There are many links between our health and the transportation system, including: the design and location of our streets, freeways, and truck routes; public transit facilities and service; availability and quality of sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and bike facilities; locations of airports and shipping ports. Our health is affected by the transportation system in a number of ways, as it shapes:
- Access to jobs, goods, and services;
- The livability of neighborhoods, including opportunities for physical activity and social interaction vs. violence and isolation;
- Safety from traffic injury; and
- Exposure to environmental pollution including noise, air pollution and water contamination.
Physical activity, air pollution and asthma, pedestrian and cyclist injury collisions, and even stress and heart disease are all related to the transportation system. Importantly, where and how transportation facilities are designed also determines whether our transportation system contributes to just, equitable access to health promoting environments or to unfair burdens of negative, health-related impacts on specific populations.
Because of the multiple health impacts of the transportation system, SFDPH-PHES has been engaged in a number of efforts to help ensure that transportation decisions protect and promote the health of San Franciscans.
Informing Public Policy and Planning
The SFDPH recently completed a health impact assessment on a potential program that would charge a $3 fee to travel into or out of the congested northeast quadrant of San Francisco during AM and PM rush hours.
In 2010, Mayor Gavin Newsom established a city goal of reducing serious and fatal pedestrian injuries by 50% by 2021 and directed City agencies to coordinate the development of a pedestrian action plan towards this end. SFDPH is co-leading this effort along with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and is engaged in a number of activities supporting this long-range goal.
The Task Force has been developing an area plan for Western SoMa that promotes “neighborhood qualities and scale that maintain and enhance, rather than destroy, today's living, historic and sustainable neighborhood character of social, cultural and economic diversity, while integrating appropriate land use, transportation and design opportunities into equitable, evolving and complete neighborhoods.” SFPHES staff have served as an appointed member of the Task Force since 2006.
SFPHES and The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition collaborated to develop a community based transportation plan for a walkable and bikeable Treasure Island.
Research and Assessment
PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights) and community members along with researchers in the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s (SFPDH) Program on Health, Equity and Sustainability and at UC Berkeley School of Public Health (UCB) conducted community-based health impact assessment of traffic and the transportation system in San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood.
SFDPH’s Vehicle-Pedestrian Injury Collision Model predicts change in the number of collisions resulting in pedestrian injury or death associated with area-level changes in street, land use and population characteristics due to new development or transportation system changes. An intersection-level model is currently being developed.
SFPHES developed the Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (PEQI) as an observational survey to assess the quality of the physical pedestrian environment and inform pedestrian planning needs.
SFDPH’s Bicycle Environmental Quality Index (BEQI) is a quantitative observational survey to assess the bicycle environment on roadways and evaluate what streetscape improvements could be made to promote bicycling in San Francisco.