Indicators and accessibility needs

It is necessary to use many different indicators of time, cost, user groups and trip purposes. The UK indicators based on time recognise that time is a necessary condition for access. In addition the local indicators recognise that practical travel times are not a sufficient condition for access and a wide range of other factors may also need to be included. Indicators often require multiple destination constraints (eg access to employment for single parent households should also include time windows for access to childcare). For many practical applications it is therefore necessary to combine indicators into composite measures of accessibility to ensure a manageable number of indicators that reflect all local accessibility needs.

To achieve this requires the following:

·         All the indicators must be in the same units.

·         The relative importance of each indicator must be clear.

For the UK core national accessibility indicators, travel time is often used for combining indicators as the simplest common metric across all trip purposes. Combined indicators are the total travel time to reach a selection of opportunities. The population catchment and opportunity indicators can also be combined by normalising the indicators but appropriate weightings to allow these units to be combined are different for each policy need. To weight each trip type requires the frequency, consequences, stated concerns and equity issues to be considered.

For example, people may not need to make frequent trips to a hospital, but the consequences of not making the trip could be serious. Lack of equity in access to further education may not be a concern to some economically inactive people, but the consequences of this lack of equity can be to build a life of dependency.

Table 3.4 summarises some of the most important services people need to access, and identifies how this relates to the dimensions of ‘need’. This provides an overview of the types of issues that need to be considered.

Table 3.4      Accessibility needs and priorities


Why is it essential

Frequency of access required

Consequences of lack of access

Stated concerns of people


Local shop, shopping centre

High frequency and fastest growing trip purpose

Poor eating habits leading to poor health

Concern about the loss of local stores.

Low-income groups make more frequent short trips and pay more, eg taxis

Post office banking/cash machine, legal services

High frequency

Higher costs resulting from the need to use more costly sources for cash such as pay for use cash machines

Concerns about declining local provision

Low-income groups make more frequent trips and pay more for their banking

Leisure, sports, clubs and societies

Medium frequency

Weak social support mechanisms for people who cannot participate.


Low-income groups spend less time travelling for sport and leisure activities and make less frequent trips than for the population as a whole.


Low frequency for most people

High for some services. Core services need to be defined.

People do not generally choose where to live because of proximity to a hospital so transport to hospital is relatively important for accessibility.

Low-income groups pay the highest costs for getting to hospital.

Choice in healthcare requires more travel favouring mobile groups.

General practitioner

Medium frequency

Delays in seeking help resulting in greater problems and higher costs.

Largely a concern for low mobility groups.

Poor health and poverty are closely linked.

Community/ day centre/ social services

Frequent for a small number of people

People can become unable to live independently without social interaction.

The type of transport is very important since these services target low mobility groups.


Schools and colleges

Frequent for those in full time education

Some children are unable to participate in discretionary, non-core activities (eg breakfast clubs, homework clubs and after-school activities).


Fewer trips to colleges from lower income groups.

Childcare and nurseries

Frequent for those with children

Restricted time budgets in single parent families can make access to childcare difficult.


Fewer trips to nurseries from lower-income groups.


High frequency for working people

Work is central to social inclusion. The inability to access employment as lower value activities move out of town centres to less accessible locations.

Choice of residence location closely related to employment.

Low-income groups travel less far to work and transport costs can be a barrier to take up of low-paid jobs.


Key points to note from the table are:

·         Expectations of society move on, so perceptions change and generally rise. Trip lengths and frequencies have been increasing the most for shopping and leisure trips and the accessibility gap has been growing the most between low mobility groups and others for these trips.

·         Low-income groups make trips on a similar frequency to high-income groups for access to most public services. Further and higher education is the main exception to this, but the high degree of choice for this trip purpose makes it more similar to market-based provision than to other public services.

·         For access to work and access to private services such as shopping, low-income groups show different travel behaviours from higher-income groups. Lower-income groups spend more time than higher-income groups travelling for shopping and personal business (the largely market-based services), but spend less time travelling to work and education. Low-income groups spend less time travelling for sport and leisure activities.

·         The implications of these differences are important for public policy since the consequences of lack of access for some people impact on the whole of society.

The relatively similar behaviour demonstrated for access to public services regardless of income, will be heavily influenced by the way these services are provided (eg travel to school or hospital is still only marginally influenced by consumer choice). In contrast, customer choice has a major impact on market-based provision.