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The accessibility paradox: Everyday geographies of proximity, distance and mobility
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Tillgänglighetsparadoxen : Geografisk närhet, avstånd och mobilitet i vardagsperspektiv (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

This thesis aims to explore the importance of proximity and mobility, respectively, for individuals’ accessibility, as well as the relationship between these two key spatial dimensions of accessibility in the context of everyday life. The thesis is based upon three empirical research papers which focus on accessibility-related preferences, actual accessibility conditions, and travel patterns. Focus is directed towards the spatial relationships between individuals’ residential location vis-à-vis the location of a selection of different amenities including work, education, service and leisure functions as well as social relations. The analyses are based on a wide range of quantitative data, including questionnaire surveys as well as official register data for the Swedish population.

     The first paper shows that residential proximity to amenities was most valued by individuals in the case of social relations and basic daily activities. The level of satisfaction with current accessibility conditions was generally high, with the exception of social relations where the findings suggest the existence of a ‘proximity deficit’. The second paper shows that observed average distances to most amenities have decreased over time (1995–2005). Concerning service amenities, the increases in proximity over the period were primarily due to a restructuring of the localization patterns within the service sector. A comparison of potential accessibility conditions and actual travel patterns revealed that people tend to travel farther than to the nearest amenity options, presumably to a large extent because of selective individual preferences, which may downplay the importance of distance in destination choice. The third paper shows that although the numerical supply of amenities within different spatial ranges has a significant influence on how far individuals travel for service errands, supply size alone is not sufficient for explaining travel length. The findings also suggest that although people tend to utilize the supply of amenities available locally, they are also willing to extend their travel distance in order to reach the amenity supply available within the region. Thus, even when there is a local supply, a rich regional supply may induce longer trips.

     A juxtaposition of the findings of the three empirical studies suggests the existence of an ‘accessibility paradox’ with several facets. First, although people express an affinity for residential proximity to many amenities, this is not necessarily reflected in actual destination choices, since minimization of travel distance is apparently not always a key criterion. This is also suggested by the conclusion that the spatial structure of the amenity supply alone accounts for only a relatively small part of the explanation of travel length, which is influenced by many other factors. In addition, actual travel distances show an increasing trend over time despite the concurrent reductions in potential distances. Second, the development over time indicates that the proximity deficit regarding social relations may be increasing in the sense that average distances have increased to many of the amenities considered important to have nearby, for instance adult children, but have decreased to those where proximity is not considered particularly important. Third, there is a discrepancy between the observed trend towards increased proximity to many amenities and much of the general discourse on accessibility, which tends to emphasize deteriorating conditions. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2012. , 103 p.
Series
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2012:1
Keyword [en]
Accessibility, proximity, distance, daily mobility, everyday life, residential conditions, spatial structure
National Category
Human Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-50710ISBN: 978-91-7459-334-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-50710DiVA: diva2:467428
Public defence
2012-01-27, Hörsal F, Humanisthuset, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2012-01-05 Created: 2011-12-19 Last updated: 2012-01-05Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The advantage of 'near': Which accessibilities matter to whom?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The advantage of 'near': Which accessibilities matter to whom?
2011 (English)In: European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, ISSN 1567-7133, E-ISSN 1567-7141, Vol. 11, no 4, 368-388 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper explores people’s preferences for living close to destinations such as work, service, leisure and social activities, satisfaction with the proximities offered by their residential location, as well as more general residential satisfaction. The paper draws on the literature on accessibility, residential choice and residential preferences, and is empirically based on a survey targeted at individuals aged 20-64 in the Swedish population. The results suggest that ‘proximity preferences’ are structured by both practical and social rationales. Preferences also differ to varying degrees between groups with respect to gender, age and type of residential environment. Self-reported distances are short for virtually all destina-tions except those relating to social relations. People’s satisfaction with their residential location relative to their everyday life accessibility needs is also explored in regression analyses. The findings imply that residential location satisfaction is related to type of resi-dential environment, dwelling type/tenure, whether the respondents had considered mov-ing to increase the proximity to certain destinations, and their level of satisfaction with the distances from home to various destinations.

Keyword
Proximity, accessibility, mobility, residential preferences, residential satisfaction
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-45976 (URN)000295120200003 ()
Available from: 2011-08-24 Created: 2011-08-24 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
2. Proximity, accessibility and choice: a matter of taste or condition?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Proximity, accessibility and choice: a matter of taste or condition?
Show others...
2012 (English)In: Papers in regional science (Print), ISSN 1056-8190, E-ISSN 1435-5957, Vol. 91, no 1, 65-84 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Drawing on a combination of register data and travel survey data, this research explores changes in the accessibility to different amenities for the Swedish population between 1995 and 2005, as well as the reasons behind the changes: redistribution of either amenities or the population. Overall, proximity has increased concerning most of the amenities during the period. However, despite decreasing 'potential' distances, actual travel distances are growing longer due to, for example, an increasing selectivity in preferences. An analysis of the accessibility development for service amenities shows that restructuring within the service sector is the main cause of the changes, and to a lesser extent population redistribution.

Keyword
Accessibility, proximity, amenities, structural change, population redistribution
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-45211 (URN)10.1111/j.1435-5957.2011.00374.x (DOI)
Available from: 2011-06-27 Created: 2011-06-27 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved
3. The divergent role of spatial access: the changing supply and location of service amenities and service travel distance in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The divergent role of spatial access: the changing supply and location of service amenities and service travel distance in Sweden
2013 (English)In: Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, ISSN 0965-8564, E-ISSN 1879-2375, Vol. 49, 10-20 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This research explores and adds to the literature concerning the relationship between spatial structure and travel behaviour; specifically, the relationship between local and regional accessibility to service amenities and the distance of service-related trips. The analysis is based on a unique combination of national travel survey data for Sweden and official register data with detailed, geo-referenced information about the Swedish population and the location of service amenities in 1995 and 2005/2006. The results show that spatial access to service amenities increased in general over the study period, both locally (i.e., within ranges of 1 km and 5 km, respectively, of residential areas) and regionally (within 50 km). Despite increased spatial accessibility, the observed average travel distance also increased. We find strong and differing associations between spatial access to service amenities and travel distance, depending on level of scale. While the association was negative on the local scale (i.e., a numerically large supply of amenities was related to shorter travel distance), it was the opposite and positive, on the regional scale. In terms of implications for policy, the results imply that land use planning measures to promote local access, and thereby reduce traffic volumes, may per se be insufficient for attaining more sustainable levels of mobility.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2013
Keyword
daily mobility, accessibility, travel behaviour, trip length, destination choice, service amenities/activities
National Category
Human Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-50709 (URN)10.1016/j.tra.2013.01.001 (DOI)000317441400002 ()
Available from: 2011-12-19 Created: 2011-12-19 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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