Conditions for pedestrians along existing roads and bridges have wide-ranging impacts on whether public transportation services are used, whether students walk to school, whether people walk to local services, and whether people walk for general health. Over the years, sidewalks have not been included on many arterial, collector, or even local roads and bridges on the United States road network. Where sidewalk segments do exist along roadways, they are often not connected, leaving the sidewalk networks fragmented. The accessibility of the road system for pedestrians is inhibited not only by the lack of sidewalks, but also on other missing facilities such as safe crossing areas and waiting areas for transit services.
The lack of adequate bicycle facilities has also been an issue. While bicyclists can take advantage of the existing roadway system, there are situations in which improved facilities would be particularly beneficial. These situations may involve younger and inexperienced riders or areas where there are large differentials in speed between bicycle and vehicular traffic (e.g., high speed rural roads and freeways).
When needs are addressed with limited resources, the basic steps to fulfilling these needs include identifying the problem, quantifying the problem, identifying cost-effective solutions, prioritizing needs, securing funding, and ensuring implementation. These steps are well established for new highway projects at the federal, state, and local levels, where well-developed methodologies, processes, and dedicated funding sources exist to improve conditions for vehicular traffic. However, such processes are rarely in place to add or improve pedestrian or bicycle facilities to the existing roadway network. In fact, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist facilities that would benefit from retrofitting is largely unknown. Furthermore, walking and biking needs are often considered jointly within an organization, although the needs of each may be quite different.
Under NCHRP Project 07-17, a research team led by the Toole Design Group developed ActiveTrans, a prioritization tool and guidebook based on an extensive review of research and in-depth interviews. ActiveTrans takes the user through a prioritization process using 10 essential steps: defining the purpose of the prioritization exercise, selecting factors that reflect agency and community objectives, assigning weights to the various factors, selecting variables that can be measured, assessing available data, assessing available technical resources, setting up the tool, measuring and inputting data, scaling the variables to ensure they are comparable, and creating a list of projects in priority ranking. The draft methodology was pilot tested in 11 separate agencies, and the feedback acquired was used to enhance and refine the final version. The final report is available as NCHRP report 803.