Access User Story: Greater Washington Partnership

Company: The Greater Washington Partnership, Joe McAndrew

Location: Capital Region of Baltimore, Washington and Richmond

The Greater Washington Partnership (Partnership) deployed Sugar Access to support the development of the Capital Region Blueprint for Regional Mobility (Blueprint), an end-to-end transportation strategy to better connect the super-region of Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Richmond, Virginia. This Capital Region is home to more than 10 million people, hundreds of major employers, the Federal government, and ranks as the third largest economy in the United States.



The Partnership formed in 2016 and is a civic alliance of the region’s leading employers and entrepreneurs in the Capital Region that collectively employ more than 200,000 residents. Transportation is a key regional challenge that limits access to top talent and makes it harder for all job seekers to thrive. As impetus, the Partnership noted that current regional plans – despite extensive transportation investments – are expected to result in continued growth in congestion, growing by more than 150 percent over 2015 levels by 2040. While the region has invested in multimodal infrastructure, the vast majority of the region is still highly auto centric, which makes it much less resilient if the highway network begins to fail.


Greater Washington Partnership analysis generated using Citilabs Sugar Access Dataset


As part of its assessment for the Blueprint, the Partnership engaged the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland to analyze current and future conditions, as well as evaluate a variety of solutions. Sugar Access was one of the tools used, since the four primary goals focused on connectivity, consumer experience, equitable access, and taking advantage of innovative technology. Sugar Access, a GIS-based transportation modeling tool created by Citilabs to work with ArcGIS, provides an interactive software platform through which planners can quickly assess patterns in accessibility by mode, purpose and location, as well as projecting the effects on accessibility of future transportation or land use policies or investments. Sugar Access was used to examine the level of access afforded to travelers to reach jobs and other essential needs and services across the super-region.


Sugar Access was used as the basis for creating an interactive map, which can be viewed on their website. Using a menu, one can quickly picture and quantify modal facilities, key points of interest, and access to jobs by mode. The sample below shows Jobs access by auto for the super region. By zooming in, it is possible to view these relationships at a very fine geospatial level (census blocks).


Importantly, the Partnership’s analysis took deliberate steps to measure the quality of access to the region’s disadvantaged residents, focusing on the ability to reach jobs and health care facilities in relation to race, ethnicity, poverty and car ownership. The study affirmed that many consumers are without essential access to transportation options, limiting their upward economic and social mobility and holding back the region from achieving its full potential. After housing, transportation is the second largest expense for households. For low- and moderate-income households this cost burden can limit the ability of people to escape poverty.



Based on these findings, the Blueprint recommended several solutions, including enhanced connectivity throughout the region by rail and transit and maximizing dense, mixed use, and affordable development near regional transit corridors to support greater inclusiveness of all residents in the economy. According to Joe McAndrew, the Partnership’s director of transportation policy, Sugar Access made it possible to highlight this story through accessibility metrics and to efficiently convey an unbiased message on the status of connectivity throughout the region. This enabled a healthy and informed conversation to take place on sensitive and highly important regional growth and policy issues.

As an example, inequality and racial gaps in Fairfax County exacerbated by poor transportation accessibility were estimated to cost the Washington metro area $26.2 billion in lost gross domestic product in 2012. Given the region’s substantial dependency on mobility by car, economic opportunity throughout the Capital Region is drastically reduced for individuals without a car. Sugar Access was able to show that within 45 minutes, transit provides access to just 11 percent of the total number of jobs available by vehicle. Moreover, African American residents in the Capital Region were found to be almost 3 times as likely as Caucasian residents to live in areas with poor transit access to jobs and low vehicle ownership rates. And, households in poverty were almost 2.5 times more likely to live in areas with poor transit access to jobs and low vehicle ownership rates.