Access or Accessibility? A Critique of the Urban Transport SDG Indicator

M.J.G. Brussel* (Corresponding Author), M. Zuidgeest, K. Pfeffer, M.F.A.M. Van Maarseveen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
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Progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being evaluated through the use of indicators. Despite the importance of these indicators, the academic community has done little in terms of a critical reflection on their choice, relevance, framing and operationalization. This holds for many SDG domains, also for the urban sector domain of target 11. To partially address this void, we aim to critically review the UN methodology for the urban access indicator, SDG indicator 11.2. In discussing its conceptual framing against the background of paradigm shifts in transportation planning, we argue that this indicator has a number of shortcomings. The most important one is that it is supply oriented and measures access to transportation infrastructure, rather than accessibility to activity locations. As an alternative, we develop two accessibility indicators that show substantial variation in accessibility across geographical areas. We implement all indicators for the city of Bogotá in Colombia, using a geo-information based approach. Our results show that SDG indicator 11.2 fails to represent the transport reality well. Its supply oriented focus neglects transport demand, oversimplifies the transport system and hides existing inequalities. Moreover, it does not provide useful evidence for targeting new interventions. The proposed accessibility indicators provide a more diverse, complete and realistic picture of the performance of the transport system. These indicators also capture the large spatial and socio-economic inequalities and can help to target improvements in urban transportation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number67
Pages (from-to)67-90
JournalISPRS international journal of geo-information
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2019




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