Joe Grengs: Repairing Transportation Planning's Fundamental Error by Making the Mobility-to-Accessibility Shift

Joe Grengs (Ph.D. CRP '02) is chair and associate professor in urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan. His research examines social equity in transportation and land use planning and argues for prioritizing transportation investments that improve access to essential destinations for poor people and other disadvantaged travelers. He was appointed by the Obama administration and currently serves on the Federal Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Gregs is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and a registered professional engineer, with work experience in both the private and public sectors, and in international settings. He holds a bachelor of civil engineering and a master of urban and regional planning from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from Cornell University.


For most of the past century, transportation planning has proceeded according to a mobility logic; it has effectively sought to expand the territory that can be reached for a given investment of time and money. This presentation argues for a move from mobility to accessibility as the core logic of both transportation planning and the transportation dimensions of land use planning. Under this "accessibility shift," planning would focus on increasing the destinations rather than the sheer territory that people can reach for a given investment of time and money. Mobility is demoted from an end to a means. Making the accessibility shift would be transformative to the practices of transportation and land-use planning, but it is impeded by misconceptions and obstacles to the transformation. Overcoming the obstacles to the accessibility shift is crucial for achieving environmental and social equity goals.

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