Proceedings of a Workshop
How We Move Matters: Exploring the Connections Between New Transportation and Mobility Options and Environmental Health
Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief
Recent years have brought dramatic changes to the ways people and goods move around their communities. Many of these changes have important ramifications—for better or worse—for human health, equity, pollution, and climate. The workshop How We Move Matters: Exploring the Connections Between New Transportation and Mobility Options and Environmental Health, held over three virtual sessions from July 13–21, 2021, provided a forum to discuss these developments, consider the risks and benefits, and identify opportunities to chart a healthier and more equitable mobility future.
The workshop was organized by the Workshop Planning Committee on How We Move Matters as part of the Environmental Health Matters Initiative (EHMI),1 a program that spans the major units of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to facilitate multisector, multidisciplinary exchange around complex environmental health challenges. Jonathan Samet (Colorado School of Public Health) opened with an overview of EHMI. Given the initiative’s focus on opportunities for action, the workshop’s structure was designed to highlight options to address challenges surrounding transportation and mobility and elicit suggestions for concrete actions to advance these goals.
Workshop Planning Committee Chair Daniel Greenbaum (Health Effects Institute) summarized the workshop’s goals of facilitating a detailed discussion of how environmental health perspectives can be applied to considering transportation services and new mobility options over the coming decade; to identify research, policy, and communication needs in this sphere; and to stimulate collaborations to address opportunities in both environmental health and transportation. In presentations and moderated discussions attended by more than 800 virtual participants, speakers from academia, community groups, government, and industry shared their perspectives on current trends, future directions, and implications of evolving transportation and mobility options for people and the environment.
This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief provides the rapporteurs’ high-level summary of the workshop discussions. Additional details and ideas can be found in materials available online (see Box 1 for the poster presentation titles).2 This proceedings highlights potential opportunities for action but these should not be viewed as consensus conclusions or recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
THE MOBILITY REVOLUTION
Rachael Nealer (U.S. Department of Energy) opened the workshop with an overview of why transportation matters and the thorny issues it raises: “It connects us with people and places. It connects us with goods and other services. But there are also tradeoffs to the service it provides,” she said. Those tradeoffs include monetary costs to individuals and societies, the climate impacts of the emissions generated, and the impacts of pollutants on human health, among
2 See https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/how-we-move-matters-exploring-the-connections-between-new-transportation-and-mobility-options-and-environmental-health-a-workshop (accessed September 22, 2021).
others. To explore how the evolving transportation environment could affect these tradeoffs, speakers discussed new transportation technologies, factors driving their adoption, and their economic and environmental implications. Discussions focused on the recent past (within the past 5 years) and the near future (5–10 years from now).
A variety of new transportation trends is emerging in communities across the United States. For movement of individuals, the mobility ecosystem is expanding from a traditional focus on personal vehicles and mass transit systems to include ride-hailing and car-sharing services; personal and shared scooters and bikes; and infrastructure to support walking and biking. At the same time, the adoption of virtual meeting technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially reduced commuting and business travel, possibly permanently. For movement of goods, an emphasis on rapid home delivery has driven major shifts in warehousing and logistics while bringing more delivery trucks and vans into urban areas. For both goods and personal mobility, trends toward electrification, self-driving vehicles, and other automated technologies are opening new opportunities and tradeoffs. Planners are considering how these trends could support different frameworks for urban mobility, such as the idea of the 15-minute city, designed to enable movement anywhere in a city within 15 minutes or less.
What influences the adoption of transportation and mobility solutions? Jennifer Frost (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) asserted that the biggest influencing factors are convenience and affordability, and Alison Conway (City College of New York) noted that solutions only last if they are financially sustainable. Both speculated that environmental health is likely to be an important factor for only a small fraction of people, though greater awareness of the environmental impacts of various solutions can lead to more informed consumer choices. Noting that priorities drive funding and mandates—which are what ultimately drive change—Frost urged a focus on the needs of specific communities rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Broadly speaking, Constantine Samaras (Carnegie Mellon University) suggested communities should balance priorities across multiple fronts: moving more while using less, creating a cleaner electric grid and supply chain, and electrifying or decarbonizing everything.
