Affordability and access
Access to life, work, and play
Safe and convenient options
Clean air and water
Prevention, access, and quality
Civic and social involvement
Inclusion and possibilities
Safe and convenient options
How easily and safely we’re able to get from one place to another has a major effect on our quality of life. Livable communities provide their residents with transportation options that connect people to social activities, economic opportunities, and medical care, and offer convenient, healthy, accessible, and low-cost alternatives to driving.
How does my community compare to neighborhoods across the country?
- Top Third
- Middle Third
- Bottom Third
Convenient transportation options Frequency of local transit service
buses and trains per hour Median US neighborhood: 0
Total number of buses and trains per hour in both directions for all stops within a quarter-mile: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better
People are far more likely to hop on a bus or train if it’s convenient to their home—and their schedule. Here, the Index assesses how many transit vehicles per hour stop within walking distance of a neighborhood. We use data from the evening rush hour, when extra buses and trains operate to accommodate commuters. Note: Data are available only for areas where transit agencies provide information to an online mapping database.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013 Smart Location Database
Convenient transportation options Walk trips
trips per household per day Median US neighborhood: 0.73
Estimated walk trips per household per day: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better
Physical activity contributes to health and longevity. Making trips around the neighborhood by walking (called “walk trips”) can be a safe form of exercise. Walk trips also contribute to more frequent social interaction with neighbors. The Index estimates the number of walk trips members of an average household take each day. It includes factors such as the number of destinations within a mile and how easy it is to navigate local streets. The goal is to measure how walkable the neighborhoods are.
Sources: Walk trips are modeled based on data from the Federal Highway Administration’s 2009 National Household Travel Survey and other sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2013 Smart Location Database.
Convenient transportation options Congestion
hours per person per year Median US neighborhood: 17.4
Estimated total hours that the average commuter spends in traffic each year: measured at the metro area scale, lower values are better
From a bustling economy to a vibrant culture, some communities have it all—but traffic congestion could make it hard for residents to enjoy these amenities. Not only do clogged roads wreck schedules and make appealing destinations hard to reach, they also increase air pollution. Here, the Index looks at the total amount of time per year that the average driver in an urban area spends sitting in traffic.
Source: The Texas A&M Transportation Institute, 2012 Urban Mobility Report. For urban areas not included in the report, we model congestion based on population and characteristics of the street network.
Transportation costs Household transportation costs
per year Median US neighborhood: $10,791
Estimated household transportation costs: measured at the neighborhood scale, lower values are better
Second only to housing in U.S. household spending, transportation can be a significant financial burden, especially for households on a fixed income. Residents who purchase homes in cheaper neighborhoods can wind up paying more for gas and cars if their neighborhood lacks transit, isn’t walkable, or is far from jobs and services. Here, the Index displays the estimated cost of transportation in different neighborhoods. These estimates are available for only metropolitan areas, so we assume that household transportation costs in rural areas are comparable to non-urbanized neighborhoods in metropolitan areas.
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2013 Location Affordability Index.
Safe streets Speed limits
miles per hour Median US neighborhood: 28.0
Average speed limit (MPH) on streets and highways: measured at the neighborhood scale, lower values are better
The odds that a pedestrian who gets hit by a vehicle will die increase drastically when the car is moving faster than 20 miles per hour. Lower, safer speed limits help residents feel confident walking and biking around their neighborhoods, resulting in healthier people and more vibrant communities. Here, we analyzed average speed limits for all streets in a neighborhood, giving greater weight to streets with more lanes, since wide streets are riskier and more challenging to cross.
Source: Average speed limits in a neighborhood are calculated based on 2012 private data from NAVTEQ.
