The Colorado Mile Markers: A Report for Kaiser Permanente, Colorado
Why measure active Transportation?
Active transportation—generally referring to purpose-oriented trips by walking or cycling—can be an important component of one’s daily travel. Furthermore, active transportation or active travel (hereafter, AT) has important implications for personal health, livability, and environmental resources. Measuring changes in AT via well-established indicators is particularly relevant in two fields: health and transportation. Those working in the transportation field want to understand the demand for different types of facilities to support sustainable, cost-effective mobility for the entire population. They are also interested in how active transportation links to public transportation. Those in the public health field realize that to only focus on exercise misses much routine physical activity done in the course of commuting, paid work, chores, and errands. Both fields aim to measure aspects of active transportation, but a lack of robust, cost-effective, consensus indicators is preventing progress. standard measures would allow: planners and engineers to better accommodate actual travel demand; public health professionals to better target resources, programs and monitor progress; and decision-makers to direct resources and craft responsible policies that respond to reliable data.
The goal of this project is to help decision-makers (leaders and practitioners) make informed actions regarding active transportation facilities and programs–and to monitor the results of such actions. There are many data collection approaches and indicators in use; there also remain substantial gaps in existing data and lack of standards. This report offers a recommendation for a robust monitoring system to provide decision makers with the information they currently lack and to make it comparable across geographic boundaries.
Kaiser Permanente Colorado commissioned Charlier Associates, in collaboration with Professors Kevin J. Krizek and Ann Forsyth, to perform three tasks:
- Leverage existing inventories of tools and methods, as well as our own data collection, to identify exemplary examples of how to measure active transport; with a particular focus on examples currently used in Colorado. The project focuses on three areas of AT data collection and methods: (a) the overall demand for AT (this area is further broken down into two categories: surveys of populations as a whole and counts of users along facilities); (b) inventories of facilities by type and extent; and (c) methods that assess how places support active travel, including the key issue of safety. It examines the methods in general but also looks at specific examples (e.g., particular surveys or counters).
- Convene experts and stakeholders to advise the best data collection methods to use at a larger scale in Colorado. There are two parts to this task. First is to identify the types of indicators agencies and groups in Colorado need in order to achieve their goals. Working back from the indicators, the second is to uncover a menu of data collection strategies and tools. This is a question of practicality and cost, but is intricately tied to the needs and purposes for collecting information.
- Identify suitable indicators that many organizations can agree to contribute to and use, as agencies currently contribute to and use counts of motorized vehicles, and recommend a menu of instruments or tools for gathering data for these indicators. The project does not actually collect or compile the data, however.
The research involved several different efforts, including: an inventory of best practices in AT measurement and associated data collection efforts in Colorado and nation-wide; in-depth interviews with experts in the field; and convening of local experts in Colorado. Capitalizing on this background information and research, we filtered the results in two steps. We first compiled a master list of 20 indicators that were policy-
relevant, cost-effective, and comprehensive; we also ensured the indicators could be gathered at a local level, are useful for important population groups, and are comparable with national data efforts. We winnowed these 20 to identify those that are easiest to monitor, consistent with national level research and benchmarking efforts, and most likely to be useful, given input during the project and experience among the research team. These resulting eight indicators create the aT mile markers.
AT Mile Markers
The prioritized indicators—the AT mile markers—correspond with key sections in the report and are presented below.
- Demand for AT at the Population Level:
- WT: number of walk trips per capita
- BT: number of bicycle trips per capita
- Demand for AT at the Facility Level:
- AT-W: average traffic-walking
- AT-B: average traffic-bicycling
- Facility supply for AT:
- FM-W: facility miles for walking by class of facility
- FM-B: facility miles for bicycling by class of facility
- Community environment supports for AT (including a safety component):
- Colorado Ped score
- Colorado bike score
Monitoring the AT Mile Markers
There are a variety of potential data sources to consider when implementing the AT Mile Markers.
- State-level population: For ongoing monitoring, add questions to an existing national population-based survey such as the Behavioral Risk Factor surveillance system coordinated by the CDC. This would use what are considered to be “best practice,” “reliable,” and easily comparable questions akin to those in the survey for the Front Range Travel Counts or National Household Travel survey.
