As urban populations grow worldwide, it becomes increasingly important to critically analyse accessibility—the ease with which residents can reach key places or opportunities. The combination of ‘big data’ and advances in computational techniques such as machine learning (ML) could be a boon for urban accessibility studies, yet their application in this field remains limited. In this study, we provided detailed predictions of healthcare accessibility across a rapidly growing city and related them to socio-economic factors using a combination of classical and modern data analysis methods. Using the City of Surrey (Canada) as a case study, we clustered high-resolution income data for 2016 and 2022 using principal component analysis (PCA) and a powerful ML clustering tool, the self-organising map (SOM). We then combined this with door-to-door travel times to hospitals and clinics, calculated using a simple open-source tool. Focusing our analysis on senior populations (65+ years), we found that higher income clusters are projected to become more prevalent across Surrey over our study period. Low income clusters have on average better accessibility to healthcare facilities than high income clusters in both 2016 and 2022. Population growth will be the biggest accessibility challenge in neighbourhoods with good existing access to healthcare, whereas income change (both positive and negative) will be most challenging in poorly connected neighbourhoods. A dual accessibility problem may arise in Surrey: first, large senior populations will reside in areas with access to numerous and close-by, clinics, putting pressure on existing facilities for specialised services. Second, lower-income seniors will increasingly reside in areas poorly connected to healthcare services, which may impact accessibility equity. We demonstrate that combining PCA and SOM clustering techniques results in novel insights for predicting accessibility at the neighbourhood level. This allows for robust planning policy recommendations to be drawn from large multivariate datasets.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited