Modeling Food Desert Disruptors: Impact of Public Transit Systems on Food Access

Nearly 23.5 million people across the U.S. live in food deserts (FDs), or regions in which residents lack access to healthy, affordable food. Food access depends in part on individual and aggregate mobility within the FD. Therefore, the amount of people with access to healthy foods depends on the number of private vehicles per household, the walkability of the region, and available public transit options. This study aims to assess how expanding public transit options affects food access, measured by the percentage of people lacking access to food. Object-oriented programming combining agent-based modeling, discrete event simulation, and GIS is used to model and simulate FDs. A FD in Austin, Texas, with approximately 6,500 residents and a median annual income of ~$32,000 is used as a case study to demonstrate this methodology. Previous research that validated the modeling framework in this case study region justifiably treated public transit as extensive to the system. However, expanding the functionality of the model to include public transit options will allow for the impact of public transit to be evaluated in this and other FD regions. Data from publicly available sources are used to establish the existing conditions within the selected FD, including resident demographics (e.g., employment rate, car ownership), resident behaviors (e.g., method of transportation for grocery trips), walking paths, spatial distribution of bus routes, and the frequency at which buses move through the system. Public transit systems were found to have significant impacts on the number of people who must walk to the store as a last resort, effectively improving food access within the case study region by up to 23%. This result demonstrates the importance of considering public transit systems in FD models, and the interconnections that exist between the built environment and food system networks.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: pp 362-372
  • Monograph Title: Construction Research Congress 2018: Infrastructure and Facility Management

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01683694
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9780784481295
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: Oct 4 2018 4:48PM