- Local-level population: To obtain better data about local changes conduct a rolling and/or competitively awarded set of local-level randomly sampled surveys (likely using mail-out/mail-back and internet options). This is inexpensive, can reach a wide population, and can be conducted as a one-off or as ongoing surveillance.
- Local-level population: leverage new technologies (such as applications and GPs on smart phones or bikes) by developing an experimental program. This could also involve GPs-assisted travel surveys.
- Facility use: enhance and standardize automated monitoring of facilities such as paths and sidewalks. examples include in-ground and infrared sensors, and traffic cameras.
- Facility provision: Create and update a state-level database of off-road facilities for walking and cycling and facilities on principal roadways. A consistent, statewide classification of such facilities will aid in this activity.
- Safety: Centralize collection of data on bicycle and pedestrian accidents and injuries.
- Supports: An experimental program of rating for pedestrian and cycling friendliness using widely available data (census, roads, facilities) akin to Walkscore. com. These indicators, the Colorado Walk score and the Colorado Bike score, would help communities understand the degree to which AT is supported.
The full report details the measurement approaches and instruments, and their alternatives. It also outlines specific indicators that can be derived from these instruments.
Selected Next Steps
These AT Mile Marker recommendations are only as strong as their implementation. If implemented successfully over time, they will have a significant impact upon the ability of those in the fields of transportation and health to make informed decisions that will lead to more people walking and biking and to a healthier population. The research and outreach associated with this project led to the following near-, mid-, and long-term recommendations to successfully implement the AT Mile Markers throughout Colorado communities.
Engage Leaders and Stakeholders. successful implementation will involve engagement of key leaders, such as elected and appointed officials, boards of directors and foundations, in this process at key points in time. This project is not yet fully funded. Diverse funding sources will ensure long-term sustainability. This project will require innovation funds as well as funding sources associated with existing systems. Additionally, decision-makers need to be aware of the opportunities associated with this work and see the need for the AT Mile Markers in decision-making.
Form the Colorado AT Mile Marker Partnership. Building on the partnerships emerging from this project, create state and locally-focused committees to implement the next steps described here. This partnership should include representatives from all the fields and agencies mentioned in this report, from both public and private entities. These partnerships would prime Colorado for becoming a demonstration case for future national policy recommendations and implementation strategies.
Develop a strategic plan for implementation. Using the recommendations here and the input of the Co AT Partnership, determine best and most feasible strategy to make sure improved data collection can and does happen.
Create an Interactive AT Mile Marker Website. Under the guidance of the Colorado AT Partnership, an AT Mile Marker website would provide key implementation guidance and support, including a description of the indicators and how to use them, an AT data repository or clearinghouse, and additional resources needed to support those planning and monitoring AT. This site would house the Colorado Ped score and the Colorado Bike score, upon development.
Identify Targeted Projects to Refine Indicators and Implementation Steps. Under the guidance of the AT Partnership, look for opportunities for collaboration on new or expanded data collection efforts. Technology can provide information that has not been previously available or affordable and should be considered among these opportunities. GPs information, made available voluntarily through smartphones or tracking devices, can provide valuable information for AT professionals.
Create a Colorado Ped/Bike Score Task Force. There is a need to develop a tool that measures pedestrian and cycling friendliness using multiple inputs, including facility provision, network connectivity, community supports and safety. This task force should be multi-disciplinary in order to capture all elements of transportation, such as planning, engineering and human behavior. Communities could use this tool to measure the degree to which AT is supported on a local level.
Implement a Colorado Ped Score and Colorado Bike Score. Implementation of this tool would include the development of and promotion of an interactive website, which calculates Ped scores and Bike scores based on several inputs, as well as guidance on using the tool.
Incorporate Active Transportation Data into Mainstream Traffic Data Collection Efforts. Integration of AT data with automobile data is a critical step to integrate AT into all business and decision-making processes. To do this, it is important to seek traction at the state level for funding and organizational support, and to make AT data part of decision-making inputs.