Local accessibility, or local access to destinations, is a measure of how close community destinations, such as schools, grocery stores, and health care services are to residents. See Regional Accessibility for access to destinations at a regional scale.
Local accessibility is a function of other urban design elements, such as pedestrian infrastructure, land use mix, and street network connectivity. The 15-minute city and 20-minute neighborhood are other concepts that capture the idea of local accessibility, where residents are able to meet most of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home.
Local access to destinations is a recommended strategy for increasing physical activity (Community Guide, 2016). It among the top built environment variables that influence walking. Local accessibility is typically measured through a calculation of the total number of destinations within a certain distance or travel time from a resident's home. As such, it is a calculation of potential accessibility and does not reflect actual travel behavior. As with all land use strategies (e.g., residential density), combining multiple land use strategies is likely to produce a stronger influence on travel behavior.
Postulated co-benefits include reduced vehicle use and associated emissions and improved aesthetics and positive perceptions of the space (Community Guide, 2016).
Equity and Inclusion
Local access to destinations can be improved through either an improvement in transportation infrastructure (e.g., new sidewalks) or through a change in land use (e.g., new grocery store). Some considerations:
- Strategies that involve changes to the physical environment may increase the attractiveness of an area. An increased demand for housing may result in increased property values or rents and could lead to involuntary displacement if appropriate mitigation strategies are not put into place. The lessons learned from anti-displacement efforts in several cities can be found in this PolicyLink report. Practitioners can evaluate the risk of displacement through the methods described by Chapple et al. (2017) or Bates (2013).
- New neighborhood destinations may not translate into increased access if the new services do not reflect the needs of residents. Consider whether new stores and services meet the cultural preferences of local residents and are affordable to them.
- In an environment where "big box" stores dominate, it may be challenging for neighborhood businesses to survive. Zoning codes that prohibit commercial uses in residential areas are also often a barrier.
- A community-based economic development strategy can help create meaningful accessibility as well as employment opportunities for local residents. The Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race & Equity has resources that outline how to integrate equity into development.
- Experiencing harassment or violence while walking or bicycling is a concern for many people of color. If your goal is to increase walking or bicycling by improving local access to destinations, recognize that changes in land use or infrastructure does not directly address this concern.
- As a term, "accessibility" has two meanings. As described in this strategy, local accessibility means access to destinations. However, accessibility is perhaps more commonly defined as accessible design. In transportation, this means that people with disabilities can access and use the transportation system. Any effort to improve local access to destinations should also improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Contact your local Center for Independent Living for information on how to do so.
Guides & Reports
Research Reports & Briefs