Area’s First Transportation Health Impact Assessment Underway

Transportation HIA and Metroplan photoMetroPlan Orlando, in partnership with the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) and the University of Central Florida, is conducting the first transportation Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in the region. An HIA is a combination of research and analysis procedures and methods that help decision-makers understand the health implications of a proposed development, policy, or procedural change.

The S.R. 50 / UCF Connector Alternatives Analysis (the HIA) will identify issues and opportunities, and recommend improvements related to transportation, such as functionality of bus stops, and its impact on health in the S.R. 50 corridor, according to Lisa Portelli, WPHF Program Director, Community Health. The project was spurred in part by the proposed inclusion of a S.R. 50 Bus Rapid Transit service along S.R. 50 corridor. Bus Rapid Transit is a bus service that arrives at 10-minute intervals and has priority at intersections leading to faster transit times. It can also minimize delays by providing kiosks for riders to buy tickets in advance and it offers better accessibility for people with special needs.

MetroPlan Orlando is focusing on this area because of the connection between UCF’s main campus and its proposed downtown campus and the high number of transit users already traveling in that corridor.

The Orlando metropolitan area has a unique opportunity to incorporate HIA planning into the process used to assess transportation options with this study, said Ms.Portelli.

“Transportation and land use planners are only beginning to consider the health costs and benefits of projects, however, we can no longer afford to ignore transportation and land use impacts on health,” said Gabriella Arismendi, Planner and lead HIA researcher at MetroPlan Orlando.

The HIA is being overseen by the WPHF HIA Steering Committee that is working to further the use of HIA’s in our community. This transportation HIA represents an important milestone in the committee’s work because it is raising awareness about the importance of including health impacts in the planning process for communities with key stakeholder groups in the area.

Ms. Portelli has participated in the HIA effort in both her role as the chair of the local HIA Steering Committee convened by WPHF, and as a UCF Adjunct Professor teaching planning for healthy communities in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program. The students in her class conducted a literature review, walking audits of the existing and proposed bus stop areas and surveyed bus riders to gather a better understanding of their needs to assist with the transportation HIA.

It is hoped the HIA information will help inform decision makers, planners, community members, and other stakeholders about the likely health, social, economic and environmental impacts associated with the proposed S.R. 50 Bus Rapid Transit service, including potential changes in community physical activity levels, job access, housing and transportation costs, traffic safety, education access, and access to healthy foods.

The final report–and the process used to develop it–will follow leading standards, frameworks, and practices in the HIA field. The findings and recommendations will be based on continuous input from the WPHF HIA Advisory Committee, interviews with stakeholders, focus group discussions, a wide variety of data sources, analysis from earlier reports and an extensive literature review. It will be presented to the MetroPlan Board and committees during the summer and fall of 2015.