Access (Chapter 9 in The Oxford Handbook of Urban and Regional Planning )

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Access (Chapter 9 in The Oxford Handbook of Urban and Regional Planning )

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Oxford University Press


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ANNUALLY, traffic-weary residents across the United States eagerly wait for the arrival of their news source to learn about the latest congestion report card from the Texas Transportation Institute. This Urban Mobility Report makes headlines, especially in places with worsening congestion. Even smaller areas, possibly not yet victims what some might consider serious traffic, lament their annual increase in levels of congestion, yet secretly enjoy their emerging big-city status. Traffic engi- neers, planners, and politicians take more than feigned interest because, to date, such ratings are the only available measure to assess progress toward a concern central to livability that is front and center in the minds of many residents. Traffic congestion is a serious issue, undoubtedly, particularly in major met- ropolitan areas worldwide. But is congestion the problem or the solution? Taylor (2003) argues that traffic congestion is a solution to the problem ofhow to allocate scarce road space. (In contrast, economists argue for road pricing to allocate road space, but clearly there are factors limiting its widespread deployment.) Even if we agree that congestion wastes time, is minimizing congestion the most appropriate public policy goal (Taylor 2003)? Do measures of congestion provide the basis for policy prescriptions? We argue elsewhere (Levinson and Krizek 2008) that mobil- ity (or lack thereof because of inadequate networks or congestion) is an element of the larger goal-ensuring accessibility. Recent years have witnessed more than a handful of conferences or work- shops whose central themes focused on the concept of accessibility. For example, the University of Minnesota sponsored two conferences, prodUcing an array of recent scholarly publications on the topic in 2004 (Levinson and Krizek 2005) and 2007 (Axhausen 2008; Bruegmann 2008; Crane 2008; Lo, Tang, and Wang 2008; Ottensmann and Lindsey 2008; Scott and Horner 2008); in 2007, the European Science Foundation hosted a workshop, How to Define and Measure Access and Need Satisfaction in Transport (Becker, Bohmer, and Gerike 2008). The Network on European Communications and Transport Activities Research (NECTAR) con- tinues to sponsor activities focUSing on accessibility. Accessibility has even been touted as a civil rights issue (Sanchez 1999). As judged by the level of discussion, mention, and focus in specialized work- shops, interest in accessibility is high. Previous writings have focused on defining the concept of accessibility generally, starting from Hansen (1959), but also involv- ing other extensions (Dalvi 1979; Ingram 1971; Kau 1979; Rutherford 1979), measur- ing the concept using different approaches (Handy and Niemeier 1997), various data needs (Krizek 2008),8 or its use in explaining behavior (Levinson and Krizek 2005; Levinson 1998). This chapter recommends that policy decisions be based on important and reliable performance measures. Robust measures that simultaneously assess the performance of the transportation and land use dimensions of cities, however, are mostly missing from such discussions (Levinson 2003). At the heart of the pro- posed approach lies the concept of accessibility: the ability of people to reach the destinations that they need to visit in order to meet their needs. A focus on accessi- bility-rather than congestion or mobility- would produce a more complete and meaningful picture ofmetropolitan transport and land use. This chapter aims to articulate a clear role for measures of metropolitan acces- sibility and to demonstrate the utility of these measures in informing and influ- encing policy. It reviews necessary definitions, comments on the nature of past research, and suggests strategies to adapt such research into means. It endeavors to place accessibility in a position ofprominence as a performance measure; thus, this chapter has four parts and functions, as follows: • To describe the use and measurement of accessibility for metropolitan areas, • To appraise the current state ofknowledge and literature, • To identify issues about measurement, • To offer prescriptions for resolving those issues, given political contexts, and • To point to future directions.



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Krizek, Kevin J. and David Levinson (2012) Access. Chapter 9 (166-180) in The Oxford Handbook of Urban and Regional Planning (ed. Rachel Weber and Randall Crane) Oxford University Press, New York.

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Krizek, Kevin J; Levinson, David M. (2012). Access (Chapter 9 in The Oxford Handbook of Urban and Regional Planning ). Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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