The Perception of Access in Sydney

Recently published:

Based on a survey of 197 Sydneysiders, this study shows residents overestimated the attractiveness of the city centre compared to the entire metropolitan area, as well as the number of jobs they can reach from home. They also overestimated travel times compared to Google Maps, especially for travel times by car.

Access as a performance indicator in a work-from-home world

David Zipper writes Post-Covid, Transit Agencies Must Look Beyond Ridership  for Bloomberg CityLab.

 

In the article, Zipper talks about using transit access as a performance measure. My graf below:

The idea of transit access isn’t new, but our ability to put a useful number on it is. David Levinson, a professor at the University of Sydney who has written numerous books about transportation access, says that quantitative breakthroughs now allow planners to make far more precise calculations than before. “We’ve got better data now through the General Transit Feed Specification and GPS, as well as from Census Bureau datasets. For each person, the data tells which block they live in and which block they work in. This didn’t exist at that detailed a level until the mid-2000s.”

Obviously I like access, which measures how many valued destinations people can reach in a given amount of time. But in the end, ridership is the raison d’être for transit shops. For all the access in the world, if a bus doesn’t actually serve any actual people, it has failed.

When the ridership is unknown (e.g. for planning a change in service or new construction, where at best we can make an informed guess about a future number of riders, a guess buried in a lot of modeling obscurantism), then access has to date been an excellent performance metric because access is correlated with ridership. The more places people can reach by public transport, the more places they will go.

Ridership fluctuates for many reasons, pandemic among them. Access will be more stable as an indicator. In the absence of other information, I would argue that increases in person-weighted access most per dollar spent will be the most useful for society. When we find that post-pandemic demand for offices (especially CBD offices) falls, jobs that are nominally at a site, but not really (because of 2, 3, 4, or 5-day per week work from home, or work elsewhere, e.g.) will imply more access than they really create. It will be years before the data properly accounts for this. In a perhaps idealised world in which decisions are made based on analysis, the use of access without controlling for this problem will distort our conclusions about where transit services should run. We will favour serving offices where people don’t actually work 5-days a week over sites like schools and hospitals and factories where they do. 

Where is a job, which was a crystal clear number (not really, but we imagined it was) in the days when people worked 9-5 jobs in offices and factories, no longer has the same kind of meaning, and our accessibility metrics will somehow need to account for this. We may need to fractionalize jobs in our access calculations.

The resulting designs for transit systems will have to catch up with these changes in work patterns.

 

Transportist: December 2020

Welcome to the latest issue of The Transportist, especially to our new readers. As always you can follow along at the  transportist.org or on Twitter


Books:

Transport Access Manual: A Guide for Measuring Connection between People and Places 

Now available: Transport Access Manual: A Guide for Measuring Connection between People and Places by The Committee of the Transport Access Manual.   (Download PDF) (Paper)

ABOUT THE BOOK

Transport Access Manual cover
Transport Access Manual: A Guide for Measuring Connection between People and Places by The Committee for the Transport Access Manual.   (Download PDF) (Paper)

This Manual is a guide for quantifying and evaluating access for anybody interested in truly understanding how to measure the performance of transport and land use configurations. It contains enough to help transport and planning professionals achieve a more comprehensive look at their city or region than traditional transport analysis allows. It provides a point of entry for interested members of the public as well as practitioners by being organized in a logical and straightforward way.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. CONCEPTS

  1. Access and Mobility: Clearing Up the Confusion
  2. Fundamental Model of Access
  3. Access, Movement, and Place
  4. Access and Equity
  5. Strategies for Access
  6. Roadmap for Using this Manual

2. USES

  1. Baseline Trend Analysis
  2. Performance Monitoring
  3. Performance Standards
  4. Goals
  5. Transport Project Evaluation
  6. Land Use Change Evaluation
  7. Metrics for Disadvantaged Populations
  8. Transport Equity Analysis
  9. Financial Costs of Access
  10. Predictor of Travel Behavior

3. MEASURES

  1. Primal Measures: Opportunity-Denominated Access
  2. Dual Measures: Time-Denominated Access

4. CALCULATIONS

  1. Identify Objectives
  2. Stratify Analysis
  3. Determine Travel Costs
  4. Determine Opportunities at Destinations
  5. Accumulate Opportunities Reachable from Origins
  6. Assess Competitive Access
  7. Calculate Dual Access
  8. Summarize Measures
  9. Visualize Results

