Integrate Pedestrian LOS Criteria into Traffic Analyses

Traditional traffic analysis evaluates the adequacy of a road design to meet vehicular travel demand using a quantitative measurement of delay called level of service (LOS). For many years, traffic-analysis procedures didn’t adequately address pedestrian travel demand in these road-design evaluations. The current Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) addresses this analysis gap with new multimodal LOS methodology. HCM’s multimodal LOS methodology, however, doesn’t include a lot of the factors that might influence walkability, such as adjacent land uses and sidewalk amenities.  As a result, some traffic engineers have independently created pedestrian level-of-service criteria to rate road designs for pedestrians, usually using an alphabetical scale from A to F.

  • Create a public-outreach process to solicit and incorporate the perspectives of residents, business owners, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders
  • Create walking audits with numbered evaluations of criteria that can supplement or be added to pedestrian LOS evaluations
  • Include standard categories of pedestrian LOS evaluation, such as:
    • Directness
    • Continuity
    • Street crossings
    • Visual interest and amenities in walking areas and adjacent land uses
    • Security
    • Physical conditions of paths or sidewalks
  • Vary evaluation techniques by:
    • Analysis scope (citywide, neighborhood, district)
    • Evaluation category
    • Whether a proposed development is project-or site-specific
  • Consider adjusting thresholds for criteria based on the specific pedestrian needs of defined areas or area types (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.)
  • Require that traffic-impact studies for significant developments include a pedestrian-impact assessment using this pedestrian LOS criteria
  • Creates a consistent, systematic way to evaluate existing conditions
  • Allows comparison and evaluation of different improvements
  • Provides an objective way to identify needs and prioritize improvements
  • Establishes minimum level of service standards
  • Clarifies baseline conditions for proposed mitigations
  • Helps jurisdictions mandate walking infrastructure standards in private developments and public infrastructure
  • Lack of comprehensive data collection on existing walking conditions
  • Pedestrian criteria is often hard to quantify in software analysis
  • Walking criteria might not account for specific contexts, e.g., a slower-is-better approach to traffic speeds along a shopping street
  • Do-it-yourself walking criteria can be difficult to compare across jurisdictions or integrate into standard analyses
Where to Use It
  • Transportation master plans
  • Pedestrian master plans
  • City and state environmental-impact analyses
  • Community-based neighborhood plans
Professional Consensus
  • In the absence of official guidance from national associations or governmental organizations, cities are turning to best practices employed by other municipalities.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.