TRCLC 14-2

Developing Performances Measures to Capture the Effects of Transportation Facilities On Multiple Public Health Outcomes

  • PIs:  Casey, Mattingly, Li, Williams – University of Texas at Arlington
  • Project Period: July 1, 2014 – December 31, 2015 (18 months)

The problem the research seeks to address is the need for better information to inform transportation infrastructure investment decisions that create healthy, livable communities. One way transportation infrastructure can contribute to healthy, livable communities is by providing safe opportunities for active commuting, or commuting via foot or bicycle. Although a number of studies evaluate the effects of transportation facilities on individual public health outcomes such as safety, physical activity and air quality, there is a lack of evidence of the overall joint effect of particular transportation facilities on all three objectives.  The purpose of the proposed project is to develop performance measures to evaluate the effects of transportation facilities on the multiple public health objectives of safety, air quality and physical activity.

The goal of the research is to improve the information available to decision-makers on the effects of transportation facility investments on multiple public health outcomes.

Primary Objective:  To develop public health performance measures for transportation infrastructure, at the level of road segments and intersections, with a focus on safety, physical activity and air quality.

Secondary Objectives: Pilot the measures and develop easy-to-comprehend educational materials that can be used in the field to evaluate the different features of transportation infrastructure and their impact on active commuting.

Many local governments and regions have engaged in efforts to increase opportunities for active commuting. For example, locally-based programs, such as Safe Routes to School (SRTS) that focus on the development of active transportation infrastructure, have received federal support to improve safety on walking and bicycling routes to school and encourage more children and families to travel using these modes. However, in order to achieve public health objectives, decisions made at the project level, defined as the specific transportation infrastructure along a road segment or intersection, are critical.  Decisions made at the project level are critical because they can have a positive or negative influence on different public health objectives, potentially conflicting at times.

The development of performance measures that consider multiple public health goals at the project level of transportation infrastructure can enhance knowledge in this area. The current state-of-the-practice is to focus on mobility and safety performance measures when assessing transportation alternatives.  While the safety performance measures are important to decision-makers, they may only capture part of the public health objectives in programs such as SRTS or in regional transportation plans.

The objectives of the research were accomplished through the integration of several different methods. Primary tasks included an extensive literature review related to the use of public health and transportation performance measures and the features of transportation infrastructure associated with more favorable public health outcomes. The performance measures were benchmarked and calibrated using expert feedback obtained from surveys of professionals in transportation engineering, safety and public health. The completion of these tasks resulted in the following deliverables: 

  • Transportation Infrastructure Safety Performance Measures for Pedestrians and Cyclists:  The Pedestrian Safety Assessment Index (PSAI) and the Bicyclist Safety Assessment Index (BSAI)
  • A Methodology for Analyzing Pedestrian, Cyclist and Vehicle Conflicts
  • Transportation Infrastructure Physical Activity Performance Measures for Pedestrians and Cyclists: The Walkability Assessment Index (WAI) and Bikeability Assessment Index (BAI)
  • Performance Measures for Air Quality Assessment of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Routes
  • The Development of Field-Based Data Collection Tools to Improve Decision Making  


Final Report