5. BIASES

  1. Edge Effects
  2. Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP)
  3. Modifiable Temporal Unit Problem (MTUP)
  4. Starting Point Effects
  5. Starting Time Effects

6. DATA

  1. People
  2. Places
  3. Movement
  4. Time
  5. Financial

7. FUTURES

  1. New and Emerging Travel Modes
  2. Equity of Future Technologies
  3. Conclusions

APPENDICES

A. CONSEQUENCES

  1. TransportModeling
  2. EconomicGeographyModeling
  3. Location of Activities and Investments
  4. Real Estate Prices
  5. Spatial Mechanisms
  6. Productivity: the Agglomeration Effect
  7. Wages
  8. Employment Rates
  9. Effects on Gross Domestic Product

B. PLANNING

  1. Benefits of Access Planning
  2. Audience for Access Metrics
  3. Reflective of Planning Goals
  4. Improving the Adoption of Access Tools

C. SELECTION

  1. Components
  2. Classification and Assessment
  3. Selection of Measures

D. TOOLS

  1. Tools to Quantify and Visualize Access
  2. Access-Focused Scenario Planning Software

E. SAMPLE R SCRIPT FOR DUAL ACCESS CALCULATION

F. MANAGING

  1. Project Team and Stakeholders
  2. Budget and Resources
  3. Software Installations and Subscriptions

G. SAMPLE RFP FOR ACCESSIBILITY PLATFORM

H. FURTHER READING

BIBLIOGRAPHY


FEATURES

  • 230 pages.
  • Color Images.
  • ISBN: 9781715886431
  • Publisher: Network Design Lab

PURCHASE


Classic Transportist Posts

  • I wrote this in 2014 PHASING IN ROAD PRICING ONE ELECTRIC VEHICLE AT A TIME … this is now salient because Australian states are about to implement this (South AustraliaVictoriaNew South Wales). 
    • General view: Good in theory, depends in practice on the rates and fuel taxes. But given nearly 100% of new cars will be EVs sooner than most people think, and they don’t pay fuel taxes, and they do use roads, and right now their owners have above average incomes, it seems a perfect time to get road pricing implemented without the huge political fight that would come if it is done too late. Of course this might be a disincentive to purchase EVs, but it’s a relatively small charge now, and new EV purchases can be incentivized separately, if that were important. (But why EVs not E-Bikes etc.) 
    • Would this have happened had I not moved to Australia? We will never know. 
  • I wrote this in 2008 MEMO TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES ON TRANSPORTATION POLICY
    • These recommendations are still mostly pretty good — which is depressing, as it indicates we have made very little progress in domain of transport. Maybe the next President will take it up.

Transportist Posts

Findings

  • Jabbari, Parastoo, and Don MacKenzie. 2020. “Ride Sharing Attitudes Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States.” Findings, November. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.17991.
  • Wu, Xinyu, Frank Douma, Jason Cao, and Erika Shepard. 2020. “Preparing Transit in the Advent of Automated Vehicles: A Focus-Group Study in the Twin Cities.” Findings, November. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.17872.
  • Jamal, Shaila, and Antonio Paez. 2020. “Changes in Trip-Making Frequency by Mode during COVID-19.” Findings, November. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.17977.
  • Tokey, Ahmad Ilderim. 2020. “Change of Bike-Share Usage in Five Cities of United States during COVID-19.” Findings, November. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.17851.
  • Du, Jianhe, and Hesham A. Rakha. 2020. “COVID-19 Impact on Ride-Hailing: The Chicago Case Study.” Findings, October. https://doi.org/10.32866/001c.17838.

Talks 

  • I spoke at the Festival of Urbanism on November 18. Mobility and Housing Futures about the “New New Normal: Mobility and Activity in the ‘After Times’”. A narrated slide-deck of the talk is available on YouTube.
  • I will be speaking at Australia Build conference on the Thirty-Minute City. December 10, 14:40.
  • I will be speaking at the NeurIPS conference on End of Traffic and Future of Access. December 11, 19:15 AEDT.

Conferences

News & Opinion

Books

Transport Access Manual: A Guide for Measuring Connection between People and Places

Transport Access Manual cover

Now available: Transport Access Manual: A Guide for Measuring Connection between People and Places by The Committee of the Transport Access Manual.   (Download PDF) (Paper)

ABOUT THE BOOK

Transport Access Manual cover
Transport Access Manual (Download PDF) (Paper)

This Manual is a guide for quantifying and evaluating access for anybody interested in truly understanding how to measure the performance of transport and land use configurations. It contains enough to help transport and planning professionals achieve a more comprehensive look at their city or region than traditional transport analysis allows. It provides a point of entry for interested members of the public as well as practitioners by being organized in a logical and straightforward way.


