Just in time to serve as an alternate method for ranking transportation projects in Sacramento, which I criticized a few days ago in my Sacramento Transportation Programming Guide post, comes A Better Way to Grade City Transportation Systems (Streetsblog, 2013-04-16). The new method uses a measure of accessibility, how far things are from each other, rather than mobility, which equates to level of service or lack of congestion. The Access Across America study, from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies, uses accessibility to jobs by car. Of course accessibility by foot and bike would yield even better results, but even just focusing on distance rather than congestion yields interesting results. It is jobs, not roadway miles, that create economic health.
Sacramento overall ranks 32 out of 51 metro areas studied, not great but not horrible either. The example maps and the geographic mapping utility seem to only be available for Minneapolis/St. Paul, but the concept is usable for any metro area.
The top three accessible metro areas are Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City. People associate these cities with congestion, but since they also have a high density of jobs in a small area, they rate as highly accessible. What if we see congestion as not something to be solved but as a sign of economic vitality? What kind of transportation system would we build?