While recent developments in mobility are exciting, William Chernicoff (Toyota Mobility Foundation) cautioned against going all in for a particular solution too quickly. There are often tradeoffs on different time scales, he said, where near-term wins can result in unintended long-term consequences, or a seemingly promising technology winds up being a dead end. Lily Lowder (Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization [MPO]) said planning organizations like Alamo MPO are often caught between a dual mandate to plan for short- and long-term needs. This planning requires balancing established options—for which both the pros and cons are well understood—against possible future innovations, whose risks and benefits are more amorphous. Chernicoff said the notion that “today’s problems were yesterday’s solutions” suggests a need to be purposeful in how mobility transitions are managed, in an equitable way, with an eye on both the near- and long-term impacts. However, accounting for the full implications of these developments is challenging. For example, Conway and Mike Roeth (North American Council for Freight Efficiency) highlighted how the emphasis on fast shipping in e-commerce is reintroducing freight activity—and all of its downsides—into both urban and rural areas. Chernicoff and Conway said that a systemic view is needed to understand the difference this makes in terms of environmental impacts, for example, to account not only for the impact of delivery trucks but also for the degree to which deliveries replace individual car trips to stores.
Additional data can help answer such questions, but they can be hard to get, particularly from private companies. For mobility in urban areas, Frost said that transit agencies have a great deal of data but rely on partnerships with private companies to bring transit data together with the broader ecosystem of data for insights into how people
combine public transit with scooters, ride-hailing services, and other modes. The fast pace of change further complicates efforts to assess various transportation options, Frost and Chernicoff noted. Data from even a couple of years ago might not tell decision makers what they need to know today. This, combined with key data gaps, has made methods such as life-cycle analysis particularly tricky. Given that there will never be “enough” data to capture the full system with certainty, Samaras suggested focusing on guiding decisions based on the overall direction and magnitude of change while continually working to reduce uncertainty.
It is vital to consider both the benefits offered by new mobility solutions and the risks to the agencies and communities that invest in their adoption, Frost said. To navigate disruptive mobility transitions, she said it is important to cultivate strong public–private partnerships, take an open-minded approach, and plan for contingencies. Pilot testing new technologies is also essential, Frost and Roeth noted, adding that testing should be both iterative and efficient to rapidly inform decisions. Conway asserted that the public sector has fallen far behind the private sector in terms of policies and regulations, a gap that only grew during the COVID-19 pandemic as e-commerce trends accelerated a reprioritization of transportation modes. Looking ahead, she urged an emphasis on effective communication strategies, good management structures, and experimentation that are driven by communities and industries, rather than imposed on them.
HEALTH AND HOW WE MOVE
Transportation affects our health in numerous ways (see Box 2). Speakers explored how air pollution, noise, safety, and other factors play into the risks (or benefits) posed by mobility models and technologies. Figure 1, highlighted by several speakers, outlines 14 main pathways through which transportation influences health. These pathways are influenced by upstream factors such as land use and the built environment, transportation infrastructure, transportation mode choice, and transportation technologies. They in turn influence rates of illness and disease, modified by factors such as co-exposures, socioeconomic status, and nutrition. Issues of equity underlie these pathways and the entire transportation and health ecosystem.
Air pollution is a key driver of illness and death related to transportation. Hanna Boogaard (Health Effects Institute) described a recent review of 350 epidemiologic studies,3 which found strong evidence of associations between air pollution exposure and all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality, as well as moderate evidence of associations with asthma and low birth weight. Surili Patel (Metropolitan Group) added that exposures are highest near highways, airports, and ports and highlighted the impacts of air pollution on lung and respiratory diseases in addition to heart disease.
Various aspects of the transportation ecosystem have different air pollution impacts. Michael Brauer (The University of British Columbia) said that short-distance travel, such as within urban areas, typically is most relevant to pollution exposures, while for long-distance travel the bigger concern is how pollutants contribute to climate change. However, Jacob Ward (U.S. Department of Energy) noted that the health impacts of long-distance travel are still important to environmental health because climate also affects health.
3 Health Effects Institute Panel on the Health Effects of Traffic-Related Air Pollution. 2010. Traffic-related air pollution: A critical review of the literature on emissions, exposure, and health effects. HEI Special Report 17.
Other Health Impacts
Transportation also affects health through factors like noise, stress, and safety. Patel and others highlighted how active forms of mobility can help increase rates of physical activity and decrease the stress associated with traffic noise. Shorter commutes also can reduce stress and allow for more family time and access to goods and services. Roadway safety remains an important public health issue, especially among minorities, who face a significantly higher risk of pedestrian death,4 Patel added.
