Implementing public transport strategies to improve health and quality of life in cities

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Following the actions announced by UITP at the World Health Organisation’s First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health to address health issues in urban areas, UITP is releasing three more case studies from its latest Policy Brief on Integrating mobility health impact in decision-making.


In Helsinki, transport is part of a long term strategic plan that considers land-use, housing and transport all together: the MAL. To legitimise the MAL, Helsinki draws on the most advanced knowledge and academic research and on health, acknowledging 1) the multidirectional relationships between health outcomes and the way we travel 2) the need to adopt a people-centred perspective that reckons that individual health does depend on a multiplicity of environmental factors that act in combination – the MAL is not based on tracing the effect of transport alone.

individual health does depend on a multiplicity of environmental factors that act in combination

In the MAL context, Helsinki’s Public Transport Authority (PTA), HSL, works in close collaboration with housing and land-use, crossing departmental boundaries and silos. The MAL supports HSL attitude because it is not a plan that prescribes what HSL’s should do but constitutes a synchronisation arrangement between the three parties. The MAL principles aimed at achieving an increased concreteness in the short-term and flexibility in the long-term, setting intermediate goals and establishing synchronisation points, ensuring that information is utilised effectively, new studies are conducted with discretion and impact assessment is integrated as a continuous part of the process as well as continuous efforts are made to improve clarity, visualisation and interaction. In result, the MAL requires the production of indicators for the purpose of assessment and monitoring. This constitutes an interesting mindset’s evolution. Helsinki introduces and argues for a third action point: monitoring and evaluating the potential impact of transport intervention on health.


Singapore’s PTA, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is leading an integrated public transport policy structured around the rail and the bus system. The target is to make sure that during the peak hours ¾ of trips will be made by traditional public transport. Yet, LTA acknowledges that public transport cannot fill all needs because these modes cannot provide a door-to-door solution and reduce the perceived need for a car.

To enhance public transport performance, LTA decided to rely on the taxi market and new players such as UBER, but also on bikes. Bikes do not constitute a common mode of transport for Singaporeans. This change in perception needs to be developed and nurtured. To this purpose, LTA wanted to provide a public bike sharing system via a tender. However, before the tender could be launched, new players entered the market with a private bike sharing system for the customers. LTA considered this as an opportunity to encourage biking in Singapore and is now in close collaboration with the new players. LTA has invested heavily in infrastructure to build cycling towns to ensure 700km of dedicated paths are provided by 2030. This has encouraged the use of more active modes of travel such as bikes and personal mobility devices. While LTA does not lead this policy with a specific emphasis on health, it could be seen as virtuous for Singaporean health as if we evaluate it over the long run a positive correlation might emerge.


Healthy Street is an urban design approach that put people’s health at the centre. This is an attitude that let London’s PTA, Transport for London (TfL) care about streets. It consists of 10 indicators which aim to create an environment in which everybody is able to participate in public life and where the healthiest and more environmentally transport mode is the first choice.

there is not one street that is similar to another since they are constructed by people to fit the neighbourhood characteristics

These indicators are interdependent. To meet them, TfL adopts an iterative process where the designer engages with different stakeholders. This enables them to meet all the conditions for better streets, for the citizens. Instead of conceiving the street design in one go, TfL does it step-by-step. The street design emerges over this process. In this way, there is not one street that is similar to another since they are constructed by people to fit the neighbourhood characteristics. This approach is evaluative in essence since TfL can be consistent with the need of the people as the design develops.


Download the full Policy Brief here!

Read our press release announcing our collaboration with the World Health Organisation to build healthy cities

Find out more about our new partnered project MORE which aims to reduce traffic congestion and reduce air pollution in urban areas

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