The Regional Pedestrian Plan is a long range plan for improving existing and implementing proposed pedestrian facilities in the 27 Southeastern Massachusetts cities and towns included in the SRPEDD Region. The plan also contains guidance on design and funding for communities interested in developing facilities.

Planning for adequate and connected pedestrian facilities is essential to regional transportation given the efficiency and positive characteristics of this mode choice. Providing the public with safe infrastructure will not only enhance walking for existing users, but will attract new users. With this Regional Pedestrian Plan, the Southeastern Metropolitan Planning Organization (SMMPO) hopes to drive the expansion and upgrade of pedestrian facilities that will allow and encourage trips by walking and will safely link important destinations to the areas where people live. This plan describes the current pedestrian needs in southeastern Massachusetts and provides a strategy for achieving a walkable south coast.

The 27 communities that make up the SMMPO region vary widely when it comes to walking conditions, from wide open rural areas with no pedestrian facilities, to small towns with intermittent sidewalks and/or compact town centers, to cities with vast sidewalk networks. In order to assess the needs of pedestrians in the region, staff analyzed how the existing walking conditions in the region contribute to walkability, which is the measure of how friendly an area is for walking. Population statistic data shows that almost everyone can benefit from improved pedestrian infrastructure and connectivity, especially traditionally underserved population groups and neighborhoods, older adults and transit users.

Results from a general public survey showed that many of the respondents are interested in walking but also encounter obstacles such as lack of facilities, perception of safety and concern with safely crossing streets. The majority of respondents also replied that they would like more or better sidewalks, followed by feeling safer while walking including better lighting, safer areas, less or slower traffic, better maintenance such as snow removal and improved crossing conditions such as new or improved crosswalks or features to increase the safety of crossing like signage or crossing beacons.

Results from a municipally aimed survey showed that the majority of communities that responded are interested in improving the walkability of their communities. Many of them have plans in place that could improve walking conditions but a good number do not have specific plans and/or are not taking advantage of programs such as the Massachusetts Complete Streets Program that can provide assistance and funding to improve infrastructure. Lack of budget and manpower were identified as the main obstacles to improving and/or maintaining pedestrian related infrastructure.

Walkability and mode choice are heavily influenced by safety conditions. Nationally, statewide and locally pedestrian crashes are on the rise while other types of vehicle related crashes are decreasing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that nationally “On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes” in their 2014 Traffic Safety Facts publication. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association’s 2016 Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State publication notes that pedestrian related crashes now account for the largest proportion in traffic fatalities. 

In Southeastern Massachusetts from 2013 to 2015, there were 814 vehicle crashes involving pedestrians, of which 22 were fatal and 646 resulted in injuries. This shows a 21% increase in total pedestrian crashes and a 24% increase in crashes resulting in an injury from the last period studied, 2010-2012, but a decrease of 24% in crashes resulting in a fatality.

The locations of these crashes are important to note in order to prioritize safety improvements related to pedestrian travel. 263 (32%) of these pedestrian crashes occurred at intersections, while 551 (68%) occurred at mid-block locations. Of the 263 intersection crashes, 81 occurred at signalized intersections, while 181 occurred at unsignalized intersections, accounting for nearly a quarter of all crashes involving pedestrians. This is indicative of the relative safety of signalized intersections for pedestrians and the lack of adequate pedestrian accommodations along roadways and at unsignalized intersections.  The top crash intersections and corridors were identified and are listed in the plan.

Pedestrian transportation facilities that meet ADA guidelines should be an integral part of the overall transportation network. Pedestrian access to transit, community facilities, educational institutions, medical facilities, retail centers and employment centers should become a state and local priority in future transportation planning. To this end, SRPEDD developed a list of Priority Sidewalk Locations and Community Walkability Maps to help communities plan and prioritize pedestrian infrastructure improvements which are included in the plan. SMMPO staff can also provide technical assistance to those communities who wish to plan for pedestrian facilities in their communities.

Major recommendations include improving existing infrastructure, implementing pedestrian infrastructure in high priority areas, improving connectivity to transit and other modes, implementing traffic calming and new safety technology and encouraging or requiring future development to be pedestrian friendly as much as possible, either through the review process or by improving guidelines, policies and regulations.

 

Click here for thee draft version of the SMMPO Regional Pedestrian Plan report.

Contact Jacqueline Jones at (508) 824-1367 or jjones@srpedd.org for more information.

 

 

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