Health impacts of transportation and the built environment: A quantitative risk assessment Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Mansfield, Theodore
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
  • The design of urban transportation networks can affect three kinds of human health risks: (1) motor vehicle crashes, (2) air pollution from automobiles, and (3) physical inactivity occurring when motor vehicles replace walking and cycling as the main means of transportation. However, the relative magnitude of each of these risks in relation to the way cities are designed is poorly understood, and tools and methods that simultaneously assess all three risks are limited. Furthermore, available tools rely on static methods that fail to account for cumulative health impacts over time. This work developed the first dynamic micro-simulation model for quantifying all three risks and then applied the model to compare transportation health risks between neighborhood groups of varying designs within the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region. The model combines information on crash risk as a function of vehicle miles traveled, demographic and built environment variables routinely collected by the US Census Bureau, modeled estimates of fine particulate air pollution arising from traffic computed at the census block scale, and baseline public health data from the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics in order to estimate premature mortality risks from each of the three transportation-risk sources at the census block group scale. The model estimates that the combined health impacts of transportation are lowest in block groups with designs that encourage walking for transportation (18.4 annual excess deaths per 100,000 persons on average over 10 years, compared to 22.9 in the least walkable block groups). While air pollution health impacts are higher in the most walkable block groups (2.14 annual excess deaths per 100,000 persons compared to 1.15), physical inactivity and crash risks are lower in these areas (2.70 annual excess deaths per 100,000 compared to 6.66 and 13.5 compared to 15.1, respectively). Similarly, net individual risks of premature mortality are lower among those who walk, bike, or ride transit to work due to increased physical activity and decreased risk of fatal crashes. These results illustrate that designing neighborhoods to encourage walking has important net health benefits.
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  • In Copyright
  • MacDonald Gibson, Jacqueline
  • Lane, Leigh
  • Andrews, Richard (Pete)
  • Vizuete, William
  • Rodriguez, Daniel
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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