Several panelists pointed to land use as an important area of intersection between transportation and health. With new mobility options could come opportunities to replace some roadways and parking lots with green space or other areas that facilitate social interaction, Brauer noted, which could bring a variety of benefits for health and well-being.
Throughout the workshop, panelists stressed the importance of ensuring that the benefits of new mobility and transportation systems accrue to everyone, and not just the wealthy. Samaras noted that the costs of America’s transportation systems have historically been disproportionately borne by marginalized communities, for example, where neighborhoods have been fragmented by highways or distribution centers have concentrated pollution in poorer areas. In particular, Gloria Jeff (Minnesota Department of Transportation) said that racism has long played a pernicious role in transportation through the placement of facilities and services, decisions about land use, the displacement of certain communities, and related risks to personal security. “We are now at the beginning of another transportation revolution, and it’s ... our responsibility to ensure that we do not have that same history repeat itself,” Samaras said.
In addition to modes of transportation for people, shifts in shipping models for goods can have varied impacts for vulnerable and underserved communities. For example, distribution centers can increase pollution and noise in an area but also increase job opportunities and access to goods for nearby communities, Conway noted. Chernicoff said that the impacts are also different at opposite ends of the supply chain, and Samaras said it is imperative to avoid locating infrastructure such as ports, airports, highways, and warehouses in areas that will concentrate pollution in marginalized neighborhoods.
Accessibility is also integral to equity. Samaras noted that decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many places still lack basic accessibility solutions such as curb cuts and elevators for public transit. Brauer and Patel stressed the need to consider who is benefiting from technology and what is being displaced in order to proactively address the downsides of mobility transitions. For example, Bauer noted that increasing accommodations for bicycles would not help an aging population but pedestrian infrastructure or senior-friendly automated vehicles would. In a city where biking is likely to appeal only to those who already lead an active lifestyle, it is unclear if devoting more attention to biking would have any impact on health at a population level. Jeff said it is important to critically examine whose health is being accounted for and who is left out; for example, the loudest voices are not always representative of those who are most impacted, and it is important for those living in rural environments to be part of
the conversation, too. Chernicoff and Conway stressed the ethical imperative to address social impacts with meaningful, substantive conversations and metrics.
Participants explored the many complex factors that drive change in the transportation ecosystem, from investments by governments and companies to the role of individual behavior. Rob Henry (82 Alliance) said the COVID-19 pandemic and several seasons of worsening climate impacts have increased awareness of the need for systemic changes to the way we live and work, and the need to do it in a way that benefits everyone, not just a particular industry or sector of society. “We have an opportunity to reset,” he said. “I think a lot of people see that what we were doing was not sustainable, and we cannot continue on this path. We have to really make bold decisions, and tough decisions.”
The Role of Government and the Private Sector
Governments and the private sector both play critical roles in shaping future mobility. Speakers discussed the unique contributions of each sector, along with areas of synergy and potential friction between them.
Key roles for government often include setting rules and regulations, investing in infrastructure, and supporting research. Governments can also be instrumental, in concert with private industry, in developing and pilot testing mobility solutions and models. Annalisa Schilla (California Air Resources Board) described how projects under the California Climate Investments are seeking to advance clean mobility and transportation equity in the state through community outreach and funding for specific initiatives. Other California efforts aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ride-hailing vehicles through measures such as annual targets, incentives to encourage multi-passenger rides, and disincentives to discourage “empty” rides.
Shin-Pei Tsay (Uber Technologies, Inc.) described evolving efforts to reduce emissions in the city of London. While a congestion pricing scheme successfully reduced vehicle volumes, it did not actually reduce emissions as expected. In response, the city established a low emissions zone. In concert with that change, Uber launched its own clean air plan that essentially implemented a carbon tax on each ride on a per-kilometer basis. The proceeds of that program feed into a fund to help drivers invest in electric vehicles. The story offers an illustrative example of how public and private actions can create synergies to move the needle on a shared goal, Tsay said.
