Effects of Site Design on Pedestrian Travel in Mixed-Use, Medium-Density Environments

Source: Washington State Department of Transportation

"This report examines whether high or low incidence of pedestrian travel in mixed-use, medium-density environments is due to site design characteristics, and specifically to presence of direct, continuous, and safe pedestrian systems.

Twelve neighborhood centers or sites in the Puget Sound area of Washington were selected by matching gross residential density, median income, automobile ownership, and intensity and type of neighborhood commercial development. Pedestrians and bicyclists were recorded that traveled into the commercial area. A clear break emerges between urban and suburban sites. The average urban pedestrian volume is 37.7 pedestrians per hour per 1,000 residents, which is 3 times higher than the 12.5 pedestrians per hour per 1,000 residents in suburban sites.

These results strongly support the hypothesis that, when holding other variables constant, the urban versus suburban difference in route directness and completeness of pedestrian facilities (namely, block size and sidewalk length) affects pedestrian volumes. The research also questions the common belief that people do not walk in the suburbs. Given appropriate land use conditions, pedestrian facility improvement programs in suburban areas can support pedestrian travel and have a significant influence on mode choice."

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