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Connecting Transportation and Public Health

UMSL SouthAn issue brief released last October by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) makes the case for incorporating public health considerations into transportation planning. Check out some of the highlights below or visit the RWJF website for the full report.


  • For every $1 spent moving to more affordable housing, 77 cents is spent on an increased commute to work  – sprawl increases vehicle miles traveled and commute times.
  • 80% of work commutes in the U.S. are by car.
  • 75% of jobs are located OUTSIDE the city center.
  • 60% of public transit trips are by bus and the number of buses with bike racks tripled between 2000 and 2006 – adding bike racks to buses is an inexpensive way to expand accessibility


  • Roughly 35 million Americans live within 300 feet of a major roadway – a proximity that increases risk of asthma/respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, pre-term birth, and premature death.


  • Each additional hour in the car per day increases risk of obesity by 6%
  • Each additional kilometer walked per day reduces risk of obesity by 5%
  • 30% of public transit users get 30 minutes or more of physical activity per day
  • Average walk time for users to access transit is 19 minutes per day


  • 40,000 traffic-related deaths per year


  • 80% of federal transportation funds goes to highway and road infrastructure


The bottom line is that transportation has a significant impact on the health of communities. Promoting more active transportation options, such as walking, biking, and taking transit can lead to better health and lower health care costs, so it is important that these public health issues are included in the decision-making process on transportation and land use policy.

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