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Economic impact on local businesses of road safety improvements in Seattle: implications for Vision Zero projects.

BACKGROUND: Local transportation agencies implementing Vision Zero road safety improvement projects often face opposition from business owners concerned about the potential negative impact on their sales. Few studies have documented the economic impact of these projects.

METHODS: We examined baseline and up to 3 years of postimprovement taxable sales data for retail, food and service-based businesses adjacent to seven road safety projects begun between 2006 and 2014 in Seattle. We used hierarchical linear models to test whether the change in annual taxable sales differed between the 7 intervention sites and 18 nearby matched comparison sites that had no road safety improvements within the study time frame.

RESULTS: Average annual taxable sales at baseline were comparable at the 7 intervention sites (US$44.7 million) and the 18 comparison sites (US$56.8 million). Regression analysis suggests that each additional year following baseline was associated with US$1.20 million more in taxable sales among intervention sites and US$1.14 million more among comparison sites. This difference is not statistically significant (p=0.64). Sensitivity analyses including a random slope, using a generalised linear model and an analysis of variance did not change conclusions.

DISCUSSION: Results suggest that road safety improvement projects such as those in Vision Zero plans are not associated with adverse economic impacts on adjacent businesses. The absence of negative economic impacts associated with pedestrian and bicycle road safety projects should reassure local business owners and may encourage them to work with transportation agencies to implement Vision Zero road safety projects designed to eliminate traffic-related injuries.

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