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The Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Walkable and Bike-able City and Town Centers

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A great webinar hosted by Smart Growth Online, Sign up HERE!

Date and time:Friday, October 30, 2015 2:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)

Duration:1 hour 30 minutes

Description:The webinar will feature the experiences of 8 U.S. cities in creating or increasing the walkability and bicycle-friendliness of their downtown areas. The cities profiled include small towns (Grandview, MO and West Jefferson, NC); medium-sized cities (Orlando, FL, Redmond, WA and Lancaster, CA) and large cities (the Bronx in NYC, Cleveland, OH, and Charlotte, NC). The webinar will focus on the implemented strategies, the resulting increases in walkability and bike-friendliness, and the economic and fiscal benefits of each project.

– Jim Cohen, Senior Lecturer and Director, Urban Studies and Planning Program, University of Maryland College Park (Moderator)
– Dennis Randolph, Director of Public Works, Grandview, MO
– Carolyn Hope, Park Planning, Arts and Culture Manager, Department of Parks and Recreation, Redmond, WA
– Brian Ludicke, Planning Director, Lancaster, CA
– Gustavo Castro, Project Manager, Transportation Planning Division, Orlando, FL
– Dean Ledbetter, Senior Planning Engineer, North Carolina Department of Transportation

Join PlaceMatters at the Colorado Transportation Symposium April 4

11th_Annual_Trans_SympPlaceMatters will be participating in a panel on Active Transportation at the Colorado Transportation Symposium, taking place Friday April 4th at the Colorado Convention Center.  The panel will focus on steps that Colorado-based organizations are taking to to help decision-makers make informed actions regarding active transportation (bicycle and pedestrian) facilities and programs – and to monitor the results of such actions.

The panel will include the following line-up of speakers:

Jim Charlier from Charlier Associates, Inc. Kaiser Permanente commissioned Charlier Associates, Inc. to lead an in-depth research and outreach effort to identify the best practices in measuring bicycle and pedestrian travel. The Colorado Active Transportation Mile Markers are a set of preferred, consensus measures that will help communities, government agencies and non-profit organizations effectively and accurately measure travel by pedestrians and bicyclists. The goal of implementing such consensus measures is to standardize methods and indicators, as is done for motorized travel, so that accurate pedestrian and bicycle travel information can be used to: monitor changes in travel behavior; compare information across jurisdictions; make decisions about infrastructure investments; and support the overarching goal of Kaiser Permanente to improve and monitor public health by encouraging physical activity.

Ken Brubaker from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).  CDOT adopted the Bicycle and Pedestrian Policy directive in 2009 stating that “…the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians shall be included in the planning, design, and operation of transportation facilities, as a matter of routine…” While well intentioned, this policy directive remained difficult to fulfill without sufficiently accurate estimates of bicycle and pedestrian volume on CDOT facilities. CDOT is currently working to implement a non-motorized counting program and to establish specific methodologies for estimating bicycle and pedestrian volumes from short duration counts, similar to that which is done in the motorized counting world. This work will enable CDOT to better understand the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians as well as best allocate limited resources in order to properly meet those needs.

Jill Locantore from PlaceMatters.   WALKscope is an open-source tool developed by PlaceMatters and WalkDenver to crowdsource data about walkability. Community members can access WALKscope via smartphones, tablets, and computers to report pedestrian amenities and conditions, and pedestrian counts. Data is stored online and can be used to create compelling visualizations that identify high quality pedestrian environments and places needing improvement.  WalkDenver is using collected data to advocate for pedestrian infrastructure improvements.  Participants will learn how WALKscope engages residents in assessing the walkability of their neighborhoods and shows how walkability relates to quality of life.

We hope you will join us!  Click here for more information and to register for the conference.



Denver Urbanists Meetup #5: Let’s Talk Walking!

Do you love cities and consider yourself an urbanist? Then come to a Denver Urbanists Meetup! There is no program or anything formal, just a bunch of friendly people getting together to chat, collaborate, and advance a positive urban agenda for Denver! It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and build relationships. At the Denver Urbanists MeetUp #4 in January, we had a huge turnout (over 60 people!) and the conversations were awesome.

 Next Meetup:
Denver Urbanists Meetup #5 
Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 5:30 PM
Wynkoop Brewing Company (18th & Wynkoop, 2nd floor)
RSVP on EventBrite 

For MeetUp #5, let’s talk walking! As in, how can Denver’s pedestrian environment be improved? What can we do to promote walkability in our city? How can we make our streets more friendly and engaging to people on foot? Come to Denver Urbanists MeetUp #5 to discuss these and other topics.

Click on the link below to see all the details and to register. It’s free! Registration just helps give us an idea of how many people to expect.

Denver Urbanists MeetUp #5 Eventbrite RSVP

We hope to see you at Denver Urbanists MeetUp #5 on March 26!