Safe streets Crash rate
fatal crashes per 100,000 people per year Median US neighborhood: 7.6
Annual average number of fatal crashes per 100,000 people: measured at the neighborhood scale, lower values are better
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States. Crashes occur most often in areas with high speed limits, poorly designed streets, and in places where people must drive farther or more frequently to reach their destinations. Bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to crashes, as are children and older adults. Since people typically drive outside their neighborhood, the Index measures the number of fatal crashes within a 5-mile radius to assess safety on the surrounding streets. Fatal crashes are relatively rare in any given neighborhood, so we use a 5-year average to control for year-to-year changes.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007-2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System
Accessible system design ADA-accessible stations and vehicles
of stations and vehicles are accessible Median US neighborhood: 81.7%
Percentage of transit stations and vehicles that are ADA-accessible: measured at the metro area scale, higher values are better
People with restricted mobility rely heavily on convenient public transit equipped with accessible features, such as buses with wheelchair lifts or stations with elevators. The Index examines the percentage of transit stations and vehicles in metropolitan areas that are accessible according to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Note: Transit data for rural areas aren’t quite as detailed as in urban areas. We estimate accessibility for rural areas by calculating an average of accessibility data submitted by rural transit agencies across the United States.
Source: Federal Transit Administration, 2012 National Transit Database
Safe streets State and local Complete Streets policies
State and local Complete Streets policies
Complete Streets policies require streets to be designed for safe, comfortable, and convenient travel by all modes—walking, biking, driving, and transit—and for all ages, abilities, and incomes. From wider sidewalks to new bike lines to better intersection lighting, Complete Streets ensure easier and more inviting travel options. The Index gives credit to any city, county, or state with these policies in place.
Source: Smart Growth America, June 2016 Chart of Complete Streets Policies
Convenient transportation options State human services transportation coordination
State human services transportation coordination councils
A variety of organizations work to ensure that everyone has accessible transportation options. For example, an area agency on aging may provide van service to transport adults to activities at the local senior center, or the local department of health and human services may shuttle young adults to job training opportunities. Too often, services are fragmented, which can raise costs and reduce efficiency. Here, the Index gives credit to states that have established committees that are actively working to coordinate service between transportation providers.
Source: February 2016 data provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures to AARP for the Livability Index
Convenient transportation options State volunteer driver policies
State policies that remove barriers to volunteer driver programs
Many people with restricted mobility rely on volunteer driver programs for an affordable and convenient way to get to the grocery store, doctor’s office, and other critical destinations. In addition to driving, volunteers often help passengers walk or carry their packages. However, these programs face two common barriers: state laws that raise liability and insurance rates (which increases operating costs), and “livery laws” that prevent programs from charging the modest fares they need to cover expenses. Some states have not only eliminated these obstacles, but also have provided funding for the programs. The Index gives credit to states that have taken action to address one or both of these barriers, or that have created a funding opportunity for volunteer driver programs.
Source: ITNAmerica, 2015 50 State Policy Project
Commitment to livability State and local plans to create age-friendly communities
Communities that have taken comprehensive steps to prepare for the aging of the U.S. population
By 2030, there will be twice as many Americans over the age of 65 as there were in 2000. To help residents live comfortably in all stages of life, communities must provide opportunities like convenient transportation, walkable neighborhoods, affordable and accessible housing, multi-generational social opportunities, and inclusive business practices—just to name a few. To guide communities toward making these forward-thinking changes, several organizations have also established peer-learning networks and identified processes to help make communities age-friendly. The Index gives credit to states, metropolitan areas, counties, and cities that are part of the AARP or World Health Organization (WHO) networks of Age-Friendly Communities or recipients of Grantmakers in Aging Community AGEnda grants. In the future, the Index may award communities that participate in other age-friendly initiatives.
Sources: AARP 2016 Age-Friendly Communities Member List, WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, and Grantmakers in Aging 2016 Age-Friendly America database
- Rural Transit Connects
- Public Transportation: Lifeline for Older Adults in Rural America
- Transportation for Older Adults Requires a Tapestry of Funding Sources
- Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America
- Complete Streets in the States: A Guide to Legislative Action
- Complete Streets in the Southeast: A Toolkit
- How the Travel Patterns of Older Adults Are Changing: Highlights from the 2009 National Household Travel Survey
- National Complete Streets Coalition
- The WALC Institute
- For more resources, visit AARP Livable Communities