Moving to access in transport planning: identifying barriers, designing strategies

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Accessibility is a well-established concept in planning research. It measures the ease of reaching destinations or activities, or the potential for interaction (Hansen, 1959). In very general terms, accessibility can be defined as the level of ability to successfully reach a certain object, place, event, or person. It is a key concept for understanding the social and economic life of cities in particular and societies in general. The purpose of this paper is to inform the ‘accessibility approach’ to transport policy, planning, and investment by means of critically analysing its implementation barriers in professional circles and how to overcome them. We argue that it is necessary to focus less on technological issues such as what are the best instruments and decision-making tools to promote the accessibility approach. There is now sufficient knowledge about that (Papa et al. 2016). Now, the priority is to identify the institutional, organisational and cultural barriers to this approach. Mobility and transport networks can facilitate accessibility, but only to a certain extent. Defining accessibility as what is granted by mobility is a reductionism. In our view, mobility is in many cases a necessary condition for accessibility, but rarely is a sufficient one. Traditional transport planning has in numerous instances failed to realise this important nuance. As a result, traditional transport planning has frequently equated implementing measures aimed at increasing mobility to improvements in accessibility levels. That is not necessarily a very accurate way of understanding what happens. This is fully acknowledged by the accessibility planning approach. In fact, accessibility planning recognises that the absolute opposite to that might be closer to the truth: increasing mobility might represent less accessibility (Ferreira and Batey, 2007).
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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