TABLE OF CONTENTS 

1. CONCEPTS

  1. Access and Mobility: Clearing Up the Confusion
  2. Fundamental Model of Access
  3. Access, Movement, and Place
  4. Access and Equity
  5. Strategies for Access
  6. Roadmap for Using this Manual

2. USES

  1. Baseline Trend Analysis
  2. Performance Monitoring
  3. Performance Standards
  4. Goals
  5. Transport Project Evaluation
  6. Land Use Change Evaluation
  7. Metrics for Disadvantaged Populations
  8. Transport Equity Analysis
  9. Financial Costs of Access
  10. Predictor of Travel Behavior

3. MEASURES

  1. Primal Measures: Opportunity-Denominated Access
  2. Dual Measures: Time-Denominated Access

4. CALCULATIONS

  1. Identify Objectives
  2. Stratify Analysis
  3. Determine Travel Costs
  4. Determine Opportunities at Destinations
  5. Accumulate Opportunities Reachable from Origins
  6. Assess Competitive Access
  7. Calculate Dual Access
  8. Summarize Measures
  9. Visualize Results

5. BIASES

  1. Edge Effects
  2. Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP)
  3. Modifiable Temporal Unit Problem (MTUP)
  4. Starting Point Effects
  5. Starting Time Effects

6. DATA

  1. People
  2. Places
  3. Movement
  4. Time
  5. Financial

7. FUTURES

  1. New and Emerging Travel Modes
  2. Equity of Future Technologies
  3. Conclusions

APPENDICES

A. CONSEQUENCES

  1. TransportModeling
  2. EconomicGeographyModeling
  3. Location of Activities and Investments
  4. Real Estate Prices
  5. Spatial Mechanisms
  6. Productivity: the Agglomeration Effect
  7. Wages
  8. Employment Rates
  9. Effects on Gross Domestic Product

B. PLANNING

  1. Benefits of Access Planning
  2. Audience for Access Metrics
  3. Reflective of Planning Goals
  4. Improving the Adoption of Access Tools

C. SELECTION

  1. Components
  2. Classification and Assessment
  3. Selection of Measures

D. TOOLS

  1. Tools to Quantify and Visualize Access
  2. Access-Focused Scenario Planning Software

E. SAMPLE R SCRIPT FOR DUAL ACCESS CALCULATION

F. MANAGING

  1. Project Team and Stakeholders
  2. Budget and Resources
  3. Software Installations and Subscriptions

G. SAMPLE RFP FOR ACCESSIBILITY PLATFORM

H. FURTHER READING

BIBLIOGRAPHY


FEATURES

  • 230 pages.
  • Color Images.
  • ISBN: 9781715886431
  • Publisher: Network Design Lab

PURCHASE

The 30-Minute City – Open Access

I am pleased to announce that you can now download a PDF version of The 30-Minute City: Designing for Access from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository. (Free)

View/Open

Date

  • 2019-12

Author

  • Levinson, David M.

Metadata

This book describes how to implement The 30-Minute City. The first part of the book explains accessibility. We next consider access through history (chapter 2). Access is the driving force behind how cities were built. Its use today is described when looking at access and the Greater Sydney Commission’s plan for Sydney. We then examine short-run fixes: things that can be done instantaneously, or nearly so, at low budget to restore access for people, which include retiming traffic signals (chapter 3) and deploying bike sharing (chapter 5) supported by protected bike lane networks (chapter 4), as well public transport timetables (chapter 6). We explore medium-run fixes that include implementing rapid bus networks (chapter 7) and configuring how people get to train stations by foot and on bus (chapter 8). We turn to longer-run fixes. These are as much policy changes as large investments, and include job/worker balance (chapter 10) and network restructuring (chapter 9) as well as urban restoration (chapter 11), suburban retrofit (chapter 12), and greenfield development (chapter 13). We conclude with thoughts about the ‘pointlessness’ of cities and how to restructure practice (chapter 14). The appendices provide detail on access measurement (Appendix A), the idea of accessibility loss (B), valuation (C), the rationale for the 30-minute threshold (D), and reliability (E). It concludes with what should we research (F).

