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April 2012 Newsletter

TRB Health and Transportation Subcommittee Newsletter
This Issue: Story of the Subcommittee, TRB 2012 Annual Meeting Recap

A Brief History

Our subcommittee came together in March 2011. It was spearheaded by the TRB Committee on Environmental Justice in Transportation (ADD50) with three other committees joining as sponsors: Urban Data and Information Systems (ABJ30), Travel Behavior and Values (ADB10), and Transportation and Sustainability (ADD40). The Subcommittee also bridges two TRB Sections: Planning & Environment and Policy & Organization. 

Ed Christopher of Federal Highway Administration (and Emeritus of ABJ30) and Eloisa Raynault of the American Public Health Association (and member of ADD50) were installed as co-chairs. Megan Wier from the San Francisco Department of Public Health assumed the duties of secretary. Our first order of business was to finalize the Mission and Scope. This was done with the help of several volunteers from the sponsoring committees and published on the health and transportation subcommittee’s newly created website, where this newsletter is located.

The subcommittee held its first call for papers for the 2012 TRB Annual Meeting and received 24 submissions. Four were accepted and assigned to a poster session, Health, Transportation, and Data, aligned with ABJ30.

Our ‘friends list’ listserve has quickly grown to more than 200 members; new friends are welcome to join online. Additionally, our Communications Working Group was established and has been very active with the website and setting up the @trbhealth Twitter account. Most recently the Working Group, led by Carolyn McAndrews, completed a re-design of this website. Earlier, the group completed a survey of Subcommittee friends to find out what topics are of interest, how people like to get their information, and much more. Email the leads if you’d like to get involved: Phyllis Orrick of SafeTREC at UC Berkeley ( and Carolyn (Carey) McAndrews, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (

Our other group is the Research Needs Working Group, which is co-chaired by Andrew Dannenberg of the University of Washington and the Centers for Disease Control and Carey McAndrews. It is expected that this group will be the nucleus for helping the subcommittee meet its research needs goals and advancing the profession. If you'd like to get involved, email Andrew ( or Carey (

health and transportation meeting

Transportation and Health at TRB 2012

The Subcommittee held its first official meeting at the 2012 TRB Annual Meeting on January 23. We have created a page with links to all of the Transportationand Health Subcommittee's activities at the TRB 2012 Annual meeting.

In addition the Subcommittee helped organize and preside over a Sunday workshop, Intersection of Health and Transportation: What We Know, What We Don't Know, and How We Can Better Integrate Health Considerations into Transportation Decisions that featured 13 presentations over the course of the day on the linkages between transportation decisions and public health and the opportunities and challenges with incorporating public health into transportation policy, planning, and design decisions. The morning session explored how policy and planning decisions affect public health. The afternoon session presented information on the effects of transportation on public safety and health (e.g., air pollution, fitness, access to health care services, and healthy food). We also created a list of TRB sessions and presentations that were either authored by Subcommittee friends or addressed topics related to transportation and health, which gives an idea of the broad nature of the Subcommittee's scope.

The workshop was a great success—and generated a lot of ideas regarding research needs at the intersection of health and transportation, many of which are summarized here:

Examples include:

  • Effects of travel and travel environments on social cohesion
  • Parking policy as a mechanism for increasing physical activity
  • Access needs of different populations
  • Road safety disparities
  • Health effects of new and improved infrastructure networks for active transportation modes (e.g., bike ways, sidewalks, trails)
  • Local impacts of freight movement
  • Health-related indicators in transportation planning
  • Creating partnerships between transportation and other health-relatedsectors.
Finally, in keeping with TRB practice, we will be holding a mid-year meeting, tentatively set for July 27, with the opportunity to participate remotely, either online or via phone. Stay tuned for details.

Late-Breaking!: Help Inform Our Subcommittee's TRB 2013 Workshop Proposal

Building on last year's successful workshop, the Subcommittee is proposing a half-day workshop for the January 2013 TRB Annual Meeting—and we are looking to our friends for help generating ideas regarding its focus.

As the Subcommittee moves forward with its work, what topics (listed at the link mentioned earlier—OR new ideas that you may have) do you think warrant a deeper exploration and discussion at the upcoming meeting? Are there particular areas or speakers that you think would help the subcommittee to advance research, education, and professional practice in health and transportation?

