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Analyzing & Mapping Job Accessibility with open source data

Accessibility refers to how easily people can reach desired services, locations, and resources. It is crucial because it affects quality of life, economic opportunities, and social equity. Good accessibility allows people to access jobs, education, healthcare, and recreation, which can lead to a higher standard of living and greater overall community well-being. It also plays a key role in urban planning and development by influencing traffic patterns, urban sprawl, and environmental impact. Effective accessibility planning ensures that all community members, regardless of age, ability, or socioeconomic status, can participate fully in society.

Real estate developers are interested in accessibility because it directly impacts the attractiveness and value of their projects. Enhanced accessibility can increase property demand by providing better connections to key services and amenities such as schools, shopping centers, and workplaces. This can lead to higher property values, more competitive real estate markets, and increased satisfaction among residents or tenants. Additionally, developments with good accessibility are likely to attract a wider range of buyers and tenants, including those who prioritize convenience and reduced travel times.

To assess accessibility, planners often use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze spatial data, calculate the number of jobs or services reachable within a given travel time, and employ models like Gravity Models which weigh the attractiveness of a destination and the friction of distance. Tools like the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data allow for detailed public transit accessibility analyses, enabling planners to map out routes and schedules to optimize access. In this article, we share two open data sources real estate developers can use to assess accessibility in their city.

First, EPA Smart Location Database provides measures for accessibility to jobs and workers by transit. The latest data available is published in 2021 which includes 11 variables on accessibility at the census block level. Their database is very easy to use and allows real estate developers without any GIS or coding experience to explore the accessibility landscape. One interesting variable includes accessibility to the population: understanding accessibility to the population may be important for office or commercial uses if they want to be accessible by a large number of population.

Second, the Minnesota Accessibility Laboratory publishes accessibility to jobs by 5, 10, 15, ..., 60 minutes thresholds for four transportation modes (i.e., auto, transit, biking, walking) in the 50 largest US metros. The data is provided at the census block, block group, and tract level, allowing users to explore accessibility in different options. One interesting aspect of this dataset is that it covers data from 2014 to 2021. With this data, developers may easily examine accessibility and also track changes (i.e., changes in transit services, land use, and also the COVID-19 effects). Below is a brief overview of the ranking in accessibility across large MSAs in the US.

Are you interested in other cities or locations other than jobs? Market Stadium can help you generate your own accessibility measure for any type of transportation modes, any destinations in any metropolitan areas in the US. By exploring accessibility, you will learn more about the location of your interest.

Q & A?

Jay Ha

Head of Urban Research 

Doctoral student in Urban Planning at USC

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