The Chicago region’s new comprehensive plan, ON TO 2050, includes a recommendation to support the development of compact, walkable communities. The recommendation is based on recent surveys and home buying trends indicate a growing desire for mixed-use communities with walkable amenities in both urban and suburban areas, as well as research that shows walkability and density are important to support efficient transit services. However, during the development of ON TO 2050 it became clear that a critical component of the walkability analysis was missing — there was no regional data on sidewalks -- until now.
Using the publicly available Illinois Roadway Information System highway data and Nearmap aerial imagery, CMAP staff recently analyzed approximately 30,000 miles of roads in Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane, and McHenry Counties to determine the existence of sidewalks on one or both sides of the street and whether there is a barrier between traffic and the sidewalk. The resulting dataset shows that the availability, quality, and safety of sidewalks around the region varies greatly. The final product, a database now publicly available on the CMAP Data Hub, is a tool that anyone can use to understand their community’s pedestrian infrastructure needs and that residents and leaders can use to prioritize sidewalk improvements in the future. You can view a simple interactive presentation of the inventory here.
Five ways your community can use the data
With a new trove of data available, there are several ways researchers, community planners, and others can use the CMAP Sidewalk Inventory:
1. Identify transit stops without sidewalks nearby
Improving access to transit is an important strategy in ON TO 2050 to make transit more competitive. For people like Heather and Garland Armstrong, traveling around the region on public transit can require pushing a wheelchair in the street where there are no sidewalks to get to a bus stop or rail station. The new CMAP sidewalk inventory data can help communities identify those gaps and prioritize future improvements.
2. Align sidewalks with development patterns
Some communities require the construction of a sidewalk for every new development while others prefer a more rural character and intentionally do not build sidewalks. With this data, communities can focus energy and resources where there is the most potential to improve walkability – to connect the most important gaps.
3. Analyze connectivity along with demographic data
Using the CMAP Sidewalk Inventory, communities can analyze sidewalk connectivity around schools or look at census tracts with a high concentration of seniors, people with disabilities or populations with low vehicular access. The network-based version of the sidewalk inventory can be used to identify routes with sidewalk coverage and locations with poor connectivity. Most importantly, this data can help communities make informed decisions and prioritize investments.
4. Help make your community more accessible for everyone
Local communities are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or the Rehabilitation Act to develop an ADA Transition Plan. In 2010, just over 50 municipalities had up-to-date transition plans. One of the hurdles to developing a transition plan is creating the initial inventory of sidewalks. The CMAP Sidewalk Inventory can be used as a starting point for each community to develop its Transition Plan.
5. Help your community make decisions about safety
The CMAP Sidewalk Inventory can allow communities to cross reference locations with high rates of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities in context with their sidewalk locations.
Add your own
With the data, we hope that others will come up with additional ideas for analysis. The recently passed state transportation capital program includes $50 million annually for walking and biking projects. The sidewalk inventory should be used to prioritize the most important segments that will improve walking conditions for the most people. CMAP will continue to analyze how the data intersects with other information the agency collects such a demographic or socioeconomic data.
Tell us how you’ve used the CMAP Sidewalk Inventory on Twitter by tagging @onto2050 or using #2050BigIdeas.