Please email Eloisa Raynault ( and Megan Wier ( with your thoughts and ideas by Friday, May 4, 2012.

afternoon panel

Subcommittee Logo Contest

The Subcommittee is creating its visual identity—and we invite you to help in developing a health and transportation subcommittee logo! Submissions must be original, in PNG/TIFF or vector format such as SVG or AI, easily replicable in color and black and white, and suitable for print, PowerPoint and the web. The final logo will be selected by popular vote via a survey sent to the Subcommittee friends list. This is a great way to get your work noticed. So spread the word and start sending in your ideas. The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2012. Submit your logos for the contest via email to

Feature article: Travel behavior choices: the health implications for individuals and communities

by Ipek Nese Sener, PhD, Texas Transportation Institute

Can we choose to be healthy? Perhaps not all the time, as we may not have full control over our lives; however, every human being‘s life is composed of many choices, and individuals can shape their lives through the choices they make. Thus, we can at least try to make healthier choices.

By now, it is a well-established fact that supporting healthy lifestyles through transportation policy can play an important role in improving quality of life for individuals, communities, and nations. Many transportation-related choices we make can shift our lives towards being healthy or unhealthy. As researchers who are interested in building bilateral solutions to transportation and public health problems, we are inevitably responsible for seeking answers to the question, “What can we do to promote healthy transportation choices?”

While there may be various answers, it is not unlikely to think that the first step towards promoting healthy lifestyles through transportation choices is to better understand individuals’ choice behavior. Of course, not all choices are the result of desires or wishes. While some choices are voluntary, some are constrained by necessities; and some others are just random, including the choice of not to choose anything. Recent research has indicated that transportation choices are influenced by a variety of factors such as spatial, temporal, and social constraints. Socio-demographic characteristics, work-related characteristics, and cultural or interpersonal influences also affect our choices. Roadway characteristics and the built environment have significant roles as well.

Given these numerous factors, choice modeling techniques can provide us with valuable tools to identify and evaluate the underlying behavioral mechanism for complex behavior. In this respect, we transportation researchers conduct various analyses to understand the factors influencing individuals’ active choice behavior, including both active travel and physical activity. For instance, we develop travel choice models to understand the effects of variables on the use of non-motorized modes of transport, such as walking and/or biking in commuting or travel to and from school. Likewise, we develop models to understand individuals’ physical activity, such as the models developed for examining the built environment factors influencing adolescents’ physical activity participation, or the parental effects on children’s physically active recreation. The results of such models may assist transportation agencies and policymakers in identifying successful strategies to:

  • promote non-motorized travel;
  • prioritize non-motorized investments;
  • determine  active travel and physical activity behavior across specific population segments; and
  • devise education strategies to encourage the population to be more active.

It is also important to note here that the development of such models may require additional data collection efforts for viable and effective transportation solutions. For example, as part of its 2012 Regional Household Travel Survey, the Nashville Area MPO is planning to collect detailed physical activity information from a subset of survey participants as part of their daily travel. This additional data will provide a unique opportunity for the MPO to conduct an analysis to examine the relationship between transportation, physical activity, and heath. The results of this analysis may also be used by the MPO to develop additional tools and policies regarding expected health outcomes during their regional transportation planning process. Clearly, behavioral choice models aimed at examining physical activity and active travel behavior will benefit from additional data collection.

Behavioral choice models can be powerful tools to understand the complexity of human decision-making. A fuller appreciation of physical activity and active travel behavior has the potential to support sustainable transportation solutions to achieve and maintain a livable and healthy environment.

We can do much better than just choosing to be healthy as individuals. As researchers, we can choose to provide people with more options to make healthier choices, so that they may eventually choose healthy behavior on their own.

Notes from the author:

For more information on the basics and theory of discrete choice modeling, please refer to:

There will be a one-week course at MIT this summer, for readers interested in learning about discrete choice analysis:

Interested readers are also welcome to contact the author at for more information, resources, and discussion on choice modeling in general and the role of choice modeling in transportation and health in particular.

New Resources of Note

by Sheryl Gross-Glaser, Community Transportation Association of America

What Is Rural Smart Growth? Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities is a report of the Federal Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities that presents brief case studies and explanations of the benefits of livability for rural communities. Livability for rural communities enhances “the distinctive characteristics of rural communities by investing in rural town centers, Main Streets, and existing infrastructure to create places that are vibrant, healthy, safe, and walkable.” The report makes the practical case for livability, including access to zero-emission modes and transit.

State Legislation and Livability

Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices is a report jointly produced by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the National Conference of State Legislatures. The report describes the growing public health need for livability and improved aging in place.

"Health care costs are expected to increase as our society ages. But what will happen if projections become reality? Obesity rates, already at 35 percent among adults, are projected to increase to 45 percent by 2020. State officials would be wise to look at preventive health measures that include building communities that facilitate active means of transportation," it states.

“Barriers to aging in place include limited or no access to transportation and auto-oriented land use.” The public health consequences are social isolation, lack of accessible and affordable housing, and nursing home confinement, which “add[s] to already high health care costs.”

