Indy’s Most Needed Pedestrian Walkways

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Walkable cities contribute to people’s overall health, safety, and quality of life. This study prioritizes missing pedestrian walkways to help identify where investment should be focused in Indianapolis.

Although it has some very walkable areas of town, overall Indy ranks low in nationwide surveys of walkability (Walkscore.com). Recent efforts are underway in Indianapolis to enhance walkability, as demonstrated by its recently adopted Complete Streets Ordinance and the Health By Design et.al. Indy WalkWays initiative. A large land area and limited budget require the City find tools and strategies to efficiently and effectively develop and maintain its infrastructure. This includes finding ways to prioritize the types of pedestrian infrastructure needed to enhance walkability, and the location of that infrastructure.

The map shows the results from a study of Indy’s missing pedestrian infrastructure (i.e., sidewalks and multi-use paths). It reveals the gaps in pedestrian walkways and prioritizes them based on proximity to destinations, population density, and demographic factors that may contribute to an area’s particular transit needs.

Three basic assumptions are followed:

  1. You don’t have walkability without destinations.
  2. Walkways should go where people are (i.e., population density).
  3. Certain social factors, such as age, income and education, may limit people’s transportation options thus making walkways a higher need (and that need should be a factor in prioritizing pedestrian infrastructure).

High ranking walkway segments (red and orange) would be considered among Indy’s most needed walkways.

About the Map

“Missing Walkways” are shown as lines on the map where there are gaps in the existing pedestrian network. These are mapped along primary and secondary arterial roads, and collector streets hosting major bus routes, using 2014 data of Indianapolis’ existing pedestrian network* as a reference. The missing walkway segments are ranked and color-coded low (yellow) to high (red) based on their proximity to destinations combined with proximity to areas of highest population density and concentration of people who may have limited transportation options (Net Social Index). For example, segments shown in red (high priority) touch areas containing both high net population density and high scores for social indicators representing potential pedestrian infrastructure need, such as income, minority status, education, linguistic isolation, and age (2010 Census; 2013 ACS).

Missing walkway segments received scores for their proximity to 5- or 10-minute walk radius around destinations. Destinations include public libraries, college campuses, primary schools, secondary schools, vocational schools, museums, supermarkets, recreation facilities, greenways, parks, future Red Line bus rapid transit (BRT) stops, and city bus stops.

The scores for each segment are tallied and the results are used to rank the missing walkway segments from low to high in terms of their priority for future development. High ranking walkway segments (red and orange) would be considered among Indy’s most needed walkways.

Limitations

The map of “Missing Walkways” does not distinguish places where sidewalks may exist along only one side of a road, or where existing sidewalks may switch back and forth between different side of the road, nor the quality of existing sidewalks. It also does not evaluate the existence of crosswalks (another essential component to the pedestrian infrastructure). The data are not field verified. Sidewalks within neighborhood subdivisions and along minor collector streets are not considered by this study.

For Further Study

This study shows one way that pedestrian infrastructure gaps can be prioritized for future investment, which is just one aspect of pedestrian infrastructure planning and management. Further areas of interest include: Where are crosswalks and what is their importance in the pedestrian network? What is the role of speed limit control in designing the pedestrian network? What additional prioritization should be considered for Safe Routes to Schools initiatives? How do accident reports factor into identifying priorities? Should we rate short segments of missing walkways higher where pedestrian infrastructure otherwise exists (e.g., prioritizing small gaps)? Where are we investing today versus where priorities have been identified? How do we balance the maintenance of existing infrastructure with the development of new pedestrian infrastructure?

Data Sources

City of Indianapolis GIS; IndianaMap; Indiana Department of Education; Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) Property Tax Management System; The Polis Center; US Census American Community Survey 2013 5-year Estimates; 2010 Census; 2015 Federal Poverty Level; US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EJ SCREEN.

* Special thanks to Kevin Kastner for providing the pedestrian network GIS data used in this study and for posting on Urban Indy. See Prioritizing Missing Pedestrian Infrastructure, Saligoe-Simmel (PDF) for detailed methodology and documentation of data used in the study.
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