Op-Ed: Litman on Metro Projects and Urban Road Safety

In response to a series of comments and questions that came up recently in the Sustran Global South forum, Todd Liltman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in Canada offered the following references and observations on the topic:

Relationship between Metro Projects and Urban Road Safety

For information on the safety and health benefits of smart growth, urban locations and more multi-modal transportation systems see:

Reid Ewing, Richard A. Schieber, Charles V. Zegeer (2003), “Urban Sprawl As A Risk Factor In Motor Vehicle Occupant And Pedestrian Fatalities,” American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 93, No. 9 (www.ajph.org), Sept. 2003, pp. 1541-1545.

Reid Ewing and Eric Dumbaugh (2009), “The Built Environment and Traffic Safety: A Review of Empirical Evidence,” Journal of Planning Literature, Vol. 23 No. 4, May 2009, pp. 347-367; at http://jpl.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/23/4/347.

Todd Litman (2009), “Transportation Policy and Injury Control,” Injury Prevention, Vol. 15, Issue 6 (http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/15/6/362.full); at www.vtpi.org/tpic.pdf.

Todd Litman (2010), “Evaluating Public Transportation Health Benefits,” American Public Transportation Association (www.apta.com); at www.vtpi.org/tran_health.pdf.

Todd Litman (2011), “Pricing For Traffic Safety: How Efficient Transport Pricing Can Reduce Roadway Crash Risk,” Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org); at www.vtpi.org/price_safe.pdf.

Todd Litman and Steven Fitzroy (2005), “Safe Travels: Evaluating Mobility Management Traffic Safety Impacts,” VTPI (www.vtpi.org); at www.vtpi.org/safetrav.pdf.

Gordon Lovegrove and Todd Litman (2008), “Macrolevel Collision Prediction Models to Evaluate Road Safety Effects of Mobility Management Strategies: New Empirical Tools to Promote Sustainable Development,” Transportation Research Board 87th Annual Meeting (www.trb.org); at www.vtpi.org/lovegrove_litman.pdf.

William Lucy (2002), “Danger in Exurbia: Outer Suburbs More Dangerous Than Cities,” University of Virginia (www.virginia.edu); summarized in www.virginia.edu/topnews/releases2002/lucy-april-30-2002.html

William H. Lucy (2003), “Mortality Risk Associated With Leaving Home: Recognizing the Relevance of the Built Environment,” American Journal of Public Health (www.ajph.org), Vol. 93, No. 9, September, pp. 1564-1569; at www.ajph.org/cgi/content/full/93/9/1564.

WHO (2011), “Health Co-Benefits Of Climate Change Mitigation – Transport Sector: Health In The Green Economy,” Health Impact Assessment, World Health Organization (www.who.int/hia); at www.who.int/hia/examples/trspt_comms/transport_sector_health_co-benefits_climate_change_mitigation/en/index.html.

There are a number of factors to be aware of when evaluating these issues:

* When countries develop from very poor to medium incomes, per captia crash rates tend to decline while vehicle ownership increases. Only when you compare cities or countries of comparable wealth does it become clear that areas with higher per capita vehicle travel tend to have higher per captia crash rates.

* Traffic safety experts tend to measure risk based on distance traveled (per hundred-million or billion vehicle-kilometers) which tends to overlook the risks associated with increased driving and the safety benefits of mobility management. Only by measuring risk per capita, as with other health risks, can we perceive the risks associated with policies that stimulate driving.

* Incrased automobile dependency contributes to other health risk, including air pollution and sedentary living. More comprehensive evaluation of health risks tends to increase the potential health benefits of mobility management.

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About the author:

Todd Litman is  executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy  Institute, an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative solutions to transport problems. His work helps to expand the range of impacts and options considered in transportation decision-making, improve evaluation techniques, and make specialized technical concepts accessible to a larger audience. He can be reached at: 1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada. Email: litman@vtpi.org.

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