The Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota recently released a one-of-a-kind report that ranks the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas (by population) according to accessibility to jobs via bicycle. The report is a product of a multi-year study, where the researchers analyzed land use and transportation systems to measure accessibility to destinations via different modes. The researchers also incorporated traffic stress and bicycle comfort in measuring accessibility.
Two states that are changing how transportation investments are prioritized were featured recently on an SSTI webinar. Virginia just funded a third round of projects under its Smart Scale program, while Hawaii piloted its own SmartTRAC program with help from SSTI and Smart Growth America. SSTI will soon be launching a new project to learn from these past experiences and guide future programs, and we invite interested agencies to reach out.
As in the United States, many rail transit lines in Sydney, Australia, have imperfect connections to the local street and pedestrian networks. In Sydney, 44 of 178 rail transit stations have entrances on only one side, necessitating long walks for unlucky travelers seeking to get to the hard-to-reach platform. A new report calculates the potential benefit from adding missing links between stations and local networks at those 44 stations. They calculate the increase in accessibility to the platforms from surrounding neighborhoods, then they estimate the effect in ridership from that change.
DOTs and planning agencies interested in measuring access to destinations have a growing number of packages and data sources to choose from. Folks not looking to reinvent the wheel are turning to shiny products like Citilabs’ Sugar Access, Conveyal, and Remix. But those with tighter budgets and a little more technical expertise can build on existing platforms like OpenTripPlanner, UrbanAccess, and now the Accessibility Toolbox for R and ArcGIS, featured recently in Transport Findings.
Many studies have established a significant relationship between walkable neighborhoods and impacts on health and travel behaviors. In the past, most of these studies were based on large metropolitan areas with significant variability in built environment and residential options. A recent study examined relationships between residential preferences, neighborhood walkability, and health implications in a Canadian midsized-city. And, the findings are substantially different from those of similar studies done in large metropolitan areas.
With the constant rise in obesity numbers and health concerns, planners and designers around the world are trying to bring back physical activity in day-to-day commuting behavior. Addressing health concerns through active transportation solutions not only brings us a step closer to a healthier community, but is also cost effective. Improving walking access to public transit stations is one such solution and was the theme of a paper published in the May issue of ITE journal.
A study by researchers at UT Health San Antonio details the barriers that Latinos in the U.S. face because of poor access to transportation options. Inadequate transit options, unreliable or spotty schedules, long commutes, and a geographic mismatch between jobs and affordable housing are especially acute for Latinos, although the suburbanization of poverty creates similar problems for many communities.
Transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations often wrestle with how to properly value transportation investments, especially when it comes to things that can’t be measured in terms of vehicle delay, such as multimodal access and environmental justice. Some of these challenges are tackled in a new issue of Research in Transportation and Business Management, edited in part by SSTI. Those familiar with SSTI’s recent work in the development and implementation of accessibility metrics may be interested in a paper describing a new measure of non-work accessibility.
Project Sidewalk, newly launched in Seattle, is crowdsourcing the evaluation of sidewalks and ramps with the intent to help DOTs locate and prioritize needed repairs and improvements, educate the public, and collect data to train AI. Poorly planned sidewalks and ramps, those in disrepair or with other impediments can dramatically reduce the mobility of people with disabilities and decrease walking accessibility. The gathered data could eventually be incorporated into interactive routing software such as Access Map, which is aimed primarily at helping sidewalk users maximize their mobility.
A new bipartisan bill in Congress would provide funding for DOTs and MPOs to apply innovative accessibility metrics to decision-making. It would require U.S. DOT to provide data and support for five state DOTs and 10 MPOs to measure access to destinations by various modes. Whether the bill passes or not, the field is likely to continue looking at accessibility as an important metric, and SSTI has been at the forefront of the effort to apply accessibility to transportation and land use decisions.