Reducing Commuting-Related Environmental Impacts in the Healthcare Sector: An Exploratory Study

The healthcare sector has been rapidly growing in terms of both workforce and infrastructure, which have direct impacts on energy consumption and air emissions. While the healthcare sector is uniquely positioned to lead the way in environmental sustainability, sustainable transportation programs have received inadequate attention. Challenges include the need to serve many differing types of populations, accommodate patients, visitors and staff, and have staff with widely varying job descriptions and shifts, including overnight.

Principal Investigator(s):

Ning Ai


Susan Kaplan
Peter Orris
P.S. Sriraj




The healthcare sector is uniquely positioned to connect transportation, environment, and health. Each month, about one third of the U.S. population that has illness or injuries visits a physician’s office or other medical care provider. Increasing population, in company with associated demand for increasing healthcare workers and infrastructure, all contribute to transportation-related impacts on the environment as well as human health.

The objectives of this study were to better understanding the commuting patterns of the workforce in healthcare institutions, explore the factors that impact commuting behavior and environmental impacts, identify opportunities for reducing transportation-related environmental impacts,  and suggest policy interventions that aim to reduce transportation–related emissions inherent in health care provision.This research aims to identify opportunities for reducing transportation-related environmental impacts in the healthcare sector and promoting sustainable transportation activities.


Corresponding to the research objectives of this exploratory study, a survey questionnaire was developed 142 and administered in three hospital clinics in Chicago. With a focus on commuting patterns and negative impacts of single passenger driving, the research team aimed to examine and address the characteristics of the healthcare sector in the survey questions.

Expected Results or Products:

The research led to these general findings:

  • Overall, respondents in all participating hospitals lack awareness of their employer-sponsored transportation programs.
  • Even in instances of greater awareness about such initiatives, there are other factors that impact the travel behavior and travel mode choice. For example, respondents in all three participating hospitals/clinics in Chicago indicated financial concerns as one of the top reasons for transportation mode choice.
  • Consistency and convenience were also identified as important factors through verbal communications with our survey respondents, especially female and night shift workers.
  • For healthcare facilities located in urban areas, neighborhood safety and crime concerns seems to be the primary concern for single drivers’ behavior change to alternative transportation modes, such as  biking, walking, and transit use.
  • For healthcare facilities whose workforce cluster and have commuting needs during off-peak hours, carpooling and car sharing programs seem to have been adopted on an individually organized basis.
  • While the sample size was not large enough for a formal correlation analysis, the survey results did indicate that many of the respondents were traveling to many locations within a work shift, thereby necessitating driving their car to work.


Download the report


Dr. P.S. Sriraj
Urban Transportation Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
412 South Peoria Street, Suite 340
Chicago, IL 60607
Voice: (312) 413-7568
Fax: (312) 413-0006





Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative (METSI)