Lung Association Urges Strong Action for Policies that Promote Public Health as Southern California Cities set Future Growth Plans

New analysis shows regional land use choices can make a big impact on public health

Los Angeles, CA (November 2, 2011)

The American Lung Association in California urges the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the 191 cities that make up the organization to adopt the strongest possible smart growth strategies for the benefit of public health. SCAG is currently working on its 2012 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS), which lays out transportation spending plans and land use strategies for the next 30 years.  SCAG’s Regional Council will vote on a “preferred alternative” for the RTP/SCS on Thursday, November 3.

New research from the American Lung Association in California shows that the SCAG region could avoid $16 billion in cumulative health and societal costs between now and 2035 by choosing policies that result in reasonable and achievable reductions in both vehicle trips and fuel consumption.   These reductions lead to fewer cases of respiratory illness and death and less environmental damage from polluted air that, in turn, translates into avoided costs.   For example, residents of the SCAG region could avoid over 16,000 asthma attacks and over ten thousand missed school days due to respiratory causes between now and 2035 as well as hundreds of thousands of respiratory symptoms.  These are conservative numbers that already take into account the turnover of vehicles on the road to cleaner models.

“Our vehicle dependence in this region continues to create an epidemic of air pollution,” said Jane Warner, President and CEO, American Lung Association in California.  “While cleaner technologies are important, the fact is that Southern California will not achieve healthy air without a transformation in the way people travel every day.  We believe that California residents are willing to choose alternatives to driving if those options are available.  That’s why we are calling on our transportation agencies to provide Southern Californians with healthier transportation choices including expanded public transit, more bicycle lanes, and safer sidewalks and crosswalks.”

A new survey of voters in the six-county region served by SCAG finds that voters are supportive of smart growth approaches and want policies and plans to emphasize investments in transit, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure over building new roads. This survey, sponsored by the American Lung Association in California, Move LA, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, was designed to assess Southern California residents’ priorities for reducing regional traffic congestion and air pollution.

The American Lung Association in California is calling on cities represented on the SCAG Regional Council to adopt the strongest possible regional land use and transportation scenario that captures the most public health benefits.  Specifically, the Lung Association is recommending expansion of public transit options, increased funding for “active transportation” strategies including more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, a strong focus on reducing diesel pollution from goods movement and  regional targets for reducing premature death and illness from air pollution as well as tracking of progress to meet those targets.

To view the analysis and other supporting materials, click here.