Accessibility, Economic Activity, and Diversity

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Accessibility, Economic Activity, and Diversity

The TDM (Transportation Demand Management) Encyclopedia, a leading resource for innovative transportation management strategies, makes an interesting statement: When real estate experts say, “location, location, location,’ they mean “accessibility, accessibility, accessibility.’ Mobility and accessibility are part of a balanced transportation equation; higher standards of living and greater mobility increase in tandem, and when mobility and accessibility break down, activity, trade, productivity, and growth begin to decline as well. Greater mobility, however, does not necessarily mean greater accessibility, and it is this that cities and towns need to focus on.

According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute; ”All else being equal, increased mobility increases accessibility: the more and faster people can travel, the more destinations they can reach.” While conventional planning has been based primarily on mobility factors, such as average traffic speeds or congestion issues, accessibility analysis has lagged.

Access-based zoning focuses on the transition from mobility to destination. You don’t have to go far to find a depressed downtown strip with tired old buildings, vacant lots, and marginal businesses.  Meanwhile, out on the strip, business is booming.  But in those quaint and touristy spots, everything is inverted.  The interesting boutiques are thriving and the franchises are tawdry.

What’s up with that?  Well…  It’s access we’re talking about here. The dying old commercial areas don’t have it, the miracle miles sort of have it, and the happening locations have it big time.

“Perhaps the most anti-pedestrian feature of contemporary retail practice is the front parking lot.  Most stores thrive only when fronted by streets containing both pedestrians and slow-moving cars.”  ~ (Duany, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream 2010).

Retail businesses gravitate to high visibility and high-volume traffic areas.  This has always been the case with main streets.  Office districts also congregate as hubs of economic activity. Access-based zoning diverts traffic away from the main street and refocuses the main street to mixed-use.  The main street provides local traffic to facilitate work, shopping, school, events, socializing, etc.

A high utilization rate of basement and curbside parking can also be achieved with access-based zoning.  Curbside uses would generally be limited to short-term stays. In addition to linear access along the Main Street, a vertical separation of uses from parking access below, to pedestrian and vehicular access beside, to live/work spaces above, add to the buzz of easily accessed diversity.

Richard Vermeulen - Construction Economist for Green Building

Richard Vermeulen is the construction economist creating profitable sustainability in the built environment. He’s the founder of GreenLight™, author of Green at No Cost, and developer of the Total Benefit Analysis and The Value Process as well as co-CEO, lead economist, and chief estimator for Vermeulens. Richard has developed industry-leading standards for estimating and data-basing complex construction projects throughout North America. In addition to consulting for thousands of major projects over 30 years, Richard has designed and built residential and commercial projects, from hammering nails to hound-dogging bureaucracies. He has traveled extensively, always with an awareness of how cities do and don’t work.

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