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From Policy to Projects

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  • Alternative Title:
    J Transp Health
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    The Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is among the first MPOs in the United States to recognize the interplay of transportation and public health, particularly regarding physical activity, air pollution, and traffic crashes. The Nashville MPO has taken a multifaceted approach to simultaneously improve the transportation system, quality of life, and health status of the region's population. The purpose of this paper is to describe the multiple programs and projects that the MPO has undertaken to this end, so that other cities might learn from Nashville's example. The MPO's strategy comprised six processes. First, the MPO conducted the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Study in 2009 and 2014 that established priority issues to be addressed by bicycle and pedestrian projects in Regional Transportation Plans. Second, the MPO responded to public opinion by adopting new transportation policies in the 2035 and 2040 Regional Transportation Plans, including increasing bicycle and pedestrian options and expanding public transit. Third, the MPO created scoring criteria for proposed roadway projects that prioritized health impacts. Fourth, the MPO reserved funding for projects selected under the new criteria and established a new funding program, the Active Transportation Program. Fifth, the MPO conducted the Middle Tennessee Transportation and Health Study, one of the first regional studies in the nation linking transportation and health. Finally, the MPO implemented the Integrated Transport and Health Impact Model which predicts and monetizes population-level health impacts of shifting the population towards active transportation modes. Recent inventories of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure suggest these interrelated processes are increasing opportunities for walking, bicycling, and public transit use in the region. Further, each of these projects has contributed to a growing appreciation in the region of the links between transportation and health, and continued evaluation efforts can determine if transportation behaviors and health outcomes are changing.
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