While the goals of the private sector and government are not always aligned, private companies can play a key role in creating future mobility by, for example, developing technologies and creating sustainable funding models. Tsay stressed that stability is key for enabling private-sector growth and development that will create the future mobility ecosystem. She described how ride-hailing companies like Uber can help to create systemic shifts such as changes in the way land is used (by reducing the need for parking lots, for example). She cautioned that seemingly well-intended policy solutions can be undermined by implementation that makes it difficult for certain groups to benefit from them, and emphasized the importance of partnerships in creating effective solutions. For example, Uber is working with its drivers to understand what it will take for them to switch to electric vehicles, especially in low-income neighborhoods where electric vehicles have faced more barriers to adoption. Its studies indicate that most drivers prefer slow charging at home overnight, which would not be addressed by policies focused on adding fast charge infrastructure in urban centers.
The Role of Individuals
Individual choices play a role in which modes of transportation people use and how goods are transported within communities. However, Reuven Sussman (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) pointed out that individuals make choices within the context of systems. Habits are engrained, and driving change—for example, encouraging people to make choices that are healthier or more sustainable—may be more likely to succeed if it is easy for individuals to make those choices. Beth Karlin (See Change Institute) added that people also need the tools to understand the impacts of their actions in order to make informed choices.
At an individual level, choosing a greener alternative will mean different things to different people, and the levers for change in each case may be different. For example, incentives to buy an electric vehicle or drive in a more eco-friendly way may have different impacts than increased access to public transit depending on whether you are a regular commuter or a commercial driver, Sussman noted. Timing also matters, and he suggested taking advantage of turning points when people are open to change. For example, Sussman suggested that the COVID-19 experience provided a good opportunity to reassess the need for business travel and reduce business flights rather than simply resuming pre-pandemic ways of operating.
As Frost and others noted, consumers can drive change, but Sussman, Tim Papandreou (Emerging Transport Advisors), and Gavin Huntley-Fenner (Huntley-Fenner Advisors, Inc.) stressed that markets alone will not solve the problems of unsustainable, unequal transportation systems. Baseline regulatory guardrails are key for guiding the
direction of change, they argued, especially if solutions need to be implemented equitably. “The public policy and the political dimension is absolutely critical—there are limits to what we can do as individuals,” said Huntley-Fenner. “Even if everybody changed at once, we are still embedded in a system which is driving us to a certain kind of outcome.”
A PATH FORWARD
Throughout the sessions, participants offered suggestions for informing transitions toward a more healthy and equitable mobility and transportation ecosystem. Key elements could include establishing shared visions and values, centering innovation in communities, advancing research to inform decisions, and finding the right incentives to guide positive change.
Establishing Shared Visions and Values
Participants explored their visions of what the future of mobility could hold. Many focused on the importance of reducing emissions in order to curb pollution and reduce its health and climate impacts. Several speakers urged a de-emphasis of personal vehicles, but participants had different visions for what this would entail. Papandreou and Sussman suggested that streets should be primarily allocated for active and shared transportation, rather than personal vehicles. Tsay posited that personal vehicles will never go away entirely because of the infrastructure investments already made to enable them, but speculated that the future could see a more diverse ecosystem of ride-hailing and personal ownership models, and of human drivers and self-driving vehicles. Michael Replogle (New York City Department of Transportation, retired) said that the right balance of shared, autonomous vehicles along with walking and biking could increase efficiency, access, and well-being, but cautioned that implementing robotic vehicles without appropriate regulatory tools could exacerbate many existing problems.
Huntley-Fenner and Karlin outlined a vision in which cars are not treated as the default; in this scenario, shorter trips would be enabled by walking, biking, or autonomous on-call vehicles and longer trips would be primarily enabled by buses or trains, they suggested. Panelists and audience members noted that several elements are integral to this vision: safe streets, which could be supported by automation and by more equitable enforcement mechanisms; reduced noise, enabled by a shift away from combustion engines; and a reallocation of land from parking lots, roadways, and gas stations to create more green space or other common spaces. Huntley-Fenner and Sussman added that moving away from the personal vehicle also opens more opportunities for people to connect with one another while traveling, leading to more interpersonal interaction and community cohesion.
