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About Accessibility

Accessibility Observatory

Access Across America

Accessibility Matrix

Access to Destinations Study


Access to Destinations banner.

Accessibility Observatory

The Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota is focused on the research and application of accessibility-based transportation system evaluation. The Observatory is guided by a threefold mission:

  1. To advance the field of transportation system evaluation through research of new data sources and methods for accessibility evaluation

  2. To develop standards and tools to facilitate the use and communication of accessibility-based metrics in transportation planning, engineering, and evaluation

  3. To apply our tools and expertise in support of continual improvements in the planning, design, engineering, and analysis of transportation systems

The Accessibility Observatory builds on earlier work conducted at the University of Minnesota, including the Access to Destinations study and the Access Across America report.


Access Across America

Access Across America, a study by David Levinson, the R.P. Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation Engineering at the University of Minnesota, goes beyond congestion rankings to focus on accessibility: a measure that examines both land use and the transportation system. The study is the first systematic comparison of trends in accessibility to jobs by car within the U.S. By comparing accessibility to jobs by automobile during the morning peak period for 51 metropolitan areas, the study tells us which cities are performing well in terms of accessibility and which have seen the greatest change.

To generate the rankings for this study, Levinson created a weighted average of accessibility, giving a higher weight to closer jobs. Jobs reachable within ten minutes are weighted most heavily, and jobs are given decreasing weight given as travel time increases up to 60 minutes.

Map of U.S. metro areas ranked by accessibility


Metro Accessibility Matrix

People who make transportation and land-use decisions in the Twin Cities region have a new tool: an online “accessibility matrix” that illustrates variations in accessibility to different types of destinations for travelers who drive, bike, walk, or use transit.

The matrix displays four types of maps: accessibility (the ability to reach destinations), mobility (the ability of people to move on the network), travel time (how long it will take to get between census blocks with each of the travel modes), and land use (the distribution of activities by census block).

Users can select up to four filters, including year, mode, time of day, and destination type (such as retail, restaurants, or recreation). The result, for example, could be maps showing the accessibility of jobs between two distant suburbs by transit or by car.

The tool is hosted by the University’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO), a transportation laboratory staffed by experts in managing large data sets and creating visual models of complex data. The matrix is just one of the MTO’s systems that support effective transportation and land-use planning. Future researchers will be able to further develop the tool and add new data as they become available.

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.