The Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota is focused on the research and application of accessibility-based transportation system evaluation. The Observatory is guided by a threefold mission:
The Access to Destinations research project laid the groundwork for accessibility evaluation at the University of Minnesota. Through a multi-phase effort incorporating theoretical as well as practical research and including researchers from a variety of fields, the project built local expertise and prepared the University for the next steps into the future of accessibility research and evaluation. The Observatory uses the methods and tools developed by this project as a starting point for an integrated, multi-modal accessibility evaluation system that can be applied nationwide.
In 2013 David Levinson, the Observatory’s Principal Investigator, authored Access Across America: a report that evaluated the accessibility provided by the road an highway systems in 51 U.S. metropolitan areas. This was the first systematic comparison of accessibility to jobs by auto, and demonstrated the feasibility and the value of applying consistent accessibility evaluation methods across many cities. Access Across America provides aggregate metro-level auto accessibility metrics; the Observatory will expand on this work by calculating and analyzing accessibility at the Census block level, and by including both auto and transit in a unified evaluation framework.
David Levinson, Principal Investigator
David Levinson is a Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota, and is the Director of the Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems research group. He holds the Richard P. Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation. He also serves on the graduate faculty of the Applied Economics and Urban and Regional Planning programs at the University of Minnesota. He has authored or edited several books and numerous peer-reviewed articles, and is the editor of the Journal of Transport and Land Use.
Levinson provides strategic guidance and leadership of the Observatory, drawing on 14 years of experience as a Principal Investigator and co-PI for numerous transportation research projects. He served as PI for several components of the Access to Destinations research project, which explored theoretical issues in accessibility evaluation and developed practical approaches to its implementation.
Andrew Owen, Director
Andrew Owen is a Research Fellow in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He holds master’s degrees in Civil Engineering and in Urban and Regional Planning, and has joined the field of transportation research following a career in computer science and network security. His M.S. thesis work focused on accessibility evaluation for public transit systems.
Owen directs the operations of the Observatory and leads its team of research assistants. He serves as the Observatory’s chief software architect and developer, guided by his experience as an international IT consultant. Owen also developed the procedures and tools described in Annual Accessibility Measure for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.