Achieving any of these envisioned futures relies not only on technology and investment but also on shared values. Many of these changes are not mere tinkering around the edges but a fundamentally different mindset: “Are we willing to allocate space in the street to move the most people in the most effective way?” asked Papandreou. In addition to grappling with existing infrastructure that is built around the personally owned, human-driven vehicle, communities are grappling with the fact that their transportation infrastructure has been built around the segregation of people by race, class, and gender, he added. As a result, creating a fundamentally new system may prompt us as a society to face that legacy and actively build equity into the system. Huntley-Fenner noted that governments typically measure success by certain types of economic activity that are generated at the front end, with less emphasis on social benefits and health impacts. “If we were to build into our transportation planning those social benefits at the beginning ... that would be moving in a more equitable direction,” he said.
Values are also central to weighing the sorts of tradeoffs that are inherent in any transportation decision. In addition to tradeoffs involved in different time scales, as mentioned by Chernicoff, it is also important to recognize the tradeoffs between different spatial scales, said Marianne Hatzopoulou (University of Toronto). For example, a commuter rail station will decrease air quality for those living near it, but the entire region’s air quality would suffer if that commuter rail system did not exist. It is also important to consider tradeoffs at the individual and community level. As an example, Jeff noted that for a person juggling multiple jobs and family responsibilities, driving from place to place rather than taking public transit can make the difference of having time with family or time to prepare a healthy meal. Therefore, while public transit is important to reducing emissions at a broad level, Jeff argued that it should not be seen as a panacea. She stressed the need to recognize that the time of those who have historically been marginalized is just as important as those who have had more influence, and urged a critical examination of the political, societal, environmental, and justice aspects of transportation decisions for communities and individuals.
Participants noted that, for a change to stick, it is essential that it meets the needs of the community. The goal of transportation research and experimentation is creating meaningful change, not completing a project or publishing a paper. Shirra Freeman (University of Haifa) underscored the need to make the knowledge gained through research accessible to those who need to use it, and to consider communication and engagement strategies early in the process
rather than only at the end. Instead of pursuing community engagement as something that comes from academia, government, or businesses and affects communities, Huntley-Fenner and other speakers urged a more bottom-up, community-led approach.
Noting that a rising tide does not “lift all boats,” Jeff said it is essential to center decision making around those who have been burdened by past policies, ask these communities what they want, and then follow through on what they asked for. As an example, Shari Schaftlein (U.S. Department of Transportation) pointed to the National Science Foundation’s increased emphasis on community science—a model where the scientific questions arise from the communities themselves and community perspectives are integral to the conduct of scientific studies. Joseph Sherlock (Duke University) further expanded on co-creation approaches for community-led, human-centered design of solutions and policies, and Jeff urged researchers to recognize that communities often have greater insights into their needs and priorities than experts. “Their lived experience may be more valuable than our education,” she said. Patel added that community members should be compensated for their time spent engaging with transportation planning and research, recognizing the value of their time and the expertise conferred by their lived experience just as one would with a scientific expert. Hatzopoulou noted that community engagement in the academic sphere is very important, but also very difficult. As articulated in discussions around climate change, Karlin noted that researchers and innovators often want to “work at the speed of light,” while community collaboration for environmental justice “moves at the speed of trust.”
Research Strategies and Needs
Participants discussed how research can help address questions around mobility and health and inform decisions. Speakers highlighted current studies and research approaches, as well as key needs and future directions for the field.
Joe Zietsman (Texas A&M Transportation Institute) said his team focuses on infrastructure as a key link among transportation, health, and equity. Hatzopoulou described how modeling can help pinpoint which modifications to the transportation ecosystem are most likely to bring desired benefits. For deep insights into factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, she said that models need to account for a variety of complex factors, including variations in patterns over the course of the day or the year. Her studies, for example, revealed that deep, meaningful electrification of passenger vehicles is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and quantified the health benefits per vehicle. Lowder said that scenario planning can also be a useful way to assess how specific changes could impact the overall transportation system and certain goals, while Ward noted that approaches such as life-cycle analysis can also help planners understand how technology replacements or displacements can affect key outcomes. As an example, he described how the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET)5 Model can help planners understand greenhouse gas emissions in the broader context and consider the tradeoffs of different options. Looking ahead, Papandreou, Replogle, and Sherlock pointed to a need for better baseline data to understand current systems and how they relate to future visions. Boogaard suggested a need to study non-tailpipe emissions, such as the impacts of metals associated with electric vehicle production.
