• Form Follows Families: Evolution of U.S. Affordable Housing Design and Construction
  • Volume 16, Number 2
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga

The Smart Location Database: A Nationwide Data Resource Characterizing the Built Environment and Destination Accessibility at the Neighborhood Scale

Kevin Ramsey
BERK Consulting

Alexander Bell
Renaissance Planning Group

Data Shop
Data Shop, a department of
Cityscape, presents short articles or notes on the uses of data in housing and urban research. Through this department, the Office of Policy Development and Research introduces readers to new and overlooked data sources and to improved techniques in using well-known data. The emphasis is on sources and methods that analysts can use in their own work. Researchers often run into knotty data problems involving data interpretation or manipulation that must be solved before a project can proceed, but they seldom get to focus in detail on the solutions to such problems. If you have an idea for an applied, data-centric note of no more than 3,000 words, please send a one-paragraph abstract to david.a.vandenbroucke@hud.gov for consideration.

A large body of research has demonstrated that land use and urban form can have a measurable effect on the daily transportation habits of urban and suburban residents. These findings can help to inform travel demand studies and evaluations of the likely effects of land use decisions on residents’ transportation choices and costs. Developing reliable data can be expensive and time consuming, however. The goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Location Database (SLD) is to summarize relevant built environment and destination accessibility variables for every census block group in the nation and to share them publicly in support of planning and research studies nationwide. This article describes the variables available in the SLD and the novel approaches we developed to calculate these variables using available private and public data sources. Of particular note are several measures of accessibility to destinations via transit developed through an analysis of more than 220 public transit data feeds avail- able from agencies across the United States. The article concludes with a case study describing one current use of the SLD: evaluating potential employment facility locations.

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