Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Transportation Health Impact Assessment Toolkit

This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

The Healthy Community Design Initiative, also known as the Built Environment and Health Initiative, is no longer a funded program and the information on this website is not being reviewed and updated on a regular basis.


Strategies for Health-Oriented Transportation Projects and Policies
Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

Although motor vehicle emissions have decreased significantly over the past three decades, traffic emissions continue to help cause undesirable respiratory and cardiovascular health effects and the degradation of our environment. Reducing the mileage that people drive has the potential to improve air quality and shift travel to other transportation options that can also promote physical activity.

Strategies recommended in existing Transportation HIAs:

  • Consider policies that reduce vehicle miles traveled; these policies can include vehicle miles traveled tax, tolls, or congestion pricing in downtown areas.
  • Implement parking pricing schemes.
  • Reduce the availability of on and off street parking to encourage alternate forms of transportation.
  • Create alternatives to single occupancy vehicle travel through the improvement of multimodal transportation options, including carpools, vanpools, public transportation, and active transportation—any self-propelled, human-powered mode of transportation.


Case Study


  • Ewing R, Cervero R. (2010). Travel and the built environment. Journal of the American Planning Association 76(3): 265–294.

This meta-analysis of built environment travel literature uses travel elasticity to quantify the relationship between changes in the built environment and changes in travel mode. The analysis found that vehicle miles traveled is most strongly related to how accessible a destination is and how the street network is designed.

  • Frank, L. D., M. A. Andresen and T. L. Schmid (2004). “Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars.” Am J Prev Med 27(2): 87-96.

Each additional hour per day spent in a car was found to be associated with a 6% increase in a person’s risk for obesity.

  • Frank, L. D., J. F. Sallis, T. L. Conway, J. E. Chapman, B. E. Saelens and W. Bachman (2006). “Many Pathways from Land Use to Health: Associations between Neighborhood Walkability and Active Transportation, Body Mass Index, and Air Quality.” Journal of the American Planning Association 72(1): 75-87.

A study in King County, Seattle, WA found that a 5% increase in walkability of a community reduced vehicle miles traveled per capita by 6.5%. Walkability correlated 32.1% of the time spent being physically active through travel. Increases in walkability also reduced per capita emissions of nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds

  • Levy, J. I., J. J. Buonocore and K. von Stackelberg (2010). “Evaluation of the public health impacts of traffic congestion: a health risk assessment.” Environ Health 9: 65.

This study models the impact of PM2.5 exposure from traffic congestion on public health by the year 2030, assuming a business-as-usual-scenario where no policies to reduce congestion are implemented.

This EPA report demonstrates how parking decisions affect development patterns; illustrates the environmental, financial, and social impact of parking policies; describes strategies for balancing parking with other community goals; and provides case studies on implementation of these strategies.

 Top of Page

Error processing SSI file
  • Page last reviewed: October 19, 2011 (archived document)
  • Content source: Error processing SSI file
Error processing SSI file