By Chet Edelman
After sitting shuttered for more than 30 years, the city of Quincy, MA recently reopened a pedestrian gate that allows residents of the town’s Penn’s Hill neighborhood to connect directly to the Quincy Adams MBTA station. Previous to the gate reopening, residents were forced to walk more than a mile to cross the Red Line train tracks and access the station (figure 1). Various attempts in the past to open the gate were stifled by neighborhood concerns over parking and traffic congestion. However, with the pedestrian path now open, households on the opposite side of the tracks can expect their total walk time to the station to be reduced by more than half an hour. The reduction in travel time, in turn, should provide residents with greater access to jobs by transit.
To measure how the improved pedestrian connectivity to transit might increase household job accessibility, we conducted an analysis using Sugar Access software by Citilabs to quantify the difference in the job access by transit before and after the gate opening. We find that in the before scenario, the neighborhood directly adjacent to the gate is able access approximately 500,000 jobs by transit. After the change, the number of jobs accessible by transit becomes 670,000—a net increase of 170,000. Furthermore, about 2,475 area households see their access to jobs increase by 50,000 or more (figure 2).
The impacts on job access are not just experienced in the immediate vicinity of the Quincy Station. Improved pedestrian connectivity also allows people traveling from other transit stations to reach jobs in the Quincy area they would not have otherwise accessed. Therefore, the accessibility improvements are not exclusive to the households near the gate, but rather the entire Boston region.
At first glance, the reopening of a pedestrian gate seems like a relatively minor change in the context of transportation projects; however, as the accessibility analysis reveals, something as simple as cutting down walk times to a transit stop can provide households with access to hundreds of thousands of additional employment opportunities. An accessibility analysis provides decision makers with a valuable tool to assess project impacts on multimodal accessibility and connectivity no matter how small the changes may be.
Already, several state DOTs are using accessibility metrics as part of their evaluation criteria for proposed projects. In Virginia, for example, the DOT’s Smart Scale program requires projects to be assigned a score depending on how they might improve multimodal accessibility. The score is then used to prioritize which projects will be approved for funding going forward. In Hawaii, the DOT has also just begun using accessibility metrics as part of their decision making process for approving projects.
The Quincy gate reopening demonstrates that there are many small changes that state and local governments can make to better connect people to the places they want to go. While these changes individually may not significantly alter travel behaviors, in the aggregate they provide an interconnected system that reduces travel times and costs for users across all modes of transportation.
Chet Edelman is a Project Assistant at SSTI.