Soft Transportation

Due to its impact on environmental, economic, and ethical sustainability, SustainIN was interested in examining active transportation, referred to in the index as “soft transportation.” The team began by identifying two components of soft transportation – walkability and bikeability – and reaching out to implicated city and state departments to find data on the following metrics of interest: number and distance of multi-use paths, walk paths, bike lanes, sidewalks, and neighborhood blocks to key destinations; pedestrian counts on these paths at various points during the day; number and distance of bikeways; average number of sharrows per mile of road; existence of bike share programs; number of bike stations; mileage between stations; membership rates for bike share programs; and number of bike racks, to name but a few.

SustainIN quickly discovered that the variability in definition and measurement across both state and community meant that consistent comparisons would be unfeasible if it relied upon the data offered from those departments. It instead relied upon two independent data providers, WalkScore and the League of American Bicyclists, in order to investigate the levels of soft transportation in each of the Index’s 10 states of interest.

WalkScore analyzed block distance, intersection density, population density, and walking routes to nearby amenities within a given city and then assigned a walkability score between 0 and 100 based on these factors. A score of 0 corresponded to being completely car-dependent, while a city that received a 100 was considered to be a “walker’s paradise.” The League of American Bicyclists provided a score on a scale of 1 to 10 based on performance in five different categories. These categories include engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation/planning.

Metrics and Data Sources:

Metric Name Definition Data Source
Walkability The extent to which a community is conducive to its residents engaging in active transportation by foot Walk Score 2016
Bikeability The extent to which a community promotes bicycling among its residents League of American

Bicyclists 2016

 

Results

State Walkability Bikeability Average Score Rank
Illinois 5 2 3.5 2
Indiana 9 8 8.5 10
Iowa 7 4 5.5 6
Kentucky 8 1 4.5 4
Michigan 3 7 5 5
Minnesota 10 6 8 8
Ohio 4 9 6.5 7
Washington 1 3 2 1
West Virginia 6 10 8 8
Wisconsin 2 5 3.5 2

Metric Findings:

  • Indiana has an average score of 8.5, which is the last among all ten states examined in the Sustainability Index. This suggests that it should focus on creating a foundation for soft transportation, both in regards to the infrastructure necessary for it to be seen as a practical alternative to motorized transportation, as well as the ideological and cultural position of a community with regards to its importance and utility.
  • Washington scored the highest among the ten states, suggesting it may offer insights into best practices vis-à-vis soft transportation infrastructure and promotion.

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