Re-posted with permission from Ken Schroeppel, DenverUrbanism

WALKscope: Crowdsourced Pedestrian Data

It’s easy to look around most American cities and guess (correctly) where most of our transportation infrastructure funding is spent: on auto-oriented projects. As transportation infrastructure became more complex and within the purview of the public sector, planners and engineers developed the data and methodologies we needed to track what infrastructure exists and how it’s being used. This information guides policy decisions about where to invest resources.

However, we rarely have this kind of data for active transportation like biking and walking. This lack of data puts active transportation at a disadvantage when it’s time to allocate resources; after all, how do you argue for more sidewalks or prioritize where to put resources when you can’t demonstrate where the existing gaps and strengths are in the network? Following the “what gets measured gets done” logic, auto-oriented uses are better equipped to demonstrate need because they have data, perpetuating a cycle of auto-focused spending.


WALKscope desktop view

Over the last few months, PlaceMatters has been working with our friends at Walk Denver on a new tool for crowdsourcing data about the existing conditions and usage of Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure. The concept behind WALKscope is simple: drop a pin on a map, and then answer a few questions about pedestrian counts, street quality, or intersection quality.

At the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference last month, we were able to test it out in the field with 30 participants in a mobile workshop. Participants were given a quick tour of the tool, some maps showing them where to canvas, and then they were sent out into the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Denver. After about 30 minutes, we’d covered several blocks.

Jefferson Park Data

30 minutes of WALKscope with 6 groups

When participants returned, we pulled up the map and groups were able to report out on the data they’d just collected, including the pictures they took. Cool.


Using WALKscope to report what we found during the data collection.

We then got down to my favorite part, a usability review of the tool. Overall, the comments were really positive. Some of the pluses:

  • responsive design: because it’s designed for use with mobile devices, the interface for collecting data was really easy to use in the field.
  • pictures: incorporating pictures is really helpful for adding detail to what is otherwise a pretty basic survey of the area
  • conversation starter: several folks mentioned that neighborhood residents asked them what they were up to, and a couple of those residents even asked how they could get involved and pitch in.

and the most common requests/issues:

  • more categories: it’s always tricky balancing the desire for precision with the need to generalize categories to make the data manageable. We got some helpful feedback on refining our current ways of categorizing sidewalks and intersections.
  • ped counter interface: one of the best ideas we heard was to add a clicker feature to the ped counter option so people could just tick off a new pedestrian each time they saw one rather than remembering the total and updating it at the end. I love this idea; definitely something we’d like to implement.
  • user access: currently you can sign in via twitter or facebook, but people understandably would love to be able to have persistent sign-in so they could log a bunch of data points and have a user account keep up with it all for them.

So what’s next for WALKscope? If you’re in Denver, it’s up and ready for you to use it! We’ll be doing some data visualizations and other reporting from the work we’re doing with Walk Denver, and we’re talking with other organizations who are interested in using it. If you’d like more info on the tool, let us know!

PS: A huge amount of credit is due to the folks at OpenPlans for developing Shareabouts, the platform on which WALKscope is built.


Grist to the mill: can people be seduced into a low carbon lifestyle?

Over the months I have been collaborating with Bill Becker from Natural Capital and Jonathan Arnold from Arnold imaging on a website, exhibit, and suite of resources to help communities imagine a more sustainable future.  The central premise is that people need inspiration, not just dooms-day projections, to be motivated to pursue a more sustainable future and that many of the actions we can take to reduce our ecological footprint, can have multiple quality-of-life benefits.

Jonathan Hiskes with Grist, recently reviewed our beta website, The Future We Want.  He gave us some praise but wrapped up his blog with a healthy dosage of skepticism.

I’m intrigued. I’ve been wondering about this sort of thing and highlighting similar works on the hunch that lots of people are convinced it’s time to move beyond our sputtering fossil-fuel dependence and on to something better… The bigger problem, though, is the same reason Hollywood turns out so many dystopian movies. Danger alerts us, grabs our attention. Danger is sexy. Safety lulls us to sleep. It’s tough to make compelling drama out of a happy-green-prosperous future — even if that’s where we want to live.

I think the October issue of WIRED magazine, highlighting the huge impact the Tesla has had on the electric car industry, is a nice counterpoint to this argument.  Really well designed low carbon/high tech can be fun and enticing.

Nonetheless, I share Hiskes’ skepticism when he challenges any notion that we might be able to convince people to change their lifestyle simply by showing them beautiful 3D renderings of the future.  No doubt, it is going to take much more than that. Getting people to choose a more sustainable path for the future is less about individual choice and more about engaging in a collaborative  process with others. Along the way, people need access to good information to help them see the trade-offs and benefits of different strategies and choices.  That is why we propose a comprehensive suite of tools and resources on this site to assist communities.

Visit our beta site at and send us your comments.  I also encourage you to contribute to the debate emerging on the Grist site.