A systematic review of empirical and simulation studies evaluating the health impact of transportation interventions
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Urban transportation is an important determinant of health and environmental outcomes, and therefore essential to achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. To better understand the health impacts of transportation initiatives, we conducted a systematic review of longitudinal health evaluations involving: a) bus rapid transit (BRT); b) bicycle lanes; c) Open Streets programs; and d) aerial trams/cable cars. We also synthesized systems-based simulation studies of the health-related consequences of walking, bicycling, aerial tram, bus and BRT use. Two reviewers screened 3302 unique titles and abstracts identified through a systematic search of MEDLINE (Ovid), Scopus, TRID and LILACS databases. We included 39 studies: 29 longitudinal evaluations and 10 simulation studies. Five studies focused on low- and middle-income contexts. Of the 29 evaluation studies, 19 focused on single component bicycle lane interventions; the rest evaluated multi-component interventions involving: bicycle lanes (n = 5), aerial trams (n = 1), and combined bicycle lane/BRT systems (n = 4). Bicycle lanes and BRT systems appeared effective at increasing bicycle and BRT mode share, active transport duration, and number of trips using these modes. Of the 10 simulation studies, there were 9 agent-based models and one system dynamics model. Five studies focused on bus/BRT expansions and incentives, three on interventions for active travel, and the rest investigated combinations of public transport and active travel policies. Synergistic effects were observed when multiple policies were implemented, with several studies showing that sizable interventions are required to significantly shift travel mode choices. Our review indicates that bicycle lanes and BRT systems represent promising initiatives for promoting population health. There is also evidence to suggest that synergistic effects might be achieved through the combined implementation of multiple transportation policies. However, more rigorous evaluation and simulation studies focusing on low- and middle-income countries, aerial trams and Open Streets programs, and a more diverse set of health and health equity outcomes is required.