Measuring Accessibility

Transportation agencies and planning organizations often stress the importance of accessibility—connecting people to jobs and services—but formal accessibility analysis has traditionally fallen more upon academic researchers and advanced modelers. Meanwhile, our historical reliance on metrics like traffic speed, transit reliability and sidewalk coverage as proxy measures for accessibility-related outcomes has led to piecemeal implementation and unintended consequences like increased sprawl and rising transportation emissions.

Measuring Accessibility: Guidance for Practitioners

Our new guide, Measuring Accessibility, is tailor-made for transportation and land use practitioners getting started in accessibility analysis.

Download the Report

Included in the Guide

The guide employs some of the most common techniques in emerging practices to produce meaningful metrics while relying on data that is either free or inexpensive and analytical methods that do not require extensive training. Sections include:

Transportation Data

Transportation data should reflect where and how easily people can travel. This includes roads and traffic speeds, along with bicycle, pedestrian and transit networks. Some agencies keep useful data on hand, but some may need to rely on other free and commercial data sources outlined in this guide.

Land Use Data

Measuring accessibility means knowing where people live and where there are opportunities to work, shop and meet other daily needs. Census data can be packaged with other robust land use data to evaluate work and non-work accessibility.

Methods and Tools

With the right data, transportation agencies can leverage a range of analytical tools and user friendly platforms to quickly produce local and regional accessibility metrics. This guide outlines technical approaches, as well as more practical considerations to apply the metrics in decision-making.


This guide was informed by our work and partnership with transportation agencies across the U.S and supported by NUMO. Whether they are just starting their accessibility work or are advancing the practice, we continue to work with these partners, as well as to produce updated guidance and standards.

Our Work

SSTI’s team of researchers, analysts and policy experts leverage a growing number of available tools and platforms—including CUBE Access (formerly Sugar Access), Conveyal, TransCAD, Network Analyst, and existing travel demand models—to conduct meaningful accessibility analyses and incorporate them into practical decision-making applications like benchmarking and project prioritization.

We work with state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), local governments, and experts in the field, building on decades of relevant research, to help set up analytic platforms, integrate the right data sources, create workflows, and establish standards to guide the emerging field of accessibility analysis. Our research also helps tie accessibility to other important outcomes like vehicle miles traveled (VMT), mode choice decisions, and transportation costs.

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Virginia’s Smart Scale project prioritization process evaluates all potential transportation investments using multimodal accessibility analysis. SSTI has supported the development and advancement of this approach and helped the Virginia DOT implement a new land use metric based on walking accessibility to non-work destinations.


SSTI and Smart Growth America helped the Hawaii DOT pilot the Smart Transportation Rank Choice (SmartTRAC) program to better align transportation investments with priorities around safety, preservation, accessibility, traffic management, and environmental protection. This involved assessing the mode shift potential of bike and pedestrian projects using accessibility analysis.


The Washington State DOT launched a multimodal accessibility program in 2019 with technical support and research assistance from SSTI and Smart Growth America. Their program sets a new framework for thinking about transportation system performance, identifying transportation gaps, and evaluating outcomes like environmental justice, health, and travel options.


Building on the success of its ongoing pooled-fund study, the Minnesota DOT enlisted technical support from SSTI to move from theory to practice. This work involves setting up a new analytic platform and conducting case studies with a number of local partners to assess impacts ranging from highway investments to school siting decisions.


As a pilot project, SSTI evaluated multiple proposed transportation projects in the Boston area for accessibility benefits. We then demonstrated how the findings could be used to develop a cost-benefit-based STIP or TIP, as well as to maximize the benefits of projects as they are developed.


SSTI led research sponsored by the Utah DOT to better understand how accessibility metrics could apply in multimodal project prioritization, as mandated by SB136 in 2018. Our team also worked with the Wasatch Front Regional Council to better incorporate Access to Opportunities into long-range planning and to help coordinate efforts across agencies.

Connecting Sacramento

SSTI worked with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) and other local partners to measure transit accessibility across the region and identify opportunities to improve first- and last-mile connections, leveraging other big data sources to better understand trip-making patterns near transit stations and along rail corridors. Learn more about the project.

Measuring Accessibility: Webinar series

Our webinar series, Measuring Accessibility, highlights organizations from the local to national level who are implementing accessibility analysis tools and research into their practice. We talk with state DOT agencies, non-profit organizations, academics, and local government on how they use accessibility to advance planning and equity efforts.

Check out our four-part series below:

  • Measuring Accessibility: National Evaluation, Local Application

    Thursday October 5, 2023
    Continuing a multi-part series, SSTI talks with researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Accessibility Observatory about their collaborative effort to document access to opportunity at a national scale.

  • Measuring Accessibility: Expanding the Practice

    Wednesday, August 23, 2023
    As agencies continue to integrate accessibility analysis into policy and planning, new research can guide the expansion of current and best practices. In this session we will talk with Louis Merlin from Florida Atlantic University and Dana Rowangould from the University of Vermont about their research into pedestrian and other accessibility metrics, and the practitioners who use them.

  • Measuring Accessibility: Advances in Project Evaluation

    Wednesday, June 28, 2023
    In the second of a multi-part series, SSTI talks with MnDOT and Caltrans about addressing equity with accessibility metrics, their latest tool advancements, and takeaways from their recent interactive TRB workshop.  

  • Measuring Accessibility: Planning for Success

    Wednesday, April 12, 2023
    In the first of a multi-part series, SSTI will be talking with several organizations about how they implement accessibility in planning to improve access to opportunities in the long term.

  • More webinars