The greatest threat to public health is climate change. Over 200 medical journals have signed a joint statement to that effect, demanding urgent action on climate change.
As discussed in a previous newsletter, extreme heat is one of the many health effects of climate change with potentially deadly consequences. Transportation contributes to the urban heat island (UHI) effect not only as the leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, but also locally through excess pavement, surface parking, and a lack of street trees.
Planners and designers need to reckon with UHI in a variety of contexts: Have you ever considered UHI in a transit-oriented development or at COVID-19 vaccination sites? Perhaps you should.
As the urgency of climate change and UHI are becoming clearer, cities are beginning to develop tools to meet the challenge. For example, New York City has developed a strategy called Cool Neighborhoods NYC and Miami-Dade County has developed an Extreme Heat Toolkit. In fact, Miami-Dade County now has a chief heat officer. For transportation-specific ideas, check out Cooling Long Beach: Urban Heat Island Reduction Strategies. Specific tools listed in the report include street trees, green infrastructure, shade structures, cool pavement and hardscape, and cooling amenities. Also, the ITE Transportation and Health Standing Committee will be producing fact sheets and other materials regarding transportation strategies for UHI in the coming year. Watch for them in a future newsletter and on the website listed above.