New Law Promotes Health in Transportation Planning

Author Details

AB 441 Highlights Local Transportation Projects that Promote Health and Equity in State Guidance

OAKLAND, Calif. – On September 19th, Governor Jerry Brown led California forward in creating transportation policy that supports health when he signed into law Assembly Bill 441. Authored by Assemblymember Bill Monning (District 27), the new law instructs the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to create a summary of local transportation projects that promote health and equity in the state’s Regional Transportation Planning (RTP) Guidance. The bill, co-sponsored by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) and TransForm, was adapted from recommendations of the state Strategic Growth Council’s Health in All Policies Task Force.

“This new law will allow us to highlight what works in transportation planning to promote health and equity and implement those practices throughout the state,” stated Assemblymember Monning. “By highlighting local best practices, we encourage innovation and ensure planning decisions incorporate health at the forefront rather than as an afterthought.” Assemblymember Monning emphasized that incorporating health needs in the design of neighborhoods will help address some of the causes of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

In particular, the new law benefits California’s communities of color by addressing environmental factors that lead to health disparities. “Our health is largely determined by the physical, social, and economic environments in which we live, work, and learn,” said Ellen Wu, CPEHN’s Executive Director. “Across the state, people of color are more likely to live in areas that negatively impact our health, such as neighborhoods with high traffic density, higher pedestrian accident rates, and poorer air quality. As a result, we see disproportionate rates of chronic health conditions among communities of color, including obesity and asthma. By highlighting local transportation projects that promote health and equity, we can create opportunities for all Californians to live healthier lives.”

Residents in regions across the state should see the benefits of emphasizing health through transportation. “Some of California’s regions have great programs that help kids safely walk and bike to school, improve access to public transportation, or provide vanpools to allow agricultural workers to access jobs,” said Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm. “These programs can cut traffic congestion and save families money, all while promoting clean air and physical fitness. This law will help emphasize these successes and elevate them to a level where they can improve the lives of all Californians.”

AB 441 will become effective January 1, 2013. The sponsors of the bill are CPEHN, a multicultural advocacy organization working to improve the health of communities of color in California, and TransForm, a statewide transportation organization advocating for world-class public transportation and walkable communities. TransForm’s report, Creating Healthy Regional Transportation Plans, includes several case studies of transportation projects that promote health and equity.