Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI), in collaboration with the local transportation planning agency, conducted a health impact assessment (HIA) of transit alternatives for a new proposed public transit corridor in Portland, Oregon. Transit alternatives included light rail or street car, enhanced bus service, or no transportation improvements. The HIA was done in conjunction with an environmental impact statement (EIS). The HIA focused on how the proposed project would affect physical activity levels; air quality; access to services that support health, such as healthy foods, employment, and social services; and traffic injuries.
The HIA focused on how the proposed project would affect physical activity levels; air quality; access to services that support health, such as healthy foods, employment, and social services; and traffic injuries. The assessment found that both the streetcar and bus scenarios would improve opportunities for physical activity, with the latter providing the greatest benefits. While the construction of a streetcar line would temporarily elevate levels of certain air pollutants, the report noted that it would offer modest long-term benefits in air quality by producing the greatest increase in transit use. Finally, the assessment found that both scenarios would improve access to resources to improve health and reduce traffic crash rates, with the streetcar providing the most benefits.
The assessment emphasized the importance of considering health and equity in decisions related to the Transit Project. The Portland Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) ultimately decided to make no transportation improvements, but it recognized the value of the HIA process and outcomes and has completed subsequent HIAs focused on health and equity. The HIA fostered strong relationships between the MPO and the state and local health departments. It also provided support for consideration of health in transportation decision-making processes, and several subsequent transportation planning efforts conducted by agencies involved in the HIA included health and equity goals. Examples include Portland's Transportation System Plan update and Clackamas County's Transportation System Plan update. Clackamas County has also conducted a subsequent HIA on a transportation project.