Urban Geography (2003) 24(8): 647-671.

Evaluating the Effects of Geographic Contexts on
Individual Accessibility: A Multilevel Approach

Joe Weber and Mei-Po Kwan

Abstract: Centrality within a city and neighborhood characteristics have often been used as indicators of access to employment and services in statements about urban form and accessibility, but there are reasons to question the appropriateness of doing so. This paper evaluates the importance of geographic context within the urban environment (both location within cities as well as neighborhoods characteristics) for individuals in Portland, Oregon. Because conventional accessibility measures cannot incorporate individual characteristics, space-time individual accessibility measures were used with multilevel modeling to isolate the effects of individual level variations from that of geographical context. The results show the influence of context on individual accessibility is weak, as accessibility tends to reflect individual and household characteristics rather than the local urban environment. Accessibility cannot be determined from location within cities, or from land uses around an individualís home, implying that the use of urban design to influence accessibility is inappropriate.

Key Words: accessibility, local context, New Urbanism

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