The two organizations first began working together in 2013, when PlaceMatters launched its Active Transportation Initiative aimed at assisting communities that want to become more pedestrian, transit, and bicycle friendly. As a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to making Denver the most walkable city in the country, WalkDenver faced a challenge common to many American communities: while planners have a wide array of tools for collecting, tracking, and analyzing data about driving, the tools and data needed to make informed decisions about more active transportation modes is sorely lacking.
PlaceMatters and WalkDenver therefore teamed up to develop WALKscope, an open-source tool for crowdsourcing data about walkability, with grant funding from Mile High Connects. Community members can access the tool via smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers to report data related to sidewalks, intersections, and pedestrian counts. WalkDenver is using WALKscope to engage residents in assessing the walkability of their own neighborhoods, to educate residents about the connection between walkability and quality of life, and to advocate for infrastructure improvements.
Just a few short months after its launch, WALKscope began attracting attention from communities throughout the Denver metro area and at the national level. The outcomes of this collaborative effort contributed to WalkDenver’s success in acquiring additional grant funding from other sources, including a major grant from Kaiser Permanente announced this May. This in turn allowed WalkDenver to expand their capacity by hiring a full time Policy and Program Director. Jill Locantore, who supported the development of WALKscope as Program Director for PlaceMatters, will be shifting over to WalkDenver on July 1 to fill this new position.
With WalkDenver’s transition from a primarily volunteer-driven organization to a professionally-staffed advocacy group, and with support from other local and regional partners including the Denver Regional Council of Governments, WalkDenver and PlaceMatters are gearing up to build upon their previous efforts. Collaboration over the next several months will focus on 1) implementing key enhancements that will increase the effectiveness of the WALKscope tool, and 2) expanding the focus of community engagement and walkability assessments to current and planned FasTracks corridors, with an initial emphasis on the West Line.
Jill can be reached in her new position at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-895-6376. Critter Thompson will be taking the lead on WALKscope-related projects for PlaceMatters, and can be reached at email@example.com or 303-964-0903.