The Accessibility Observatory builds on earlier work conducted at the University of Minnesota, including the Transportation and Regional Growth study, the Access to Destinations study and the Access Across America report published in 2013.

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.


The Transportation and Regional Growth study was a research and educational effort designed to aid the Twin Cities region in understanding the relationship of transportation and land use. Conducted from 1998-2003, this study was an effort to better understand the linkages between land use, community development and transportation in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Following on the Transportation and Regional Growth study, the Access to Destinations study 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.