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Economics of Interventions to Increase Active Travel to School: A Community Guide Systematic Review

      Context

      The number of children who bicycle or walk to school has steadily declined in the U.S. and other high-income countries. In response, several countries responded in recent years by funding infrastructure and noninfrastructure programs that improve the safety, convenience, and attractiveness of active travel to school. The objective of this study is to synthesize the economic evidence for the cost and benefit of these programs.

      Evidence acquisition

      Literature from the inception of databases to July 2018 were searched, yielding 9 economic evaluation studies. All analyses were done in September 2018–May 2019.

      Evidence synthesis

      All the studies reported cost, 6 studies reported cost benefit, and 2 studies reported cost effectiveness. The cost-effectiveness estimates were excluded on the basis of quality assessment. Cost of interventions ranged widely, with higher cost reported for the infrastructure-heavy projects from the U.S. ($91,000–$179,000 per school) and United Kingdom ($227,000–$665,000 per project). Estimates of benefits differed in the inclusion of improved safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, improved health from increased physical activity, and reduced environmental impacts due to less automobile use. The evaluations in the U.S. focused primarily on safety. The overall median benefit‒cost ratio was 4.4:1.0 (IQR=2.2:1–6.0:1, 6 studies). The 2-year benefit–cost ratios for U.S. projects in California and New York City were 1.46:1 and 1.79:1, respectively.

      Conclusions

      The evidence indicates that interventions that improve infrastructure and enhance the safety and ease of active travel to schools generate societal economic benefits that exceed the societal cost.
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