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Smart Location Mapping

Interactive maps and data for measuring location efficiency and the built environment


Background

A large body of research has demonstrated that land use and urban form can have a significant effect on transportation outcomes. People who live and work in compact neighborhoods with a walkable street grid and easy access to public transit, jobs, stores, and services are more likely to have several transportation options to meet their everyday needs. As a result, they can choose to drive less, which reduces their emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants compared to people who live and work in places that are not location efficient. Walking, biking, and taking public transit can also save people money and improve their health by encouraging physical activity. An EPA-funded meta-analysis of this research literature, "Travel and the Built Environment" Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer, summarized the measurable effects of several built environment variables on residents' travel behavior [i]. These findings can help to inform travel demand studies as well as land use and transportation planning studies. However, developing data about these characteristics can be expensive and time consuming.

To address this need, EPA developed two data products that consistently measure the built environment and transit accessibility of neighborhoods across metropolitan regions and across the United States. Each of these products summarize the characteristics of census block groups [ii]. Users can download data, browse the data in interactive maps, or access the data through web services[iii].

For more information about EPA's smart location mapping projects, please contact Ted Cochin (202-566-2181, cochin.ted@epa.gov).

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Smart Location Database

Access this data
Interactive map viewer [iv]
Download data for your community[v]
Download data for the entire nation:
Metadata
Web services

The Smart Location Database is a nationwide geographic data resource for measuring location efficiency. It includes more than 90 attributes summarizing characteristics such as housing density, diversity of land use, neighborhood design, destination accessibility, transit service, employment, and demographics. Most attributes are available for every census block group in the United States. EPA first released the Smart Location Database in 2011 and released version 2.0 in July 2013. Please review the Smart Location Database Technical Documentation and User Guide (PDF) (52pp, 2MB). for a full description of all available variables, data sources, data currency, and known limitations.

Figure 1 illustrates one of the variables in the Smart Location Database. The map shows patterns of spatial variation in transit service availability and density in Los Angeles and its surrounding cities and suburbs.

Transit Service Density in Los Angeles, CA" title="Transit Service Density in Los Angeles, CA

Click the map to view a larger image.

Figure 1: Transit Service Density in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region (Aggregate frequency of transit service per hour per square mile during evening peak period)
Source: EPA analysis of public transit service data available in GTFS format Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer from Metro-Los Angeles, Metrolink Trains, Municipal Area Express (MAX), Torrance Transit, and Riverside Transit Agency.

Sample Variables Included in the Smart Location Database

Category Variables
Density Gross residential density (housing units per acre) on unprotected land
Gross population density (people per acre) on unprotected land
Gross employment density (jobs per acre) on unprotected land
Diversity of land use Jobs per housing unit
Employment entropy (a measure of employment diversity)
Employment and housing entropy
Urban design Street intersections per square mile
High-speed road network density
Transit service* Aggregate transit service frequency, afternoon peak period
Transit service density, afternoon peak period
Distance to nearest transit stop
Destination accessibility by transit* Jobs within a 45-minute transit commute
Working-age population within a 45-minute transit commute
Destination accessibility by car Jobs within a 45-minute drive
Working-age population within a 45-minute drive
Demographics Percentage of households with no car, 1 car, or 2 or more cars
Percentage of workers that are low, medium, or high wage (by home and work locations)
Employment Employment totals broken down by 5-tier classification scheme
Employment totals broken down by 8-tier classification scheme

* Only available in areas served by transit agencies that share their transit data in GTFS format Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer.

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Access to Jobs and Workers Via Transit Tool

Access this data
Interactive map viewer
Download data for your community
Download data for all areas with coverage:
Metadata
Web services

Access to Jobs and Workers Via Transit is a free geospatial data resource and web mapping tool for comparing the accessibility of neighborhoods via public transit service. Indicators summarize accessibility to job as well as accessibility by workers, households and population. Coverage is limited to metropolitan regions served by transit agencies that share their service data in a standard format called GTFS Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer. The Access to Jobs and Workers Via Transit - Technical Documentation and User Guide (PDF) (28pp, 1.7MB, About PDF) includes a full list of those areas. Figure 2 shows one indicator from this dataset mapped for the Washington DC metropolitan region.

Map showing the percentage of jobs that can be accessed by transit for neighborhoods in the Washington DC metropolitan region" title="Percent of Jobs Accessible by Transit, Washington D.C. metropolitan region

Click the map to view a larger image.

Figure 2: Percentage of all Jobs in the Metropolitan, D.C., Region That are Accessible by Transit
Employment data source: Census LEHD (2010); Transit service data sources: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, DC Circulator, Maryland Transit Administration, Montgomery County RideOn, Central Maryland Regional Transit, Arlington Transit, Fairfax Connector, University of Maryland (2012)

Sample Variables Included in This Dataset

Map Layer Name

Description

Accessibility Index An index of the relative accessibility of a block group compared to other block groups in the same metropolitan region, as measured by travel time to working-age population via transit. Values closer to 1 are more accessible.
Population with access by transit Total population able to access the block group within a 45-minute transit and walking commute.
Percentage of population with access by transit Total population able to access the block group within a 45-minute transit and walking commute as a percentage of total regional population.
Jobs accessible by transit Total jobs reachable within a 45-minute transit and walking commute.
Percentage of regional jobs accessible by transit Total jobs reachable within a 45-minute transit and walking commute as a percentage of total regional jobs.
Workers with access by transit Employed population able to access the block group within a 45-minute transit commute from their home location.
Percentage of workers with access by transit Employed population able to access the block group within a 45-minute transit commute from their home location as a percentage of total regional employed population.
Low-wage workers with access by transit Workers earning $1,250 or less per month that can reach the block group within a 45-minute transit commute from their home location.
Percentage of all low-wage workers in region with access by transit Low-wage workers that can reach the block group within a 45-minute transit commute from their home location as a percentage of all low-wage workers in region.
Low-medium wage workers with access by transit Workers earning $3,333 or less per month that can reach the block group within a 45-minute transit commute from their home location.
Percentage of all low-medium wage workers in region with access by transit Low-medium wage workers that can reach the block group within a 45-minute transit commute from their home location as a percentage of all low-medium wage workers in region.

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Suggested Uses


[i] Ewing, Reid and Robert Cervero. "Travel and the Built Environment." Link to EPA's External Link DisclaimerJournal of the American Planning Association. 2010, 76(3).

[ii] Block groups are contained within census tracts and generally contain between 600 and 3,000 people, with an optimum size of 1,500 people. The land area of block groups varies based on population density.

[iii] Web services are widely used by geographic information system (GIS) professionals to share geospatial data. A web service is a representation of a GIS resource (spatial data) that a server makes available to other computers or applications. Smart Location Database web services provide access to data layers through ESRI's ArcGIS Server Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer and Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer service formats. Web services are used to display data in the Interactive Map Viewer table of contents and are also available for public use in desktop mapping applications or web-based mapping applications.

[iv] The ArcGIS.com interface may be confusing for first-time users. Read our tips for navigating the interface (PDF) (3 pp, 1MB, About PDF).

[v] Use EPA's Clip and Ship to download GIS data for a selected geographic area of interest. Click to expand the "EPA Nationwide Data" list, then scroll to find the dataset of interest.

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