Understanding the public health impacts of transportation plans can inform decision making and project prioritization. Because each plan and regional context is different, there is a need for site-specific methods to assess the extent and distribution of health impacts of changes to a region’s transportation system. To fill this need, researchers have developed the Integrated Transport and Health Impact Model (ITHIM), which predicts the public health impacts of transportation and land use scenarios from expected changes in air quality, traffic safety, and physical activity. However, current transportation health impact assessment models (including ITHIM) operate at coarse geographic scales (e.g., region or county) to quantify health changes. This research builds on previous work using ITHIM to generate demographically explicit health outcomes to provide neighborhood-level estimates of public health changes predicted from transportation plan scenarios in Sacramento, California.
We assess the impacts of regional transportation plan scenarios on public health via changes in traffic injury and physical activity. Zip-code level results are mapped using a customizable web interface. Illustrative results indicate that the adopted regional transportation plan will lead to improved health outcomes, largely driven by the benefits of increased physical activity. However, these estimates vary widely across the region, with some communities expected to experience adverse impacts and others obtaining higher levels of benefit. We note that some of the variation may be the result of modeling noise, and we identify promising avenues for improving the robustness of estimates at small spatial scales.
Disaggregation is important from sustainability and equity perspectives to determine the locations where and populations for whom the physical activity benefits of non-motorized transportation are outweighed by increased exposure to the risk of air pollution and injury or death. Providing an accessible, web-based tool to illustrate the effects of transportation plans and in communities across a region has the potential to elevate health and equity considerations in transportation decision making. The methods developed in this study can be refined and improved and applied elsewhere by modifying the source code, which is publicly available.