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I have a polyline road dataset and a study area (polygon) covering the the road dataset. I want to determine the average distance for every given point within the study area to the nearest road. i don't have a dataset with the points. Also I don't necessary want to create a new dataset. All I am interested is the average distance. Is there a tool that can do that job (preferable ArcGIS)?

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Are the "given points" truly given or are you expecting a raster output mapping the mean distance to the road for all points in the study area? – whuber May 6 '13 at 22:07
That last remark suggests an ambiguity. By "average distance for every point" do you mean (a) for each point x in the study area, you want the arithmetic mean of the distances of x to all points on the road (which will result in a raster, but will not obtainable from a single Euclidean distance calculation) or (b) the average value in the Euclidean distance grid relative to the road, averaged over all points in the study distance (which is a number, not a raster)? – whuber May 7 '13 at 2:02
I am interested in (b). You are right, it is a number. – ustroetz May 7 '13 at 16:43
You are looking for the zonal mean of the Euclidean distance grid (as illustrated at…). – whuber May 7 '13 at 16:49

You could try running your point and polyline dataset through the spatial join geo-processing tool. If you set the match option to closest you can also specify a distance field which gives you the distance to the nearest polyline. From that you can do your summary statistics.

So fire up desktop help and look for the spatial join tool.

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If you have ArcInfo you can run a Near analysis to calculate the distance to the nearest feature and then get the average from the NEAR_DIST field.

If you don't have you may need to write a script and depending on the size of your data-sets, you may want to create a fishnet first to minimize the amount of processing time.

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