Metropolitan Accessibility and Transportation Sustainability: Comparative Indicators for Policy Reform

EPA Grant Number: R833349
Title: Metropolitan Accessibility and Transportation Sustainability: Comparative Indicators for Policy Reform
Investigators: Levine, Jonathan , Simon, Carl , Grengs, Joe , Shen, Qing , Zielinski, Susan
Current Investigators: Levine, Jonathan , Grengs, Joe , Shen, Qing , Shen, Qingyun
Institution: University of Michigan , University of Maryland - College Park
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: February 1, 2007 through January 31, 2010 (Extended to January 31, 2011)
Project Amount: $300,000
RFA: Collaborative Science And Technology Network For Sustainability (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability


Transportation policy—a prime shaper of the built environment in metropolitan areas—has historically been guided by the idea of ensuring and improving mobility. But it is accessibility—the capacity to reach destinations—that is the service people seek in a transportation system. We argue that sustainability in transportation and the built environment is furthered by a policy shift from mobility to accessibility as an overarching evaluative framework. This project will support such a shift by developing and estimating—for the first time—measures of accessibility that will enable a meaningful comparison between multiple metropolitan areas of the United States. An outcome of the research will be a new method—in the form of indicators that can be analyzed both within and between regions—by which to gauge the progress of policy on infrastructure and the built environment toward sustainability.


The project will develop multiple measures of accessibility for 12-20 mid- to large-sized metropolitan regions. The concept of accessibility incorporates dimensions of environment, economy, and equity, and these dimensions are simultaneously present in the indicators proposed here. To inform land-use and transportation planning at the level of metropolitan region, the project will seek to explain factors underpinning the differences in the accessibility observed among the selected regions. It will explore the connection between accessibility and characteristics of the built environment of the metropolitan regions, developing several measures of urban form and transportation provision. These measures will be analyzed as inputs determining accessibility and sustainability outcomes.

Expected Results:

Ultimately, we seek to accomplish for accessibility that which the Texas Transportation Institute’s well-known Urban Mobility Study does for mobility: affect the terms of the debate and establish a measurable basis for policymaking at the metropolitan and intermetropolitan scale. The keen interest of the EPA in communities and the built environment represents a significant opportunity to inject accessibility—and hence sustainability—principles into transportation decision-making. The move within transportation circles toward accessibility-based transportation planning can be encouraged and accelerated with input from the EPA.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 20 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

mobile sources, pollution prevention, alternatives, sustainable development, public policy, decisionmaking, community-based, public good, socioeconomic, social science, mathematics, modeling, analytical, measurement methods, northeast, central, northwest, western, southwest, south central, southeast, transportation,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009
  • Final Report