Blog Archives

Traffic stress and biking to work: bike access to jobs should consider where people ride

MPLS_bike_LTS_3_2_with_legendBy Brendan Murphy, Lead Researcher, Accessibility Observatory, University of Minnesota

As the rate of bicycling continues to increase in North American cities, partly in accordance with placement of better bicycling facilities, it becomes all the more important to better understand to what destinations cyclists are traveling, and the specific routes they are using to get there. Properly measuring bicycle accessibility—a measure of how many jobs you can reach, by bike, in a certain amount of time—requires methodology distinctly different from what we use to measure accessibility by car, transit, or even walking.

Cars typically have few, if any, restrictions on where they may be driven, and while drivers do not always use the perfectly shortest path, transportation networks available to cars are considerably more robust and redundant than those afforded to bicycles. Transit networks are more similar, in that a limited number of (usually) fixed routes are available, but the user is still at the mercy of schedules. Walking as a travel mode is, while slow, thoroughly route-unrestricted aside from limited-access facilities such as interstates, so long as there is a suitable sidewalk. Choosing a route when bicycling is a much more sensitive affair—the shortest and quickest route may be legally bikeable, but often isn’t safe, and many cyclists would opt for a longer and more circuitous route if it were considerably safer. Calculating access to destinations by bicycle must account for these considerations, or else we are simply calculating accessibility by slow-moving car.

To account for these fundamental differences, we are currently incorporating Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) methodology into how we construct the networks on which we calculate bicycle accessibility.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Bicycling, Transportation research

Is accessibility to parks equitable in the Twin Cities?

Given the many benefits of parks, there’s growing interest in whether these green spaces are distributed equitably in urban areas. When researchers study park accessibility, they typically assume that people will use active modes of transportation (biking and walking) to reach their destinations. Few studies have considered automobile and transit accessibility.

A new analysis from the U of M helps fill this gap. It applies a comprehensive measure of park accessibility to determine the differences across space and population groups for Minneapolis and Saint Paul neighborhoods. Kristin Carlson and Jacqueline Nowak conducted the assessment last year as part of their graduate coursework for Professor Jason Cao of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Equity, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Access to jobs by transit increases in many U.S. metros

Annually updated research from the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota ranks 49 of the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas in the United States for connecting workers with jobs via transit.

The new rankings, part of the Access Across America national pooled-fund study that began in 2013, focus on accessibility, a measure that examines both land use and transportation systems. Accessibility measures how many destinations, such as jobs, can be reached in a given time.

Though rankings of the top 10 metro areas for job accessibility by transit remain unchanged from the previous year, new data comparing changes within each of the 49 largest U.S. metros over one year helped researchers identify the places with the greatest increases in access to jobs by transit. Cincinnati and Charlotte improved more than 11 percent. Seattle, which ranks 8th for job accessibility by transit, improved nearly 11 percent. In all, 36 of the 49 largest metros showed increases in job accessibility by transit.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Transportation research

New video traces progress of accessibility research

CTS has been celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with a look back at significant milestones. One of our goals for the anniversary was to show how research progresses over time to lead to new knowledge.

Today at our annual Transportation Research Conference, we debuted a video about an important research topic: accessibility metrics. In the new video, Andrew Owen, the director of the U’s Accessibility Observatory, explains how accessibility looks at the end-to-end purpose of transportation: fulfilling people’s need to reach destinations.

Posted in 30th anniversary, Accessibility (access to destinations), Transportation research

How equitable is bicycling infrastructure?

As the movement to promote bicycling as a means of transportation has grown, so has the amount of money governments and nonprofit organizations are investing in the nation’s urban bicycling infrastructure. A concern, however, is whether these investments are distributed equitably among neighborhoods.

In a new study, U of M researchers looked at this issue using Minneapolis as a case study and found that though inequities still exist, equity is improving.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Bicycling, Planning, Transportation research, Urban transportation

Moving from mobility to accessibility

Road winding through the landscape of a city, including businesses, homes, and trees.For several generations, transportation policymakers and practitioners have favored a “mobility” approach, aimed at moving people and vehicles as fast as possible by reducing congestion. However, the limits of this approach have become more apparent over time, as residents struggle to reach workplaces, schools, hospitals, shopping, and numerous other destinations in an equitable and sustainable manner.

Researchers have been able to define this challenge more precisely and elevate the importance of “accessibility” over the past few decades, but the adoption of new policies, tools, and investments by practitioners remains slow and uneven across most regions. During CTS’s 2017 Spring Luncheon presentation, Brookings Institution fellow Adie Tomer offered highlights from the institution’s Moving to Access Initiative, which visualizes challenges of the current mobility model, impediments to adopting an accessibility-focused approach, and a vision for where metro areas can go from here.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Events, Land use, Planning

New podcast explores commuting in the Twin Cities

A new 10-episode podcast is exploring what commuting in the Twin Cities is like—and what it could be.

Here to There, developed by Apparatus and Transit for Livable Communities & St. Paul Smart Trips, examines the inextricable link between the ways we commute and the ways we live.

Each episode focuses on a different “destination”—defined not as a place but as a goal for the Twin Cities mobility system. Episode destinations include accessibility, equity, cohesion, and flexibility.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Bicycling, Pedestrian, Planning, Public transit, Travel Behavior, Urban transportation
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