Accessibility, long considered a more robust measure of transportation system success than simple mobility, is moving out of research and into practice, according to panelists on an SSTI webinar.
Numerous studies have supported the linkages between transportation planning and public health. A new study out of the University of Kansas specifically addresses the cognitive benefits of walkable neighborhoods to older adults. Another study found that the prevalence of certain destinations including grocery stores, malls, and restaurants/cafes within neighborhoods inhabited by older adults might increase transportation walking trips among this population.
USDOT and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have launched a new online tool to help households and policy makers better understand and reduce the costs of transportation. The Location Affordability Portal joins a family of such tools, including Walk Score and the H+T Affordability Index, which have become popular in recent years.
Is a home worth an $850 price premium for each additional Walk Score point? That’s the value that Emily Washington and Eli Dourado came up with using a fixed-effects model to analyze home sales across all metro and micropolitan areas in the U.S. Even with their price premium, however, homes in walkable urban neighborhoods often can end up cheaper than their suburban counterparts.
While many Americans are currently discouraged from walking because their neighborhoods are not built for travel by foot, communities that facilitate walking may be the future of new development. A survey by GfK Research for Kaiser Permanente shows that Americans both know walking is a healthy activity and that many neighborhood do not facilitate walking. But other studies in Atlanta and Washington, DC, show that walkable communities are attracting the majority of new investment, even in one of the most car-oriented metro areas.
For agencies that want to address the land use-transportation connection, Walk Score now provides a new form of accessibility measure, as well as data to help measure trends over time. The firm is offering a way to measure the depth of choices of destinations such as groceries or parks, in a platform called ChoiceMaps.
A recent article entitled “Driven into Poverty: Walkable urbanism and the suburbanization of poverty,” proposes that, “Due to the scarcity and cost of urban housing, low-income people are being driven away from walkable urbanism and into auto-dependent sub-urbanism”. This follows a report by the Brookings Institution, which found that by 2008, the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country was located in the suburbs.
Walk Score, and now its associated Transit Score and Bike Score have become increasingly important metrics for both brokers selling and renting homes and those searching for a place to live. Access to transportation options is important to those frustrated with congestion and rising gas prices as well as those who simply want a walkable neighborhood.