Housing & Transit Measurement Strategies

Researchers have used a variety of strategies to measure the quality of housing and transit in communities, ranging from geographic information systems to observational assessments. Broadly, housing measures cover the affordability, availability, and construction of units. Measures of affordability include the percentage of income devoted to rental/mortgage costs, total housing costs (rent, heat, electricity), and assessments of Fair Market Value. Availability of housing, whether or not enough housing units exist across all income levels and family units, is often measured using vacancy, overcrowding and homelessness rates. Finally, construction and structural measures include whether hazards such as lead paint, lack of plumbing or kitchen facilities, mold, or indoor air pollution exist in the unit.

High quality transportation systems are safe and low-cost, connect people and freight with the destinations (including jobs and health care) they need to reach, and limit damage to the environment. A 2011 report by the Pew Center on the States and The Rockefeller Foundation [1] outlines a number of core performance measures for transportation systems including: traffic crashes, freight travel times/speeds, traffic congestion/density, access to jobs and labor, emissions and road conditions.

An example of a cross-disciplinary housing and transit measure is the Housing + Transit affordability index which measures differences in location-efficient and inefficient neighborhoods. Efficient neighborhoods have compact, mixed use housing with convenient access to jobs, services, transit, and amenities. These types of neighborhoods tend to have lower transportation costs. The Housing + Transit affordability index also includes a traditional housing affordability measure of housing costs more than 30 percent of the household income. Under this view, three out of four (76 percent) US neighborhoods are considered “affordable” to the typical household. This index combines both the transportation and housing costs into one index.[2]


[1] The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Rockefeller Foundation. Measuring Transportation Investments: The Road to Results. The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Rockefeller Foundation; 2011.
[2] Center for Neighborhood Technology. H+T® Affordability Index. 2010. Accessed March 10, 2014.