Identify and Prioritize Locations Needing Improvement

An important step in planning activities is to identify and prioritize locations needing planning and policy attention. A systematic procedure is needed to identify what (and where) countermeasures should be implemented. There will always be more areas that need support than funds available. Thus, a prioritization system needs to be developed to rank the various competing projects.

One approach is to focus initially on areas in which it is urgent to act because the benefits would be considerable. Identifying areas with highest actual or potential pedestrian activity but poor conditions seems logical and politically acceptable. However, there may be constraints that make the most needed areas the hardest to address. Reasons may include lack of financial resources or physical constraints.

Another approach depends on opportunities. If a given investment is planned (such as maintenance or resurfacing projects), then it makes sense to coordinate improvements to the pedestrian environment with the planned investments.

Priority can be awarded also by type of investment. For example, illumination may come first, as an agreement with the utility company makes it easy to do so right away. A more controversial countermeasure, such as a traffic circle, may have to wait until the political or design issues have been settled. Assuming both treatments will independently contribute to the pedestrian environment, proceeding with one treatment while waiting for the other is acceptable.

Priority can be given in terms of geographic scope (and the related commitment of funds):

  • A location with a spatially-specific problem can be targeted.
  • A corridor problem may be evident at several sequential intersections or along the roadside of a corridor; investments may be required throughout the corridor, not just at a single location; fixing one location may not be enough.
  • A targeted-area problem may repeat itself in a neighborhood or other area where conditions are similar throughout. Similar to the corridor problem, the nature of the roadway is such that fixing a spot area may leave other potential areas untreated; the solutions are very likely to be the same all around the neighborhood. A neighborhood or targeted area problem may be common throughout a local area due to unique circumstances such as a large university, commercial or business district, or other neighborhood characteristic.
  • An entire jurisdiction problem is common to an entire city, county, or state and is usually caused by an undesirable practice such as failing to routinely install sidewalks or paved shoulders for pedestrians or failing to provide streetlights. Once it has been determined that a problem is one of these types, the next step is to determine whether the appropriate solution is an operational/construction, general design, or an education/enforcement approach. These approaches should usually be coupled with a policy change to ensure that the improvement is institutionalized.

Finally, a more systematic way of ranking priorities is to develop a numerical scoring system. One example is the use of Pedestrian Level of Service (PLOS) model, which can determine areas, respectively, where pedestrian levels of service are insufficient. PLOS models can focus on intersection crossings or road segments. A PLOS model describes in quantitative terms what the pedestrian experiences qualitatively. It is different from the LOS measures found in the Highway Capacity Manual, which essentially measure delay to the motorist or pedestrian caused by other vehicles on the road or pedestrians on the sidewalk. Rather, the PLOS models developed and used take into account such measures as comfort and safety as well as ease of mobility.

PLOS variables for road segments include:

  • Presence or absence of sidewalks
  • Width and quality of the sidewalks
  • Separation of the sidewalk from moving motor vehicle traffic
  • Presence of amenities such as benches and shade trees
  • Volume and speed of adjacent motor vehicle traffic
  • Width of adjacent street/number of travel lanes
  • Accessibility of adjacent land uses

For additional information on the PLOS, see the guide, How to Develop a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, pages 35 to 38.

More information on pedestrian level of service can be found in these videos developed by the Florida Department of Transportation available through the PBIC Video Library: