Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Transportation Characteristics of Livable Communities

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) released “Public Perceptions on Transportation Characteristics of Livable Communities,” a report that outlines the findings of a 2009 survey.

I've rummaged through most of the data and pulled out some results you might find interesting. What do people think are the most important transportation needs for a community?

Here's a ranking by perceived importance:

  1. Major roads or highways that access and serve your community
  2. Side walks, paths or other safe walking routes to shopping, work or schools
  3. Adequate parking in the downtown or central business district
  4. Pedestrian-friendly streets or boulevards in the downtown or central business district
  5. Easy access to an airport
  6. Reliable local bus, rail or ferry transportation that can be reached without driving
  7. Reliable long-distance bus or train transportation to and from major metropolitan areas
  8. Bike lanes or paths to shopping, work or schools

Here's how the ranking was arrived at:

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics conducted a survey in October of 2009. Among other questions, they asked people, How important is it to have X in your community, where X was one of the eight items listed above. People were asked whether each as "Very important ", "Somewhat important ", "Somewhat unimportant", or , "Not important". (Pretty standard survey stuff.) They tabulated the percentage of each response, weighted by population and similar factors. To simplify the results, I combined the two "important" and the two "unimportant" categories to see what percentage of people favored or did not favor each transportation option.

Of course, the details reveal a lot than a simple ranking. For one thing, each mode of transportation was considered important...just not quite as important as the others. So here's a set of pie charts showing percentages of important vs. unimportant for each mode:


Side walks and paths

Downtown parking

Pedestrian-friendly downtowns

Airport access

Local transit

Long distance bus and train

Bike lanes

My bottom line conclusion:

People are aware of the need for multiple modes of transportation, but are still focused primarily on automobiles. It's noteworthy that they want to be able to walk comfortably and safely, both in neighborhoods and downtown. But transit, bikes, and long-distance public surface transportation are not as high in people's priorities. *Sigh*

There's lots more interesting information in the survey results, including how people get to work, and a lot of questions related to airport screening procedures. I'll talk about those later, and - for my fellow data-geeks -I'll put up the spreadsheet I derived from downloaded and enhanced from BTS's on-line data. (Their on-line spreadsheets are basically database dumps, and don't allow information to be easily extracted.)

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