URI

The 30-Minute City by David M. Levinson

On the word “Access”

Language is an evolving thing. The word “access” (and the related “accessibility”) for instance has many meanings outside the domain of transport. For instance, when we talk about “Access to voting” in the US (the only so-called democracy where this is so much of a problem) is only in part about physically traveling to the polling place, much of it is about enfranchisement and rights.

etymology-access-110p_l
Access: Etymology Online

The Online Etymology Dictionary writes:

accessible (adj.)

c. 1400, “affording access, capable of being approached or reached,” from Middle French accessible, from Late Latin accessibilis, verbal adjective from Latin accessus “a coming near, an approach; an entrance,” from accedere “approach, go to, come near, enter upon” (see accede). Meaning “easy to reach” is from 1640s; of art or writing, “able to be readily understood,” 1961 (a word not needed before writing or art often deliberately was made not so). Related: Accessibility.
accessibility (n.)
1758, from French accessibilité (from Late Latin accessibilitas), or else a native formation from accessible + -ity.

access (n.)

early 14c., “an attack of fever,” from Old French acces “onslaught, attack; onset (of an illness)” (14c.), from Latin accessus “a coming to, an approach; way of approach, entrance,” noun use of past participle of accedere “to approach,” from assimilated form of ad “to” (see ad-) + cedere “go, move, withdraw” (from PIE root *ked- “to go, yield”). English sense of “an entrance” (c. 1600) is directly from Latin. Meaning “habit or power of getting into the presence of (someone or something)” is from late 14c.

access (v.)

1962, originally in computing, from access (n.). Related: Accessed; accessing.

The word early on (1758) had connotations well-beyond transport, including illness and sex (e.g. “her husband was away in France, and had no opportunity to engage in access, therefore he is not the father.”).

Access as a verb derives in English from 1962 apparently, in computing (as in “she accessed the database to study the relationship between jobs and housing.”). Obviously we have used it in a back-formation in the sense of “to access destinations”, harkening back to its original Latin roots. So the original Latin verb was nounified in French. The subsequent English noun from the Latin was later verbified.

But we should remember that the words themselves are entirely transport derived, and have a long and primary history associated with physical movement and ability to reach.

That means we in the transport community should not shy away from using them to mean what they meant when we first started using them, so long as we are not ambiguous about what we mean. We should not be word-shamed.

 

Multi-Activity Access: How Activity Choice Affects Opportunity

Recently published:

It is commonly seen that accessibility is measured considering only one opportunity or activity type or purpose of interest, e.g., jobs. The value of a location, and thus the overall access, however, depends on the ability to reach many different types of opportunities. This paper clarifies the concept of multi-activity accessibility, which combines multiple types of opportunities into a single aggregated access measure, and aims to find more comprehensive answers for the questions: what is being accessed, by what extent, and how it varies by employment status and by gender. The Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan region is selected for the measurement of multi-activity accessibility, using both primal and dual measures of cumulative access, for auto and transit. It is hypothesized that workers and non-workers, and males and females have different accessibility profiles. This research demonstrates its practicality at the scale of a metropolitan area, and highlights the differences in access for workers and non-workers, and men and women, because of differences in their activity participation.

multi-access-method-frame
Multi-Activity Accessibility Framework

 

Accessibility and the Pursuit of Happiness

As I have argued elsewhere [Towards A General Theory of Access]:

The only reason to locate anywhere is to be near some people, places, and things, be far from others, and possess still others. Since being far from something is really just being near the absence of that thing, and pos-session is just the ability to have something (and legally prohibit someone else from having it), we can see that location is about proximity. People make location decisions all the time, from whether to move from North America to Australia, to traveling to the mall by car or bus, to standing near a person at a reception, or even sitting on the chair or the couch.

Cities and their networks exist to easily connect people with each other. We measure that ability in terms of accessibility. The more accessibility, the more opportunity. Opportunity gives choices, and better choices make for happiness (too many choices may paradoxically reduce happiness, but surely that is a problem we would prefer to have than too few.) In short cities and networks allow the pursuit of happiness. So accessibility is about freedom: the freedom to pursue happiness.

