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Linking People and Places: New ways of understanding spatial access in cities

Paris, 13 July 2017

A new study released by the International Transport Forum (ITF) examines how recent developments in measuring urban accessibility can be used to inform planning and operational decisions

Initiated by the ITF’s Corporate Partnership Board (CPB), the report presents the results of several projects on which illustrate how new data sources can be used to refine accessibility analyses and ultimately transport planning. Building upon these experiments, general lessons on how to increase the relevance of accessibility studies were drawn.

Spatial accessibility relates to how, and how well, people access each other, jobs, services and opportunities. Increasingly sophisticated measures of accessibility, helped by previously unavailable data sets, more powerful computing and improved algorithms, can facilitate better decision-making.

On a global level, analysis of accessibility across cities reveals the interplay between travel speed and land use-based density of opportunities. For example, many cities in non-OECD member countries have better accessibility (measured as access to the rest of the population) than cities in the OECD, despite the latter having more extensive, faster and less congested transport networks. This is because the former concentrate more population (and, by proxy, opportunities) in a smaller area, which suggests that access through walking is higher and access through vehicle use lower in the non-OECD cities. This is a relevant finding for transport decision-makers in these cities, because investments in active mobility such as walking (or cycling) are typically not a high priority. 

The report recommends to:

  • Design accessibility metrics to matter for people and policies.
  • Leverage new data sources and methods for accessibility analysis.
  • Invest in accessibility, not just roads, in fast-growing cities.
  • Make use of accessibility analyses to support decision-making.

Download the CPB report “Linking People and Places: New ways of understanding spatial access in cities”