Field Assignment 3

Accessibility and its effects on the landscape: Should Boulder be a suburb of Denver or Silicon Valley?


The concept of accessibility refers the ease of access to jobs, housing, commerce, and recreation. Accessibility is a general concept that can be applied to almost any human activity. The basic idea is that at any point in a city access varies and these variations affect both the use and value of land. Access is not simply determined by distance, Louisville, CO and South Boulder Peak might be roughly the same distance from campus its much easier to get to Louisville because its is connected to Boulder via a highway. Transportation plays a key role in shaping accessibility, as does other forms of infrastructure.

Highly accessible places often have large concentrations of economic activity, for example “Boomer” edge cities often occur at major highway intersections. Places that are highly accessible attract economic activity and thus become more accessible (to jobs and commerce) in the process – accessibility can be self-reinforcing. Accessibility doesn’t only refer to jobs or housing, places that are highly accessible to natural amenities (like a beach or mountains) sometimes attract residential development.

Accessibility plays an important role in the value of land. When one buys/or rents a house the price often includes premium (or a discount) for accessibility. An apartment a block from Chautauqua park or very close to campus would cost more than one in the prairie of eastern Colorado, even if the apartments were identical inside. Different groups of people value accessibility in different ways- one person might value access to the mountains and another might value access to urban living.

A new form of accessibility has emerged in the past 20 years. Castells uses the term “space of flows” to describe this new infrastructure. The space of flows connects geographically separate places in the same way that a highway connects two neighboring towns. Beaverstock at al. write about a new “meta-geography” of highly connected global cities. Boulder is not a major city, but in the space of flows it punches above its weight. Businesses that largely exist in the space of flows are physically located in the this city. In this way we can see the effect of these virtual spaces on the physical landscape of Boulder. Unlike jobs, housing, parks, or shopping the space of flows and “meta-geographies” are difficult to observe directly but they are just a real.

For this assignment you will be visiting three sites and studying how accessibility shapes their current form or future potential. In this assignment you will be writing an an illustrated essay, think of it as a newspaper article about “Accessibility and its Impact on Boulder,” more details below.

Area 1

Area 2


For this assignment you will be writing an illustrated paper, instead of submitting slides.

  1. Choose one type of accessibility (jobs, housing, amenities, or something else) and find a good example of how it shapes the built environment in the City of Boulder.
    1. For the type of accessibility you select, take photographs of two or three places with varying levels of access. One place must be highly accessible and one should have low accessibility. Describe the type of accessibility you have selected. Explain how you think difference in accessibility may be affecting the built environment.
    2. Build your case using photographs.
    3. Write 400-800 words describing the type of accessibility you have selected and how it impacts the built environment in the sites you selected. Include and reference photos in your essay. You are encouraged to use other data to support your example (e.g. property values, analysis of maps, etc.).
  2. Go to “Area 1” the intersection of 30th and Pearl. Find examples of:
    1. Access to three different types of transportation infrastructure (bikes, bike share, and walking don’t count). Take photos. Relative to the rest of Boulder, How would you rate this area in terms of access to transportation?
    2. Relative to the rest of Boulder, How would you rate this area in terms of access to retail/shopping amenities? Use photos to support your case.
    3. How accessible to the “space of flows” is this area? Is it any more or less accessible that other parts of the city, why?
    4. Given the level of accessibility in Area 1 does the built environment align with your expectations? If not, did you expect to see more/less activity in the area? Explain.
    5. State and local governments often view investments in transportation infrastructure as a way to alter the landscape of accessibility thereby encouraging economic or residential development. However, how can and should cities make investments to make themselves more accessible to the “space of flows”? How does a city position itself to improve the “accessibility” of the digital economy. What do you think Boulder did, if anything, to make Area 1, and the city in general, a hub in the space of flows.
    6. For each of the questions above write an illustrated response, you answer to question 2 should be at least 800 words.
  3. Go to Area #2, its a large undeveloped parcel sandwiched between two major roads (36 and 93).
    1. Document this site’s accessibility with photographs. Feel free to supplement photographs with online maps or other material.
    2. Given this sites level of accessibility and your understanding of the City of Boulder what do you think should be developed on this site? Use photographic and/or other evidence to support your opinion. Make it clear WHY you are recommending a particular land use.
    3. Your answer to this question should be 200-400 words.