Challenges for Europe and North America
NECTAR Series on Transportation and Communications Networks Research
Edited by Karst T. Geurs, Kevin J. Krizek and Aura Reggiani
Chapter 6: Perceptions of accessibility to neighbourhood retail and other public services
As concerns of traffic congestion and automobile travel continue to mount in communities worldwide, there is much attention devoted to the interaction between land use and travel behaviour and, more generally, the role of heightened accessibility. Most travel is induced, meaning that individuals seek to participate in an activity at a separate location (for example, the grocery store); furthermore, they want to get to that destination in a quick, comfortable and convenient manner, usually resulting in driving. To alleviate the need for driving – both perceived and real – urban planners and related professions suggest relying on land-use planning to bring origins and destinations closer (Mumford, 1956). By increasing density, conventional theory suggests that trip distances will decrease, walking and cycling will increase, and overall auto use may decline. Within the field of consumer behaviour, several researchers have proposed that creating local shopping opportunities closer to consumers and residential areas will increase stores’ accessibility (Robinson and Vickerman, 1976; Handy and Clifton, 2001). A central assumption embedded within these design philosophies is that residents will take advantage of retail and other opportunities close by their home. The efficacy of this approach, however, lies in residents’ knowledge of nearby destinations. Errant knowledge – either in the form of not knowing that a potential destination exists or miscalculating the distance to the destination – potentially jeopardizes the degree to which residents frequent such establishments. It is therefore important to understand how an individual’s perception of distance to destinations, particularly walking distance, differs from the actual distance and how these perceptions vary by type of destination (bank, coffee shop, and so on). To what degree does real accessibility differ from perceived accessibility? Such knowledge will assist planners, policy-makers and designers to evaluate different approaches to transportation and land-use planning more accurately. It also aids them in accounting for qualities of accessibility that affect perception when designing transportation and land-use plans.
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