Exposing unbalanced service distribution in urban areas: the case of Milan

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Submission Summary
There is a growing need to reevaluate accessibility levels in terms that give weight to the means of accessibility rather than measuring levels of access in abstract terms (or for all modes equally). As a response to both mounting environmental pressures and rising health risks associated with the contagion of non-communicable diseases in overcrowded spaces, walking and other low-impact, low-contact travel modes such as cycling are gaining momentum and are being acknowledged not just in scholarly circles but increasingly and rapidly in political circles as well, as cities worldwide search for ways to grapple with the ongoing global pandemic situation. In the city of Milan, levels of accessibility to services vary spatially and are disproportionately low in some areas with respect to others. Already, prior to the current pandemic situation, global cities were promoting plans to promote walkability and cycling such as the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) of the City of Milan, the 15-minute city plan recently launched by Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, and the 20-minute neighborhood concept instigated by the Office of Sustainable Development in Portland, Oregon in the United States. In each - as well as others - the fundamental idea is to ensure that most services (essential and some non-essential) are easily accessible via walking or cycling in all neighborhoods or districts. At Systematica, a similar exercise is being carried out for the city of Milan. As one of the most polluted major cities in the EU and one of the hardest hit from the current pandemic, authorities in Milan are going above and beyond to ensure a safe reopening after a two-month lockdown state that strained economic and social reservoirs. In line with the municipality’s Strade Aperte (Open Streets) plan, which underscores the importance of redirecting personal car users towards pedestrian and cycling options, the effort at Systematica is aimed at conducting an in depth cross-district spatial analysis to define areas of low accessibility to services and thus high reliance on the private car and crowded public transport options. This exercise is carried out through isochronal analysis applied for a variety of services in different districts across the city of Milan. Services are defined into broad categories based on their type (such as food, health, recreational, etc.), scale and accessibility, and each service within these categories is given a predefined catchment area based on the number of required units for a given population. In this regard, a series of large structured datasets are combined with reference to service accessibility, land use, socio-demographics and mobility indicators. Ultimately, this exercise is intended to identify areas of low access levels to services where new functions can be inserted to ensure accessing all necessary amenities in a reasonable amount of time by foot is possible. A detailed analysis of access levels by functional category enables local authorities to define priority action areas tailored to the needs of each neighborhood and accounting for its demographic constituency. To take one example, areas with high levels of elderly residents will be prioritized for medical service accessibility and distribution. By repeating this exercise for each pillar of the study, we come closer to achieving a spatially neutral adequate level of accessibility for residents of Milan. Beyond results, Systematica also aims to disseminate the study’s methodology, which can be easily replicated and adapted to fit the needs of other cities facing similar circumstances and to ultimately shed light on practical planning tools as we plan the cities of the future.
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3: Planning for Urban Connectivity
Partner Director
Systematica srl
Systematica srl
Systematica srl
Systematica srl
Systematica srl
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