Active Transport – Economic Analysis Health Lens

The Active Transport health lens was a collaborative project between the Health in All Policies Unit, SA Health, and the Cycling and Walking Section (C&WS) in the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI)*.

Aim of the project

The aim of the project was to strengthen economic arguments for investment in cycling and walking infrastructure.

The Cycling and Walking Section recognised that while cycling and walking have both transport and health benefits, and were recognised and promoted by the South Australian Government, often bids for funding for cycling and walking infrastructure did not successfully compete with other transport projects. 

It was identified that there was a need for a recognised methodology to quantify the economic benefits of cycling and walking to make a strong case to win funding for such projects. Previously, projects had been argued for on their strong strategic fit rather than their economic merit. The HiAP Unit and C&WS agreed to conduct a project on developing an economic assessment for cycling and walking infrastructure projects in South Australia.

It was noted that a focus on the economic benefits of cycling and walking was not well developed at a national and international level and hence there was no easy adaptable methodology to apply to the South Australian context.

In summary, it was recognised that there were benefits from transport, health and environmental perspectives, including reduced congestion, reduced air and noise pollution, increased physical activity, savings in vehicle operating costs, savings in costs associated with parking, savings in infrastructure cost, reduced mortality and absenteeism savings.

Outline of the process  

This project followed a targeted policy review, which involved a more focussed process than a full Health Lens Analysis (HLA). It used the first two stages in the HLA process: engagement and gather evidence. In particular, the project engaged with key government personnel and drew on evidence based research as a means of shaping the state and national agendas.

  • A literature review of the existing national and international literature with a focus on the economic analysis of cycling and walking was conducted.
  • A discussion paper was produced that identified the main benefits of cycling and walking discussed in the literature summarising examples where economic models had been developed to account for transport, environmental and health benefits.
  • Key meetings took place with Senior Executives from DPTI, including DPTI economists. DPTI economists oversee DPTI project bids to Infrastructure Australia and SA Treasury.

South Australia’s strategic plan targets

Increasing active transport would support a number of State Strategic Plan Targets, including**:

  • T1.15 Tourism industry - Increase visitor expenditure in South Australia’s tourism industry from $3.7 billion in 2002 to $6.3 billion by 2014.
  • T3.5 Greenhouse gas emissions reduction - Achieve the Kyoto target by limiting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 108% of 1990 levels during 2008-2012, as a first step towards reducing emissions by 60% (to 40% of 1990 levels) by 2050.
  • T2.3 Sport and Recreation - Exceed the Australian average for participation in sport and physical activity by 2014.
  • T2.2 Healthy Weight - Increase the proportion of South Australians 18 and over with healthy weight by 10 percentage points by 2014.
  • T2.6 Chronic diseases - Increase, by 5 percentage points, the proportion of people living with a chronic disease whose self-assessed health status is good or better.
  • T2.7 Psychological wellbeing - Equal or lower than the Australian average for psychological distress by 2014.

Project outcomes

The literature review and discussions between DPTI and HiAP have influenced and informed the national agenda. Infrastructure Australia has called for a nationally accepted methodology for evaluating the economic benefits of cycling and walking. The work will also be beneficial for South Australia in bidding for Infrastructure Australia’s funding and in making strong economic cases for cycling and walking project submissions to SA’s Treasury.

C&WS expressed a desire to continue working collaboratively with the HiAP Unit on future projects. A second Active Transport project is currently being undertaken to support the development of South Australia’s Cycling Strategy.

*Formerly the Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (DTEI).

**South Australia’s Strategic Plan was updated in 2011. In this update, a number of existing targets underwent change and new targets were included. The targets outlined above relate to the 2007 version of the Plan.