To create conditions for community wellbeing we must look back – at continuing, historic influences – and forward – to the major forces that shape current and future priorities. The Visualizing Wellbeing series explores the state of wellbeing in the United States through a collection of data visualizations. Each week we will explore one vital condition that comprise our framework for community wellbeing, developed in partnership through the Well Being Legacy Initiative.
Reliable Transportation is about compact, walkable, accessible communities, in which mobility is ensured no matter a person’s means, mode or ability. Where streets are safe, and transportation systems are sustainable.
Everyone needs transportation to move consistently and safely between the many places we must be – home, work, school, stores and more. In the United States, personal vehicles are the predominant transportation mode, yet they produce many negative externalities from pollution to traffic to sprawl. Many people can’t or don’t drive, and rely on public transit and other means to get around. Transportation options have a strong influence on access to jobs and social mobility. Transportation also plays a role in our activity levels, with active transportation – walking, biking and transit use – helping us to incorporate physical activity into our day-to-day lives.
Motor vehicle crash deaths dropped significantly during the 20th Century largely due to improvements in vehicle safety features, including airbags, seat belts and car seats. Despite progress, motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of injury and death in the United States, and the leading cause of accident death among teens. And while overall traffic deaths have dropped, pedestrian deaths make up an increasing proportion. Safety of our streets and transportation systems can be improved through community design like by reducing speed limits and building safer sidewalks and crossings. The following visualizations explore transportation safety by examining traffic and pedestrian fatalities.
Automobiles are a major source of environmental air pollution and a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Despite improvements to fuel efficiency standards and a growing variety of hybrid and electric vehicles, gains are undermined with more vehicles on the road, older vehicles on the road, and people driving more. Investing in transit, walking and biking, and designing more compact communities are ways to help decrease reliance of automobiles and create more sustainable communities. The following visualizations look at vehicle miles traveled and estimated carbon emissions.
Many Americans can’t or don’t drive, and many don’t own or have access to private vehicles. Many who don’t drive rely on alternative and public transportation options. Mass transit systems provide critical services that are affordable and accessible to people of all ages, abilities and income levels. Across regions, mass transit systems can help to reduce air pollution, and can be leveraged for economic and community development. In recent years, active transportation – walking, biking and transit use – has emerged as a powerful strategy to increase mobility for all, while encouraging physical activity, and building safer, more complete communities. The following visualizations explore commute patterns by mode.