difficult, each MSA or states has a chart that standardizes indicators by showing in what percentile the jurisdiction falls as well as its raw score. Instead of scrolling through lists of rankings, it’s easy to see whether your state or city is doing better or worse than others on a host of indicators.

USDOT and the CDC have documented why each indicator is important to health and how they were selected, strategies to improve transportation and health outcomes, and research and resources on each indicator. There are 13 shared indicators between states and MSAs. There are seven indicators that only rate states and two that only rate MSAs.

As an example, we can see that Madison, WI, where SSTI is located, seems to be doing fairly well in most areas, placing at least in the upper half of MSAs for all indicators and in the 70th or even 90th percentile in many. We seem to not do well in the bicycle fatality rate per 100,000 people, but when you look at the rate by exposure—taking mode share into consideration—the indicator is much better.

Health indicators for Madison, WI. Click for larger image.

Health indicators for Madison, WI. Click for larger image.

The indicators for the State of Wisconsin are a little less rosy, however, with seven of 20 indicators below the 50th percentile compared to other states and 14 indicators below the 60th percentile. [Editor’s note: This chart gives Wisconsin credit for a Complete Streets policy, but that has since been repealed.] Although Wisconsin does relatively well on safety indicators, it loses points in many other areas.

Health indicators for the State of Wisconsin. Click for larger image.

State of Wisconsin health indicators. Click for larger image.

Many states and cities are working toward better health outcomes and considering impacts to health as they make transportation decisions. This new tool and the accompanying resources should make it easier to see areas where they may want to make changes.

Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.