From Virginia's complete streets legislation to Utah's transit-oriented development, the report contains many examples of programs and laws that are the starting blocks for communities to use to make themselves hospitable to a wider range of transportation modes.

Coordination between transportation and land use planners allows communities to thoroughly plan for housing, commercial and retail uses, and public services in the context of multiple forms of transportation. This can reduce congestion, increase environmental quality, and improve public health. 

Get Involved: Selected Upcoming Events

peds count poster

Register now for Pedestrians Count 2012, May 3-4, 2012 in Los Angeles
Pedestrians Count is the only event of its kind focused solely on pedestrians. It provides an opportunity for advocates, practitioners, and researchers to come together to share best practices, ask and answer questions, work to integrate data across fields, and to continue build a solid foundation for improving the pedestrian environment. Session topics will include walkability to transit, health equity, and pedestrian data collection. Statewide professionals, academics, and community leaders will share their current and most promising work. Visit the Pedestrians Count 2012 registration site to learn more: Early deadline is April 26.

Registration now open: HIA Summer Training Course July 16-19, 2012               

San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) is offering its fifth annual summer training course for health impact assessment (HIA) practitioners, showing them how to use current procedures and tools to implement an HIA. Registration closes July 1Visit the SFDPH HIA training page for details including the course objectives, location, travel/hotel info, and past year's course agenda and evaluations.

HIA Society Established

The Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA) has been established to provide leadership and promote excellence in the practice of health impact assessment (HIA). SOPHIA aims to be a leading network of HIA practitioners working towards achieving better health by promoting and practicing a thorough and systematic consideration of health in decision-making. SOPHIA is currently accepting new members to join them in their efforts for better health.

New Research

We have added 45 new titles to our research/resources page since December 2011. Send us your suggestions.

new public health blog

New Blog from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Covers Health and Transportation

by Jessica Mark, and Home Front Communications, a blog from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, hopes to connect the dots in the public health field and between sectors to keep professionals up to date on the issues that affect the health of our communities—and, as we all know, transportation plays a big role. reported from this year's Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting workshop on health and transportation, capturing critical discussions on the importance of cross-sector collaboration and top stats about transportation and health. next covered the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, which included updates on transportation, urban planning, housing ,and more, with coverage focusing on the health impacts of efforts in these fields. The transportation content contains more than 65 stories, news updates, and interviews so far, covering the intersection of health and transportation. hopes to provide an opportunity to host in-depth discussions, capture success stories and share best practices across fields. Please send any transportation and health “win”s to and follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Calendar of Events starting April-October 2012 

(also online regularly updated)


14-17 - American Planning Association: Los Angeles, CA


3-4 - Pedestrians Count 2012: Los Angeles, CA

6-9 - American Public Transportation Association Bus and Paratransit Conference: Long Beach, CA

7-9 - Weight of the Nation Conference: Washington, DC

9-10: Mobility Management Conference: Long Beach, CA

9-11 - Women's Transportation Seminar National Conference: Denver, CO

9-12 - Congress for the New Urbanism: West Palm Beach, FL

14-18 - Bike to Work Week: National

20-24 - International Making Cities Livable Conference: Portland, OR

21-25: Community Transportation Association of America EXPO: Baltimore, MD

23-26 - Neighborhoods USA: Indianapolis, IN


1 - Transport Chicago: Chicago, IL

2 - Trails Day: National

3-6 - American Public Transportation Association Rail Conference: Dallas, TX

14-16 - Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities: Orlando, FL

24-26 - Aging, Mobility, and Quality of Life: Ann Arbor, MI

24-27 - 4th Urban Street Symposium: Chicago, IL

26-28 – American Public Health Association (APHA) Midyear Meeting: Charlotte, NC

26-29 - Velo-City Global: Vancouver, BC, Canada


11-13 - National Association of County and City Health Officials: Los Angeles, CA

16-19 - HIA Summer Training Course: San Francisco, CA

14-17 - International Urban Parks Conference: New York, NY

28-8/1 - Association for Commuter Transportation: Savannah, GA


6-9 - National Conference of State Legislatures - Legislative Summit: Chicago, IL

12-15 Institute of Transportation Engineers Annual Meeting: Atlanta, GA


10-13 - ProWalk/ProBike: Long Beach, CA

12-14 - Transportation Planning for Small and Medium-Sized Communities: Big Sky, MT

30-10/3 - American Public Transportation Association Annual Meeting: Seattle, WA


3 - Walk to School Day: International

14-17 - Rail~Volution: Los Angeles, CA

27-30 - American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting: San Francisco, CA