Several speakers underscored the importance of interactivity within the transportation ecosystem and suggested a more holistic approach to mobility research, both from an infrastructure standpoint and from a health standpoint. “There is an urgent need to look at transportation and health in a more holistic way, because really, this one exposure, one health outcome approach is not serving us,” Boogaard said. Brauer agreed that it is becoming increasingly important to examine multiple factors together, including the influence of land use, which touches both health and transportation. Ward added that it is important to consider how technologies and policies interact with one another. He cautioned that context matters, and it is important to be careful when generalizing and prioritizing because every person’s experience can depend heavily on who they are and where they live.
Building on this point, Schaftlein said that informing designs that meet the needs of many different groups requires disaggregate data to increase the rigor and granularity of analyses, because the needs of certain groups will not be adequately reflected in the “average.” However, it can be challenging to acquire such granular data because these data are often held by private companies and can also raise privacy concerns. Chicago and New York have required access to data as part of permission to operate in their cities, and as a result mobility options in these cities have been more closely studied than in other places, Ward noted.
Finally, several speakers stressed the importance of pilot testing as a means of evaluating options in real-world settings. Noting that it is hard for people to envision a fundamentally different way of operating—such as the replacement of personal cars with automated on-call vehicles or the replacement of roads with walkable green spaces—Karlin said that letting people experience a new approach can open the door to creating lasting change. Sherlock said rigorous experiments are critical to determine if a proposed solution will work and identify key downsides. Frost noted that even when pilots are successful, long-term adoption requires continued effort because people often will try something new one time and then revert back to their old routines.
Incentivizing Change Through Policy
When considering how to incentivize positive developments that bring benefits across society, many speakers pointed to the critical role of government—not only at the federal level but also state and local governments—in driving systemic change through policy. Given that many of the developments in mobility propose to disrupt the system, Brauer said local regulation is key to directing that innovation to the benefit of the community. Conversely, he added that the ability to realize the full potential of the technology is dependent on incentives and policies.
Papandreou, Sussman, and Huntley-Fenner posited that regulation can help to set incentives and prices in a way that reflects the true cost of particular choices. For personal mobility, “I would like to see that our system is treated as a system, so that it is priced accordingly and priced fairly, so that the right mode for the right trip is intuitive and convenient and fun,” said Papandreou. In the context of goods, making it easy (and free) for consumers to choose 1-day shipping has fueled an explosive growth of e-commerce without accounting for the environmental and social burdens of rapid shipping, contributing to inequities. Huntley-Fenner argued that societies should elevate public health as a key driver from the get-go and redistribute risks and benefits of transportation technology, moving away from the current framework in which most of the benefits are privatized while the public bears the risks.
From a business perspective, Conway suggested that customer demands can move the needle on clean transportation much more quickly than regulations, but Roeth noted that for carriers the costs of adopting cleaner approaches are easier to quantify than the benefits, even if customers prefer cleaner transport. As such, he suggested carriers may be influenced more by articulating the quantifiable business benefits offered by electric vehicles or other technologies, such as making automation more feasible and reducing the need for expensive ventilation systems to handle emissions in warehouses. In shipping and personal mobility alike, many speakers underscored the importance of public–private collaboration in creating the right structures and incentives to guide change. “Collaboration between the public and private sectors is going to be so important moving forward,” said Zietsman. “I saw a lot of technology changes being driven by the private sector. I think it’s about time that the public sector takes a much more aggressive leadership role and say this how we think it should play out; the funding and the energy from private sector can follow that very nicely.” Lowder pointed to a renewed interest in mass transit, electric scooters, and the potential to build separate infrastructure for autonomous vehicles as examples of how planners are taking a new approach to some more traditional modes of transportation.
In setting priorities for policies and regulations, Replogle said that governments should emphasize safety, connecting people to jobs and services, and reducing and decarbonizing vehicle miles traveled. To make rapid progress toward these goals, he offered several concrete suggestions: passing the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act; reinventing the Partnership for Sustainable Communities; reconnecting urban neighborhoods that have been severed by roadways; limiting new car-dependent developments (“sprawl”); phasing out the production of combustion vehicles; encouraging electric bikes and smaller vehicles; and actively managing curb access, parking supply, and the costs of transportation options.
