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Congestion pricing and active transport - evidence from five opportunities for natural experiment
journal contributionposted on 2015-05-01, 00:00 authored by Victoria BrownVictoria Brown, Marj MoodieMarj Moodie, Rob CarterRob Carter
© 2015. Congestion pricing schemes have been implemented in cities worldwide as a means of addressing externalities associated with inefficient price signals in transport systems. Limited evidence exists however on the secondary impacts of these schemes, which may include both environmental and health benefits associated with a resultant reduction in motor vehicle usage. There is increasing recognition that transport behaviours may play a role as opportunistic population level targets to reduce physical inactivity. Yet limited evidence currently exists on the effectiveness of transport interventions, such as congestion pricing schemes, for improving physical activity levels. This study aims to examine the physical activity effects of congestion pricing, with the health benefits of physical activity well established. Congestion pricing schemes implemented internationally were considered as 'natural experiments' and evidence of modal shift from vehicle to active forms of transport or physical activity effect was reviewed. Twelve studies were included from a search of peer-reviewed and 'grey' literature, with overall evidence for a physical activity or modal shift effect considered weak. The quality of the available evidence was also considered to be low. This is not to say that congestion pricing schemes may not have important secondary physical activity related health benefits. Instead, this review highlights the paucity of evidence that has been collected from real-world implementation of congestion pricing schemes. Given the growing recognition of the importance of distal mediators and determinants of health and the need for an 'all-of-government' approach more and better quality evidence of effectiveness of transport interventions for a broad range of outcomes, including health, is required. Significant barriers to the collection of such evidence exist, with strategies for overcoming some of these barriers identified. Only with a better understanding of the full range of potential health impacts can transport policy be fully utilised as a tool for population health.