Link to: SMART Infrastructure Goals
Today more than ever before, the transportation sector is grappling with several grand challenges. From a planetary perspective, transportation must become more sustainable and resilient if it is to support us through increased pressures like extreme weather events or pandemic-caused supply chain disruptions. But the health of the planet and the infrastructure itself are not the only health concerns to consider. At a human scale, health and health equity have emerged as equally important aspects that the transportation sector must address. What we are learning is that, in many instances where we have healthy options, we may need to make changes to the way we provide transportation.
At the same time, transportation infrastructure as we know it is also changing. Trends such as electrification, connectivity, automation and an increasingly digital world are transforming infrastructure design, construction and maintenance. In some cases these transformations require more integration with other systems or entities, and most will allow for more multifunctionality to better serve the future. Opportunities for making these changes arise during the entire life cycle of transportation infrastructure, from planning, through implementation, through end-of-life disposal.
At CARTEEH we have embarked on the Healthy People Through Smart Infrastructure initiative to identify these change opportunities and leverage the considerable strengths and talents of our consortium members to build on our previous research efforts – all in the service of enhancing health. Healthy People Through Smart Infrastructure is a framework to help navigate these challenging issues in a consistent and comprehensive manner. This framework was developed to guide practitioners and policy makers through the complex intersections between transportation and health to make the most healthful decisions for people and for the planet.
Principles for Transportation Infrastructure Development
These principles characterize tomorrow’s transportation systems, describing the challenges, opportunities and functions of the fast-approaching future. These principles should be considered our core mission’s new goals in developing, delivering, and maintaining transportation infrastructure.
- Sustainable –environmental, economic, and social triple bottom line, with an emphasis on low-carbon, environmentally sound, equitable and socially inclusive v strategies.
- Multimodal –diversity of choice and equitable service among transportation modes, for both urban and rural areas. It also includes enhanced public transportation options, last mile deliveries, and integration of active transportation
- Accessible – ease of reaching destinations, activities, and people, that is affordable options and includes disadvantaged population groups
- Resilient – ability to quickly recover from a stressed situation, including rapidly absorb, adapt and recover from a disruptive event in a manner that is equitable
- Technological – emerging and proven tools, methods, and machines solve transportation problems, and embrace the benefits of disruptive technologies, predict and mitigate unintended negative consequences
Health and Equity Considerations
The health and equity considerations, strategies derived from TTI’s 14 Pathways Between Health and Transportation, act as a “lens” or a “filter” to the principles, ensuring that decisions made in the different functional areas also advance health and health equity. Some health and equity considerations may be addressed implicitly through the principles for infrastructure development. Yet there is still a need to more explicitly enumerate issues at the intersection of health and transportation, and to understand the distribution of the benefits and impacts of various transportation decisions.
- Reduce vehicle emissions
- Increase connectivity and social inclusion
- Increase access to healthy destinations
- Increase active transportation options
- Promote green space and reduce heat
- Reduce run-off and contamination from transportation
- Improve safety for all users
- Minimize traffic noise
Transportation decisions informed by these 8 considerations can result in improved physical and mental health for humans and healing for the planet.
Application to Infrastructure Decisions
This part of the framework discusses how the SMART principles for infrastructure development and the 8 health and equity considerations can be applied across the transportation infrastructure life-cycle. For this, we defined the 7 “functional areas” of policy and planning, project development, material selection, construction, operations, maintenance, and end-of-life.
- policy and planning
- project development
- material selection
Our goal for this framework is that it supports practitioners and policymakers to:
- articulate the issues at hand,
- document the current state of practice,
- inform practitioners and stakeholders, and
- steer a future research agenda at the intersection of transportation infrastructure and health.
Ongoing and future work includes the development of a web-based tool to navigate the framework and available resources, and targeted research projects addressing aspects of transportation infrastructure and health equity