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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Can transportation help you live longer?


Transportation and Health Equity Series: Part V

We’ve already established that there are elements that impact the health of Portland residents that go beyond health care.  Read about our new (imaginary) friends, Aaron, Julie, and Mateo in Part 4 to get a sense of what some of these elements (aka Social Determinants of Health in fancy-pants health circles) are. 

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and, increasingly, other transportation planning organizations are beginning to acknowledge these connections.  PBOT needs to think about how its decisions, policies, and projects are affecting the health of its residents. How can PBOT give Aaron just as much of a chance as Julie to lead a long and healthy life?

The first step is understanding the following three major connections between transportation and health:

  1. Physical Activity.  If you are over 30, think back to third grade.  Did you walk to school? In 1969, about 50% or kids walked or biked to school.  Most of the rest bused.  In 2001, 16% of students walked or biked to school. Most of the rest were driven. Taking trips on bike or foot (or even walking to transit!) are chances to sneak physical activity into our busy lives.  Compared with drivers, transit commuters are four times as likely to walk the 10,000 steps/day recommended by the US Surgeon General. And even better, PBOT works with walking, biking, and transit promotion programs including our absolutely fabulous Safe Routes to School and SmartTrips programs. (In our Safe Routes elementary schools, students walk to school at three times the national average).
  2. Air Quality.  Every year, 64,000 Americans die prematurely due to air pollution via exacerbation of asthma, lung and respiratory illnesses, and heart disease. That’s almost the population of Portland, Maine.  Cars and trucks make up a large percentage of air pollution.  Good thing PBOT works to make it easier to switch from driving alone to other transportation options that reduce pollution – yeah!
  3. Safety. Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among young people between 10 and 24 years, according to a report published by World Health Organization.  Worldwide, over 400,000 youth are killed in car crashes annually – that’s about the same number of people that live in Minneapolis and St. Paul (where Julie’s from).  Good thing PBOT works with traffic safety in order to make moving from one place to another a safer experience for everybody using any transportation mode!

So as you can see, although PBOT does not have a white coat or a freezing cold stethoscope, transportation planning can and does impact residents’ health. But as we stand now, not all residents are getting the same ‘health’ benefits from PBOT.  We’ll talk about how Aaron, Julie, and Mateo are or are not benefiting from PBOT’s health inputs in the next post and what changes can be made to give residents better opportunities to lead healthier lives.

Need a prescription to help you to drive less? Order free carpool, transit, bike and walking information.

Read the other parts of our series:



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