Destination access bills introduced in U.S. House

By Eric Sundquist

A trio of representatives along with 10 co-sponsors have introduced a pair of bills that would set destination access as a national performance measure.

Both bills describe destination access, aka “accessibility,” in terms of travel times by auto, transit, walking, and biking, with consideration for traffic-stress levels on the active modes. One of the bills focuses on access to employment, while the other focuses on access to non-work destinations such as shopping and schools.

The bills were announced by Reps. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia of Chicago, Ayanna Pressley of Boston, and Mark Takano of Southern California. The three representatives lead the House Future of Transportation Caucus.

The bills not only set up a process for measuring accessibility, but also a requirement for metro area Transportation Improvement Plans. Under the bill, TIPs would have to ensure that they improve non-auto accessibility (access to destinations by walking, biking, and transit) at least in proportion to auto accessibility.

SSTI has worked on destination access with many agencies around the country and applauds the federal interest in this critical metric. Accessibility better reflects benefits from the transportation network and land use changes than do conventional metrics, and it can be used to estimate outcomes such as vehicle miles traveled and modal usage. In contrast to most demand-model analysis, it is infinitely scalable, so of particular use in considering active transportation projects where trip distances are short.

The accessibility ratio requirement in the new bills conceptually resembles a process that SSTI created with the Hawaii DOT. In that case, projects being considered for funding were scored on their ability to shift demand from auto to non-auto modes, using a ratio of modal accessibilities.

Eric Sundquist is Director of SSTI.