Replogle also said cities should be empowered to regulate ride-hailing and ride-sharing services for improved safety, working conditions, and mobility, while implementing pricing and regulation to prevent automated vehicles from worsening issues such as sprawl and safety. Robin Chase (Zipcar, Veniam, New Urban Mobility Alliance) cautioned that cities run the risk of stifling innovation if they impose taxes on new mobility options that do not yet have a business model established, pointing to a need for careful consideration of a community’s goals and the policy options for achieving them. “To change behavior, we need to take friction away from the things we want people to do, and we need to add friction to the things we don’t want people to do,” said Sherlock. For example, that could mean increasing the price of parking to disincentivize the use of personal vehicles, or imposing restrictions around driving during peak times. Chernicoff added that regulation is important in driving change, but suggested goal-based metrics can be more impactful than proscriptive mandates.
Incentivizing Change Through Infrastructure
Governments may also have the power to drive change through their investments in infrastructure. As Chase put it, “Infrastructure is destiny.” Policies and investments around land use, road allocation, parking, and other factors have made driving a personal vehicle the easy and convenient choice, she said. Technology developers and start-ups respond to the infrastructure that exists and to the infrastructure investments that are being made; as such, she stressed that infrastructure will play an important role in incentivizing movement toward goals like environmental health or sustainability.
Replogle suggested that governments should prioritize maintenance for roads and transit over building out new infrastructure. Freeman said that the U.S. Department of Transportation is focused on future-proofing transportation investments and policies, recognizing the importance of transportation planning in influencing behavior in ways that maximize the potential benefits and minimize the negative effects. As an example of how local infrastructure decisions can drive holistic behavior shifts, Schaftlein said that cities can facilitate active mobility by building out a full bike and pedestrian network, rather than adding sidewalks and bike lanes piecemeal. As further support for a holis-
tic approach to transportation planning, Tsay offered an example of how unintended consequences can result from piecemeal solutions: A significant expansion of biking infrastructure in Paris, Tsay commented, actually led to negative health impacts because biking increased but there were no major changes in vehicular traffic, so the increase in biking led to more people being exposed to air pollution.
To help match infrastructure investments with community needs, Replogle suggested that states should be prevented from forcing localities to accommodate new highways and that local governments should be given more control over their infrastructure. At the same time, he suggested a need to limit the ability for localities to block the adoption of innovations deemed beneficial for the region as a whole. One option for implementing this is to reward with additional funding localities that follow through on specific policy recommendations, Lowder said. Replogle suggested that state and federal governments could also provide stronger incentives or mandates to allow for mixed-use infill development in places that are walkable and well-served by transit, rather than leaving all land use and zoning decisions up to local communities, which often results in increased sprawl, exacerbating transportation challenges.
Wrapping up the workshop, moderators from each session reviewed the key messages and suggested actions raised throughout the workshop. “I don’t think any [mobility solutions] are inherently good or inherently bad,” summarized Nealer. “It’s how we use them, and the balance that we put on them with policies to make sure they are going to really solve our problems as opposed to creating more … and making sure that the solving of the problems is being equitably distributed.” Major areas of focus and suggestions from individual participants are summarized in Table 1. While these suggestions are only a start, moderators expressed their hope that communities, researchers, businesses, governments, and leaders will continue to pursue important conversations around the future of mobility. “Let’s hope that one result of this is that we all move forward to engage communities, to seek better understanding of everybody’s needs in the transportation system, and to come up with constructive solutions for how we move,” said Greenbaum. “Because we know that how we move matters.”
TABLE 1 Potential Actions Suggested by Individual Workshop Participants to Guide Future Approaches to Mobility and Transportation
|Area of Focus||Potential Actions||Possible Actors*|
|Addressing equity issues||Acknowledge and study how the burdens and benefits of transportation systems are spread unequally across communities||Researchers, Research funders, Government|
|Share power and create meaningful pathways for priorities and solutions to arise from communities themselves||Government, Technology developers, Researchers|
|Adapting governance||Adapt management and policy approaches to more creatively and nimbly identify drivers and make choices||Government, Standards-setting bodies|
|Revisit past policies that create barriers and may no longer be relevant in the current context||Government, Standards-setting bodies|
|Integrating knowledge||Facilitate interdisciplinary and cross-sector integration in evaluating and planning transportation and mobility options||Government, Industry, Researchers, Research funders|
|Develop and share best practices and tools for assessing transportation systems and options||Researchers, Government, Industry, Standards-setting bodies|
|Gather and share high-quality baseline data on current transportation and mobility environments||Researchers, Government, Industry|
|Pilot-test solutions before widespread deployment||Researchers, Government, Industry|
|Assessing needs||Identify the hierarchy of needs of the targeted communities, focusing on functional needs rather than technological solutions||Researchers, Governments|
|Incentivize and fund community-engaged research drawing upon communities’ lived experiences||Researchers, Research funders, Communities|
|Evaluating tradeoffs||Evaluate full slate of tradeoffs, including key environmental health tradeoffs, for all options||Communities, Researchers, Government|
|Facilitate bidirectional exchange to elicit perspectives from communities, customers, and decision makers on the potential environmental health burdens and benefits of new mobility and transportation options||Foundations/nongovernmental organizations, Researchers, Government|
|Incentivizing holistic change||Establish partnerships and create meaningful incentives to holistically minimize risk and maximize benefits||Government, Standards-setting bodies, Communities, Industry|
* Actors have been inferred where attendees did not explicitly identify actors.
