Accessibility planning methods

NZ Transport Agency research report 363 ‘Accessibility planning methods’ (Chapman and Weir 2008) investigates the applicability of accessibility planning in New Zealand as a tool for assessing and improving personal access to essential services for all New Zealanders.

The report defines ‘accessibility planning’ as:

a structured process for the assessment of, and planning for, accessibility. It uses quantitative and qualitative data and employs tools such as geographical information systems to systematically assess a range of accessibility related information, including origins, the location and delivery of key activities and the transport links to and from them, and assist in the development of a set of accessibility indicators. This enables actual accessibility to be assessed against the indicators, which in turn allows accessibility problems to be identified, addressed and monitored. When fully developed the process is a continuous one and provides evidence of changes in accessibility over time.

The key elements are that the focus is on opportunities for people and places and that the inherently cross-sectoral view of the world which people take is built into measurement, management and delivery of improvements. In the UK the accessibility planning guidance refers to the two pillars of the planning process being evidence about people and partnerships for delivery.

Chapman and Weir (2008) set out three existing international accessibility methods, which are comprehensive, limited and which regulate planning methods. Section 5 of the Chapman and Weir (2008) report summarises the status of accessibility planning in New Zealand against the seven criteria that are important in accessibility planning as shown in table 5.1.

Table 5.1      Accessibility planning in New Zealand


Comprehensive planning

Current New Zealand status

Organisational responsibility

Multiple levels of government

Unclear – aspects of accessibility planning at all levels of government

Influence at local level


Unclear – some influence on RLTS and LTCCP development (mainly monitoring)

Assessment frequency


Variable – generally in conjunction with RLTS and LTCCP production

Spatial focus

All areas

Mainly urban

Modal focus



Use of indicators


Variable – partial

Influence on project evaluation



Source: Chapman and Weir 2008

RLTS – regional land transport strategy

LTCCP – long-term council community plan


The report proposed an accessibility framework for New Zealand based on the comprehensive framework drawing from the same broad concept of accessibility employed in England. As shown in table 5.2 there are many potential drivers for accessibility planning and the relative importance of each varies depending on local circumstances. The report recommended the implementation of a comprehensive accessibility planning framework across New Zealand to increase collaboration between the traditionally disparate disciplines of transport planning, land use planning and social services.

Table 5.2      Proposed comprehensive accessibility planning in New Zealand


New Zealand


Affordable and reliable community access

Spatial focus

Urban and rural areas

Organisational responsibility

Regionally led local application

National guidance, priorities and monitoring

Used for transport plan development

Yes – regional land transport strategies and programmes


Formal: In line with GPS; RLTS; RLTP and LTCCP development

Informal: continuous


Five-stage assessment using indicators and stakeholder input

Indicators of accessibility

A range of standardised national ‘core’ indicators

Regional indicators supplement these as required

People focus

Education, work, medical and food shopping

Modal focus

Car, public transport, cycle and walking

Used for projects

Yes, for RLTP projects

Potentially used as part of the resource consent process

Source: Chapman and Weir (2008)