Accessibility Metrics for Metropolitan Analysis and Planning

Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 8:30–9:30 am

About the Event

Cities exist because they create valuable opportunities for people to interact. This potential for interaction can be regarded as the fundamental product of cities, and it is determined by both the spatial arrangement of destinations and the transportation systems that connect them.

Accessibility metrics provide a direct indicator of interaction potential by combining travel times with the locations and value of many destinations. They combine the simpler concept of mobility with an understanding that travel is driven by a desire to reach destinations. Accessibility metrics have been around for decades, but data and computational challenges have limited their use in practical urban and transportation planning. Meanwhile, mobility-based planning has driven a focus on speed and travel time. However, the success of a city depends not on how fast its residents can travel but on what they can reach.

In this seminar, Andrew Owen, director of the University of Minnesota's Accessibility Observatory, discussed examples of how accessibility metrics are being used today to analyze U.S. metropolitan areas and to guide planning and investment decisions. He also provided an overview of a new University of Minnesota project measuring Access Across America.

Following Owen's presentation, a panel of local transportation professionals offered their perspectives on accessibility in the Twin Cities area.

Watch the recording


Andrew Owen

Andrew Owen is the director of the Accessibility Observatory and a research fellow in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Owen’s work focuses on building and applying systems for collecting, calculating, analyzing, and communicating data describing transportation systems. At the Accessibility Observatory, he leads the development and maintenance of tools to calculate nationwide, multimodal accessibility to a variety of destination types.


  • Moderator: Jonathan Ehrlich, Planning Analyst, Metropolitan Council
  • Kyle Burrows, Transit Planner, Metro Transit
  • Anton Jerve, Senior City Planner, Planning & Economic Development, City of St. Paul
  • Deanna Belden, AICP, Director of Performance, Risk & Investment Analysis, MnDOT Office of Transportation System Management