Urbanism Next
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Walking

How will new mobility technologies impact walking mode share? How will AVs interact with pedestrians?
Group of people crossing a street in Sapporo, Japan

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

What is driving change?

Change in Parking Demand

Transportation network company (TNC) user surveys suggest that a primary motivator for users to hail a ride is to avoid expensive or scarce parking. Because researchers to date have studied TNCs as a harbinger of a new era of car access and extrapolate those findings to autonomous vehicles (AVs), we could see a significant reduction in parking demand in the future.

Change in Vehicle Miles Travelled

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) may increase or decrease total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the future, although most researchers predict the former, citing research on the impacts of transportation network companies (TNCs) on VMT. VMT may also rise if, for example, AVs circle blocks continuously waiting to pick up their passenger rather than parking.

Shift in Modes

The growth of transportation network companies (TNCs) in the past several years has impacted travel behavior, with preliminary research suggesting that TNCs are among the factors impacting transit ridership. If AVs lower travel costs, potential modal shifts may occur depending on trip distance and purpose.

Competition for the Right-of-Way

Much of parking is currently in the right-of-way (ROW); already, transportation network companies (TNCs), micromobility devices, and expanding goods delivery spurred by e-commerce are increasing the competition for once stagnant curb spaces primarily dedicated to storing individually-owned vehicles. Increased competition for curb space raises questions about whether parking should remain in the right-of-way, or if curb space is better dedicated to other modes or uses, including loading zones.

Future Changes

Pedestrians crossing a busy city street in a crosswalk at night

Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

What Could Happen?

  • Walking mode share could increase if AVs contribute to improved road safety. Travelers are more likely to walk when they feel safe and comfortable, and AVs are expected to deliver safety improvements, which could encourage more active travel in the future if the risks to pedestrians are reduced.
  • Increasing competition for sidewalk space could negatively impact walking mode share. AVs are expected to increase the rates of passengers loading and unloading curbside, which would likely increase general activity on sidewalks. Delivery robots accessing storefronts or residences, and parked micromobility devices may further compete for space with pedestrians and sidewalk users, potentially impacting rates of walk trips if people feel unsafe.
  • Walking mode share might also decrease if the cost of a ride in an AV is low. If the cost of a ride in a fleet-based AV is extremely low, the opportunity for more trips to be taken by vehicle is high, supplanting some trips that might otherwise have been made by walking.

EVIDENCE TO DATE

  • There is some evidence to suggest that TNCs are correlated with a decrease in walk trips. Recent studies of TNCs suggest that the increased ease of on-demand vehicle travel is supplanting a portion of trips that otherwise would have been made by walking. Additional research is needed to better understand potential modal replacement, including when, where, and for what trip purposes people may substitute vehicle travel for walk trips.
  • The growth of e-scooters as a mobility option may affect walking mode share and pedestrian perceptions of safety. In studies of e-scooter riders conducted in Portland, Oregon and Rosslyn, Virginia, 37% and 33% of respondents, respectively, reported that their e-scooter trip would otherwise have been made by walking if scooters were unavailable. As for perceptions of safety, 56% of survey respondents in Rosslyn reported feeling unsafe when walking near e-scooter riders.

Quick facts

Si aliae qui ommolenet que prati aut eossitae optatus daepell uptatur andante comni idebit quid moluptio te am quat facculparum recaecte.

  • In a survey conducted as part of a larger Virginia Tech study, 76% of respondents who had never ridden an e-scooter felt unsafe walking near them.
  • 56% of people are unaware of the laws regarding pedestrian and e-scooter interactions, according to the same Virginia Tech study.

What to do

Si aliae qui ommolenet que prati aut eossitae optatus daepell uptatur andante comni idebit quid moluptio te am quat facculparum recaecte.

Not sure where to start? Below are four What to Do pages that we think are especially relevant to Walking:

More about what to do »

Resources

Policies, pilots, and approaches

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Communication tools

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