Measuring just accessibility within planetary boundaries

New paper: Willberg, E., Tenkanen, H., Miller, H.J., Pereira, R. H. M. and Toivonen, T. (2023) “Measuring just accessibility within planetary boundaries,” Transport Reviews, DOI: 10.1080/01441647.2023.2240958.

Abstract. Our societies struggle to provide a good life for all without overconsuming environmental resources. Consequently, scholarly search for approaches to meet environmental and social goals of sustainability have become popular. In transport research, accessibility is a key tool to characterise linkages between people, transport, and land use. In the current paper, we propose a conceptual framework for measuring just accessibility within planetary boundaries. We reviewed transport studies and discovered a substantial literature body on accessibility and social disadvantage, much vaster compared to the literature around environmental and ecological impacts of accessibility. We also show a gap in approaches that have integrated these two perspectives. Building on the review, we suggest a conceptual framework for incorporating environmental and social sustainability goals in accessibility research. We conclude the paper by pointing to key challenges and research avenues related to the framework, including (i) dealing with uncertainty and complexity in socio-ecological thresholds, (ii) integrating environmental limits into the conceptualisations of transport equity, (iii) measuring accessibility through other costs than travel time, and (iv) integrating both quantitative and qualitative data.

Opioid treatment deserts

The latest outcome from our opioid overdose mapping project: we find disparities across neighborhoods and racial groups in access to opioid treatment providers:

Hyder A, Lee J, Dundon A, Southerland LT, All D, Hammond G, and Miller, H.J. (2021) Opioid Treatment Deserts: Concept development and application in a US Midwestern urban county. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250324.


Objectives.  An Opioid Treatment Desert is an area with limited accessibility to medication-assisted treatment and recovery facilities for Opioid Use Disorder. We explored the concept of Opioid Treatment Deserts including racial differences in potential spatial accessibility and applied it to one Midwestern urban county using high resolution spatiotemporal data.

We obtained individual-level data from one Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agency (Columbus Fire Department) in Franklin County, Ohio. Opioid overdose events were based on EMS runs where naloxone was administered from 1/1/2013 to 12/31/2017. Potential spatial accessibility was measured as the time (in minutes) it would take an individual, who may decide to seek treatment after an opioid overdose, to travel from where they had the overdose event, which was a proxy measure of their residential location, to the nearest opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment provider that provided medically-assisted treatment (MAT). We estimated accessibility measures overall, by race and by four types of treatment providers (any type of MAT for OUD, Buprenorphine, Methadone, or Naltrexone). Areas were classified as an Opioid Treatment Desert if the estimate travel time to treatment provider (any type of MAT for OUD) was greater than a given threshold. We performed sensitivity analysis using a range of threshold values based on multiple modes of transportation (car and public transit) and using only EMS runs to home/residential location types.

Results. A total of 6,929 geocoded opioid overdose events based on data from EMS agencies were used in the final analysis. Most events occurred among 26–35 years old (34%), identified as White adults (56%) and male (62%). Median travel times and interquartile range (IQR) to closest treatment provider by car and public transit was 2 minutes (IQR: 3 minutes) and 17 minutes (IQR: 17 minutes), respectively. Several neighborhoods in the study area had limited accessibility to OUD treatment facilities and were classified as Opioid Treatment Deserts. Travel time by public transit for most treatment provider types and by car for Methadone-based treatment was significantly different between individuals who were identified as Black adults and White adults based on their race.

Conclusions.  Disparities in access to opioid treatment exist at the sub-county level in specific neighborhoods and across racial groups in Columbus, Ohio and can be quantified and visualized using local public safety data (e.g., EMS runs). Identification of Opioid Treatment Deserts can aid multiple stakeholders better plan and allocate resources for more equitable access to MAT for OUD and, therefore, reduce the burden of the opioid epidemic while making better use of real-time public safety data to address a public health epidemic that has turned into a public safety crisis.

Virtual workshop on Geospatial Needs for Environmental Justice

The Mapping Science Committee of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine is hosting a virtual workshop on Geospatial Needs for Environmental Justice on May 21st, 2021. This workshop will explore how geospatial data and techniques can be used to analyze and mitigate geographic sorting of social groups within communities and differential exposure to toxins and risks in built and natural environments.  It is free and open to the public.

We have a great line up of speakers!  Please join the discussion.  More information and registration: