Models relevant to New Zealand policy

‘Improving access and mobility’ is one of the five transport objectives of the Land Transport Management Act 2003.

The NZ Transport Agency’s (2011) Statement of Intent 2011–2014 includes a key long-term outcome for transport as ‘an accessible and safe transport system that contributes positively to the nation’s economic, social and environmental welfare’. One of the indicators for measuring progress for this outcome is ‘more transport mode choice’, especially in the area of public transport for work and study purposes. The statement of intent also states ‘We are committed to: protecting and enhancing the natural, cultural and built environment, enhancing the quality of life for New Zealanders by improving community liveability…’

These high-level aims for improved accessibility need to be unpacked through analysis to understand the changes and investment that will deliver the top-level goals. Some of this is already being achieved through demand models, but accessibility analysis is needed to understand how people, places and business are affected by investment decisions. This should help to optimise investment plans to secure the nation’s economic, social and environmental welfare.

Accessibility planning is generally undertaken at two levels. The higher level includes accessibility planning at a national or large spatial scale and tends to use zones of up to a few kilometres in diameter consistent with national or regionally significant transport demand models. The lower level has a much finer resolution representing the details of local neighbourhoods in cities, suburbs or regions. In Germany, and The Netherlands the higher-level assessments are undertaken by central government and the lower-level assessments are undertaken by regional or local government. The UK is unusual in that weak data availability within local authorities prompted the government to create a national model of accessibility to support the government’s publication of detailed statistics covering local neighbourhoods. In the UK both travel demand and accessibility modelling is undertaken by some local authorities.

Accessibility planning is cross-sector from the perspective of policy and indicator development. Central government, local and regional councils and the private sector can all benefit from analysis relevant to their needs. Policy can be thought of as the ‘should’; in other words, setting the direction between all possible options, and the specific direction or directions that are considered the most appropriate.

The role of accessibility assessments in the dimensions outlined above are illustrated in figures 8.1 and 8.2.

The private sector role in accessibility analysis has already been recognised. Retailers, developers and other private companies have been major users of road-based accessibility analysis for many years and tend to have the best data sets on the locations and services offered at each place. Understanding the socio-demographic characteristics of the catchments of a location is often critical to a commercial activity’s viability. If public authorities work in partnership with private companies they can build on the existing analysis yet focus on policy sensitive user groups.

Figure 8.1     National and local accessibility assessments

Figure 8.2     Levels of government achieving common outcomes