Obama’s Healthy Transportation Agenda

a graph of gas taxes around the world

Angie Schmitt has a great piece on Obama’s transportation proposal.  I’d like to highlight the potential benefits to population health.

Obama proposes a $10-per-barrel surcharge assessed on oil companies, which would generate about $30 billion annually to be spent disproportionately on transit and bike and ped improvements.  To put this in context, the price of a barrel of oil has fallen over the last year from about $90 to about $30, so a $10 tax is hardly huge.  It would translate into a tax of about 10 cents a gallon on gasoline.

So here are the top 5 reasons public health should support Obama’s transportation plan:

5. Less pollution.  Breathing is great fun until it kills you.  A recent review suggested that “Motor vehicle air pollution probably causes a similar number of premature deaths as do traffic crashes “  — about 14 per 100,000 per year.

4. Bring people to jobs and recreation.  Decades of investment in highways and car transportation have been sold on the promise of car-based freedom.  The result has been to imprison people in gridlock and highway congestion.  Economic and social isolation has been the result.  In many cities the average speed of traffic has barely increased in a hundred years.  Obama’s plan will provide ways of getting around without traffic.  No, mass transit will not end congestion.  It gives people an escape from it–an alternative way to get around and between cities quickly and more predictably.  The public health benefit comes from opening up new opportunities for employment, entertainment, and interaction.

3.  Less stress.  Having options means you take your car when it’s fastest and easiest, and take a bike, bus, or train when those options are faster and easier.  Walking or taking a train is associated with significantly less stress than driving.  As every driver knows.

2. Active transport.  That’s public health 101.

1. Reduce climate change.  Before it’s too late for devastating effects to population health around the world.   If you’re not gouging your eyes out at the sight of climate change on the horizon you must already be blind.

Yes, Obama’s plan is pie-in-the-sky right now, and he recognizes that.  His goal is to shift the debate, and public health should be part of that process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *