Public transportation that is timely, convenient, and affordable gives residents who either cannot or choose not to drive personal vehicles opportunities to access employment, healthcare and other resources in the community. Safe and convenient active transportation (e.g., walking, biking, etc.) allows people to naturally build physical activity into their daily routines and is recommended by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one strategy to improve health and prevent disease. Moreover, when people increasingly choose transportation options other than personal vehicles, heavy vehicle traffic in a region can decrease, reducing the likelihood of injuries from motor vehicle crashes, air pollution, and commuter stress.
Active or “human-powered” transportation (such as walking or biking) improves individual health and reduces driving-related injuries, deaths, and pollution.
If half of Napa residents walked, biked, or even used public transit for five miles of travel (approximately 22 minutes) per day, the burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the population could each decrease by over 13%.
Bicycling is a great way to get around, particularly for short trips in relatively flat places like the Napa Valley floor. Bicycling allows a person to get exercise while avoiding the stress of traffic congestion. Moreover, use of bicycles for transportation helps reduce air pollution, which in turn reduces the burden of health problems, such as asthma, across a region.
Bike Scores® provide insight into the ‘bikeability’ of local regions. Scores are based on bike lane infrastructure, hills, destination ‘reachability’ (including road connectedness), and the proportion of local individuals who use a bicycle for transportation. Score values run along a range from zero to 100 and indicate whether a region is a “Biker’s Paradise” (score 90-100), “Very Bikeable” (70-89), “Bikeable” (50-69), or “Somewhat Bikeable” (0-49). The City of Napa is the only jurisdiction in the county with a Bike Score (58). Regionally, only the Town of Sonoma has a higher score (68).
Similarly, for those who are able, walking is a free and healthy way to get from one place to another. Nonetheless, communities themselves are not always built for easy walking. Community Walk Scores® take into account how far pedestrian-friendly walking routes are to amenities around town. Walk Scores® range from zero to 100. Score ranges indicate whether a location is a “Walker’s Paradise” (score 90-100), “Very Walkable” (70-89), “Somewhat Walkable” (50-69), moderately “Car Dependent” (25-49), or almost completely “Car Dependent” (0-24). Napa and most surrounding cities fall in the moderately “Car Dependent” range, indicating that cars are frequently required for errands around town.
Since 2015, the California Health Interview Survey has asked California residents who were able to walk, including Napa County residents, if they regularly walked for transport, fun, or exercise. Nearly 40% of Napa residents answered “yes” to the question, which was not too different from California’s overall response (graph to the right). Data was combined across multiple years (2015-2017) to improve the accuracy of the estimate.
Heavier traffic and the associated increase in air pollution are linked to higher risks for lung and cardiovascular diseases.
-California Department of Public Health
In 2014, Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) conducted a Travel Behavior Study to understand traffic density and patterns around the county. Part of the study consisted of ‘Vehicle Classification Counts,’ which were counts, times, and descriptions of the types of vehicles passing by pre-selected locations fitted with cameras and computers. When possible, observed license plate numbers were matched at multiple camera points, offering insight into how and why individual vehicles were moving through the county.
Traffic was observed for one 24-hour period during peak ‘crush’ season, on October 4, 2013. Seven key entry and exit ‘gateway’ points to the county (providing information on traffic inflow and outflow) as well as at four locations within the county (which provided details on local, intra-county travel) were selected as count locations. Over 181,000 cars were counted over the course of the day (some more than once) across all sites. Predictably, traffic peaked at key morning and evening commute times.
While only a fraction of internal trips (i.e. cars first recognized at an internal county location and not later identified at a county gateway) were counted, a significant number of vehicles were identified twice at county gateway points, such as in the morning and again at the evening, or coming in from one direction and leaving through another. Over 40% of trips were identified as incoming return trips (including 25% commute travel incoming for work), 27% were outgoing return trips (including 16% leaving for and returning from work), 23% were one-way trips, and 9% were pass-through trips.
Napa County is expected to complete an improved travel and transportation study in 2019. Using these data, the county can structure transportation plans and initiatives that serve local residents and improve local health.
Napa County residents frequently cite traffic density and the perception of increasing traffic volume as priority issues of concern. Unfortunately, data on traffic density and traffic change over time are not readily available or easily understandable. To help shed light on regional traffic matters, minimum and maximum estimated commute times (per Google Maps) along a few possible commute routes within and out of Napa County, for a randomly selected weekday in October 2018, are listed in the table to the right. Times are provided for travel at 11:00am, which is typically after the morning commute has subsided, and again at 5:00pm, which falls during the evening commute; times are predictably higher in the 5:00pm window. The estimates show that it may take as long as 1hr 10 min to get from downtown Napa to American Canyon during rush hour or 1 hr 25 min to get to Vallejo, journeys of 10 miles and 14 miles, respectively. Extended commute times over short distances adds to commuter stress and air pollution produced by vehicle emissions.
In 2017, nearly 20% of all travel in the US was conducted by people commuting to and from work or for work-related business.
The way in which a person travels to work – whether by car, public transportation, bicycle, or other means – has an effect on their well-being. The most common mode of commute transportation, the individual automobile, is associated with poorer health and psycho-social outcomes, whereas commutes undertaken by foot or bicycle are associated with improved cardiovascular fitness and greater self-reported well-being; those who walk to work often report the highest levels of happiness.
The figure (chart to the right) shows how residents aged 16 years and older commute in Napa County and surrounding North Bay counties. Average values for North Bay counties are shown in the chart by default, but data for individual counties may be viewed by clicking the "Change Filter" link and changing the selections. Despite its association with decreased welfare, the individual automobile remains the overwhelming commute mode of choice among North Bay residents.
Daily work commutes are often responsible for the majority of daily traffic in a region and are often when individuals do most of their driving. Nonetheless, the more time a person spends commuting (particularly while sedentary), the more likely they are to experience or report adverse physical and mental health outcomes. The chart to the left shows commute times in Napa County and California, by mode of transportation, as reported in the 2017 American CSWommunity Survey. Reported commute times were generally lower in Napa County than in California overall, with the sole exception being for public transportation, in which Napa County commuters, with an average reported commute time of over 60 minutes, exceeded the state average of 50.6 minutes.
Motor vehicle crashes, including those involving bicycles and pedestrians, are a leading cause of premature death and disability in the United States.
-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Severe road injuries are defined as including at least one of the following conditions:
• severe laceration resulting in exposure of underlying tissues/muscle/organs or resulting in significant loss of blood
• broken or distorted extremity (arm or leg)
• crush injuries
• suspected skull, chest or abdominal injury other than bruises or minor lacerations
• significant burns (second and third degree burns over 10% or more of the body)
• unconsciousness when taken from the crash scene
For further data queries, click the links below.
In both Napa County and California, the annual rate of severe and fatal road injuries has been generally increasing over time. Napa County has higher rates of severe road injuries compared to California overall (about 58 severe road injuries for every 100,000 people in 2015-2017 versus the State's 34 per 100,000). The rate of fatal road injuries in the County was slightly higher than the statewide rate (about 10 per 100,000 versus the State’s 9 per 100,000 in 2015-2017). Transportation policies that improve road traffic and pedestrian/bicycle safety (e.g. distracted driving laws, bicycle helmet laws) and that encourage people to use modes of travel other than single occupancy vehicles are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to reduce rates of transportation-related injury.
These rates include injuries that involved pedestrians and bicyclists, in addition to those that only involved motor vehicles. Data for fatal injuries came from the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) while severe injury data came from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). Use the filter option to see data for severe and fatal injuries separately.
People want... a safe, welcoming community. But they're concerned that limited transportation options, threats to their safety, and a heavy focus on tourism are in the way of achieving those aspirations.
-from the Napa County Library Community Conversations project
From the AARP Livable Communities (LC) Index, “Complete Streets policies require streets to be designed for safe, comfortable, and convenient travel by all modes—walking, biking, driving, and transit—and for all ages, abilities, and incomes. From wider sidewalks to new bike lanes to better intersection lighting, Complete Streets ensure easier and more inviting travel options.” Napa adopted their policy countywide in 2013.
For more information – What Are Complete Streets? & List of Jurisdictions that Adopted Complete Streets Policy
A collective effort to address the needs and concerns of active transport users – the current Napa County bicycle plan was adopted in 2012 with an update in progress and the pedestrian plan was adopted in 2016. The grass-roots nonprofit Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition is also working to develop a continuous walking and biking trail from Vallejo to Calistoga. Currently, the trail has nearly 13 completed miles from South Napa to Yountville.
From the AARP LC Index, “A variety of organizations work to ensure that everyone has accessible transportation options. For example, an area agency on aging may provide van service to transport adults to activities at the local senior center. Too often, services are fragmented, which can raise costs and reduce efficiency.” Unlike other areas in the country where coordination is statewide, California delegates planning to regional commissions. For the nine-county Bay Area, this is handled by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC); their efforts include the Coordinated Plan to promote mobility for all residents, especially to better meet the needs of seniors, people with disabilities and low-income individuals.
For more information – MTC Interagency Committees & Coordinated Public Transit-Human Services Transportation Plan
From the AARP LC Index, “Many people with restricted mobility rely on volunteer driver programs for an affordable and convenient way to get to the grocery store, doctor’s office, and other critical destinations. In addition to driving, volunteers often help passengers walk or carry their packages. However, these programs face two common barriers: state laws that raise liability and insurance rates (which increases operating costs), and ‘livery laws’ that prevent programs from charging the modest fares they need to cover expenses. Some states (including California) have not only eliminated these obstacles, but also have provided funding for the programs.”
For more information – 50 State Policy Project: Removing Barriers to Sustainable Senior Transportation & CA Policy Search
From the Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA), “The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive formulation of the rights of people with disabilities. Title II of ADA regulations prohibits public entities from discriminating against or excluding people from programs services or activities on the basis of disability.” NVTA’s self-evaluation plan is a comprehensive review of the agency’s current policies and practices, including meeting accessibility needs, communication and employment. Any issues found in the evaluation process will be addressed in the remedy plan.
For more information – NVTA Accessibility & NVTA Evaluation & Remedy Plan (link will be provided once available)
Maizlish, N. (2016). Increasing walking, cycling, and transit: Improving Californians’ health, saving costs, and reducing greenhouse gases. Office of Health Equity, CA Department of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OHE/CDPH Document Library/Maizlish-2016-Increasing-Walking-Cycling-Transit-Technical-Report-rev8-17-ADA.pdf.
Mattisson, K., Håkansson, C., & Jakobsson, K. (2015). Relationships between commuting and social capital among men and women in southern Sweden. Environment and Behavior, 47(7), 734-753.
Martin, A., Goryakin, Y., & Suhrcke, M. (2014). Does active commuting improve psychological wellbeing? Longitudinal evidence from eighteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey. Preventive Medicine, 69, 296-303. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.08.023.
St-Louis, E., Manaugh, K., van Lierop, D., & El-Geneidy, A. (2014). The happy commuter: a comparison of commuter satisfaction across modes. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 26, 160-170.
Crabtree, S. (2010). Well-being lower among workers with long commutes. Retrieved October 31, 2018, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/142142/wellbeing-lower-among-workers-long-commutes.aspx
Hoehner, C. M., Barlow, C. E., Allen, P., & Schootman, M. (2012). Commuting distance, cardiorespiratory fitness, and metabolic risk. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(6), 571-578. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2012.02.020