But this freedom is limited by at least three types of constraints (Hägerstrand, 1970). Extending an earlier discussion:

  • Capability constraints refer to biological (e.g., sleeping and eating) and physical (e.g., vehicle ownership, time availability, maximum speed of travel, ability to afford) limitations that restrict an individual from participating in activities. In our case network speed and directness affects travel times, and the spatial distribution of activities affects participation. Dependence on public transport restricts travel to the schedule of the service. The less frequent the service, the less freedom one has, as argued by Jarrett Walker in Frequency is Freedom.
  • Authority constraints represent limitations to accessing particular areas (e.g., military bases) or individuals that are classified by certain people or institutions. Legal barriers to travel, regulations on speed, rules about what vehicles can be in which spaces are all authority constraints.
  • Coupling constraints indicate limitations for two or more individuals to participate in an activity in the same location at the same time interval. There may also be social and familial obligations that limit the ability to pursue other activities.

These are not fully independent. Policies about the allocation of road space, which may give more space over to automobiles than bicycles than warranted is a combination of authority constraint and capability constraint.

So because the value of cities emerges from freedom and access, the limits to freedom and access limit value. While some of those limits are unavoidable, others, like authority constraints, can be determined by policy.

Staying in my lane, transport in cities have a number of problems. The following is a non-exclusive, unranked list. These are all problems associated with access in one form or another.

  1. Pedestrian and bicyclist conditions, particularly safety from vehicles, are worse in many ways than a century ago. My ability to move on foot (and thus access destinations) is restricted by traffic signals and the danger of moving cars.
  2. Violence, and more significantly fear of violence, especially state-sanctioned violence, discourages people subject to such violence from taking advantage of access that is already there. If there are places you cannot go without risking life and limb, you will avoid them, reducing your access and freedom.
  3. Job/housing imbalance exists and may get worse as cities get larger. Longer commute distances (and thus times) reduce access and opportunity. Many cities have regulations that limit housing in job-rich areas. The City of Sydney is no exception. This necessarily increases commute times.
  4. Failure to efficiently price parking and roads leads to overuse. Roads are congested and transport is underfunded. If only there were mechanisms to reduce overuse while raising revenue. On-street parking reduces capacity for movement (car, bike and bus lanes), reducing the speed, and thus access by those modes, while benefitting very few who need to walk a shorter distance to their final destination.
  5. Transport externalities (road hazard, noise, pollution) are underpriced, and thus overproduced. This increases the social cost of access. They are ignored in most analyses of traffic, and so spending is misallocated.
  6. Walled and fenced schools, lack of integration between schools, playgrounds, and libraries make things that should and could be accessible with a modicum of management inaccessible much of the time.
  7. Housing affordability, quality, and supply directly relate to how easily new housing can be reached. Lack of housing reduces accessibility.
  8. Poor design and aesthetics makes places unpleasant and reduces the valuation people put on those places. Effective accessibility drops.
  9. Concurrency between infrastructure and development is hard to achieve in growing areas. Lack of infrastructure increases travel costs (and reduces access) for existing residents as well as new. Access creates value but that value is not captured to fund access.
  10. Overspending on capital and underspending on maintenance means that transport facilities built a long time ago fail more quickly and become unavailable, reducing access. Existing facilities are almost always more important than new facilities, because the demand (and access) provided are certain, because they have become part of the landscape, and so decades of decisions have been made assuming their existence.

The right to pursue happiness is a fundamental value in the United States, right there in the founding document, the Declaration of Independence. It depends entirely on the ability to move in order to reach people, places, and things that might provide happiness. That is, in modern terms, access.

The problems enumerated above are all solvable, like so many other problems in modern society, and yet remain unsolved in many places. Without much technical difficulty we could expand effective access for people on foot, on bike, or on public transport, and even those in cars. Transport access problems may seem prosaic compared to the core issues of environmental disaster, economic exuberance, or the risk to democracy. But these problems relate directly. Transport produces pollution, more than it should because the pollution is unpriced. Transport spending is inefficient, stretching the economy. The problems of democracy are in many ways problems of access as well, not just access to polling places (though that is worsening), but access to the decision process, and access to information.

Queen Victoria Buidling, George Street, Sydney.
Queen Victoria Buidling, George Street, Sydney.

Towards a general theory of access

Recently published

Abstract: This paper integrates and extends many of the concepts of accessibility deriving from Hansen’s (1959) seminal paper, and develops a theory of access that generalizes from the particular measures of access that have become increasingly common. Access is now measured for a particular place by a particular mode for a particular purpose at a particular time in a particular year. General access is derived as a theoretical ideal that would be measured for all places, all modes, all purposes, at all times, over the lifecycle of a project. It is posited that more general access measures better explain spatial location phenomena.