NOTES: This table lists potential actions attributed to individual workshop participants in the text above, grouped by similarity, as topics were discussed from different angles at different points during the workshop. This table does not include all actions mentioned by participants. These actions are not consensus conclusions or recommendations of the National Academies.
DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Christine Gerencher and Anne Johnson as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The statements recorded here are those of the individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all participants, the workshop planning committee, the Environmental Health Matters Initiative committee, or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
REVIEWERS: To ensure that this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief meets institutional standards of quality and objectivity, it was reviewed in draft form by William L. Eisele, Texas A&M Transportation Institute; Victoria Martinez, Federal Highway Administration; and Kumares C. Sinha, Purdue University. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We also thank staff member Tom Arrison for reading and providing helpful comments on this manuscript.
Workshop planning committee members: Daniel S. Greenbaum (Chair), Health Effects Institute; William L. Eisele, Texas A&M Transportation Institute; Beth Karlin, See Change Institute; Ysela Llort, Renaissance Planning Gary Minsavage, ExxonMobil; Rachael Nealer, Vehicle Technologies Office; U.S. Department of Energy; Philip L. Winters, University of South Florida.
Members of the Environmental Health Matters Initiative committee: Martha E. Rudolph (Co-Chair), Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (retired); Jonathan M. Samet (NAM) (Co-Chair), Colorado School of Public Health; Darrell Boverhof, The Dow Chemical Company; Thomas A. Burke, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; George P. Daston, Procter & Gamble Company; Ana V. Diez Roux (NAM), Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health; Estella M. Geraghty, Esri; Lynn R. Goldman (NAM), The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health; Daniel S. Greenbaum, Health Effects Institute; Gavin Huntley-Fenner, Huntley-Fenner Advisors, Inc.; Philip R. Johnson, The Heinz Endowments; Beth Karlin, See Change Institute; Jennifer McPartland, Environmental Defense Fund; Devon C. Payne-Sturges, Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, University of Maryland School of Public Health; and Amy Pruden, Virginia Tech.
Liaisons of the Environmental Health Matters Initiative committee: Francie Abramson, Target; John Balbus, National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); Linda Birnbaum, NIH/NIEHS; Patrick Breysse, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Wayne Cascio, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Elizabeth Cisar, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; David Dyjack, National Environmental Health Association; Zach Freeze, Walmart; Richard Fuller, Pure Earth; Carlos Gonzalez, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Al Mc-Gartland, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Ansje Miller, Health & Environmental Funders Network; Gary Minsavage, ExxonMobil Corporation; Surili Patel, Metropolitan Group; Geoffrey S. Plumlee, U.S. Geological Survey; Katherine Robb, American Public Health Association; John Seibert, U.S. Department of Defense; Robert Skoglund, Covestro; Joel Tickner, Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3); Juli Trtanj, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Jalonne White-Newsome, Empowering a Green Environment and Economy, LLC.
The Environmental Health Matters Initiative, under which this workshop was organized, has been supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMR8014, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHSN263201800029I, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ExxonMobil, Target Corporation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Walmart Foundation, as well as the National Academy of Sciences’ George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability Science and the National Academy of Sciences’ Cecil and Ida Green Fund. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. How We Move Matters: Exploring the Connections Between New Transportation and Mobility Options and Environmental Health: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26382.
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Copyright 2021 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.