April 24 2013

The Hidden Costs of Highways: How The Investment of Vehicle Orientated Infrastructure is Affecting our Health

Our mobility is bound by the linkages available to us and the built environment that surrounds us. But how does our transportation choices in our city affect our health and well being ?

An Example of How Suburbs are being linked with American Cities

This is a question that is gaining prevalence as cities grow, densify and complicate the daily journey of urban dwellers.

A report released by the American Health Association has brought to light the limitations that auto-oriented transit planning has incurred on American cities over the last century. The report is able to extrapolate relationships that expose the profound cost that the automobile may not only be having on American cities but on cities all over the world.

Issues that are raised include:

  • Road toll in traffic crashes that would be severely reduced if the same number of commuters had been public transport users;

  • Asthma and other respiratory illnesses associated with automobile pollution, and the costs that are associated with treating these health issues;

  • Obesity and mental issues resulting from the immobility associated with driving;

  • Marginalized groups being ostracized from the city center due to urban sprawl; and

  • Land use patterns that develop from automobile usage, creating ‘suburbia’ that exponentially increases travel time, and utilises potentially fertile land that could be used to a greater environmental/social benefit.

As much as we may read about or partially experience the benefits of sustainable transport in on our city, the sheer growth and power of the city can intimidate and prevent us from habitually resorting to utilizing sustainable forms of transport.

The time is now – for us to architect our own urban environment. For as this automobile dependence steepens concurrently with the world’s urbanization, the associated social and health costs from their development will only succeed in degrading the liveability of our cities.

As the 3rd World becomes urbanized, how we can implement or promote sustainable transport programs to set healthy precedents for future growth?

Credits: Image by Steven Petsinis. Data linked to sources.

Steven Petsinis

Steven Petsinis is an Urban Planning graduate from Melbourne, Australia. He has been involved in Urban Research and Development projects in Medellin, Colombia and Saigon, Vietnam and is currently pursuing his masters in Melbourne, Australia. His main interests lie in land use and social planning, sustainability, as well as studies involving globalization and it's effect on third world communities. He has recently spent one year travelling throughout North and South America, as well as Europe, where he has gathered material and inspiration for his upcoming blogs for The Grid.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 at 9:55 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, History/Preservation, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “The Hidden Costs of Highways: How The Investment of Vehicle Orientated Infrastructure is Affecting our Health”

  1. Tim Says:

    Ride a bike! Taxes for motor vehicles should be increased to deter people from driving, having their own vehicle – are their countries where this happens? I know in parts of Scandinavia car taxes are much higher than other parts of Europe. Perhaps there should also be subsidies for car sharing initiatives, bikes, public transport?

  2. Steven Petsinis Says:

    Good Comment Tim,
    There has been talk in the USA of bringing in a driving tax based on the amount of miles used per vehicle, though this may deter automobile usage it may also severely disadvantage lower income earners who live on the peripheries of cities with poor public transport linkages. Maybe if this could be a progressive tax it could work well?

    Also I think high occupancy vehicle lanes should be employed more widespread than they currently are, by providing benefits to use our roads efficiently we may not encourage governments to waste so much $ on highway extensions and instead funnel money into more essential services such as public transport.

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