COMMUTE bill would boost accessibility metrics

By Eric Sundquist

A new bipartisan bill in Congress would provide funding for DOTs and MPOs to apply innovative accessibility metrics to decision-making.

The COMMUTE bill, S.B. 654 and H.B. 1517, was introduced March 5 by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Reps. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) and John Curtis (R-Utah).

It would require U.S. DOT to provide data and support for five state DOTs and 10 MPOs to measure access to destinations by various modes.

SSTI has been at the forefront of the effort to apply accessibility to transportation and land use decisions. Accessibility not only better measures the effectiveness of the transportation system than do older measures, but it also allows us to predict outcomes such as modal choice and vehicle-miles traveled.

While academic work on accessibility has been around for decades, only recently have we had the computing power and data to really put it to use. Now that we do, however, there are lots of questions about what the metrics mean. We can assess accessibility from anything to anything by any mode, so the possibilities are limitless.

That doesn’t help practitioners, however, so we have worked to develop meaningful metrics around planning, project development, and operations. Virginia’s SmartScale project selection process uses two such metrics—access to jobs and access to non-work destinations—and you can read about them here.

Whether the bill passes or not, the field is likely to continue looking at accessibility as an important metric. If your agency is interested in working with us, please contact SSTI’s director, Eric Sundquist at erics@ssti.us or 608-265-6155.

Eric Sundquist is Director of SSTI.