The willingness to walk somewhere falls off drastically at about half a
mile, although some people can be counted to walk up to two miles for all sorts of purposes (they know about me)
One's willingness to walk is shaped by what alternatives are
available, what the destination is and who the person is. In the 1970s, most people were willing to walk at least 1/3 of a mile (1,760 feet) to a rapid transit or commuter rail station, but few people would walk over 1000 feet to a local transit bus stop.
People place different value on time -- for transit planning, time spent transferring between lines is considered to be at least three times more onerous than time traveling in a vehicle or even stopped in a vehicle. (Drivers are the same -- time stopped at a traffic light takes much longer to pass than time traveling.) From this one can assume that a pedestrian would find time waiting at a traffic light more annoying than time walking.
The importance of waiting time is in fact so great that it has become the basis for determining level of service at intersections for motor vehicles. I like to explain to people that when you are driving on a side street at 2 in the morning and you just miss the signal activation period at an intersection with an arterial highway where the cycle length is 90 seconds or more, you will have to wait at least 90 seconds to start moving. You may not see another vehicle during that entire period -- the volume to capacity ratio is probably on the order 0.02 -- but you have experienced Level of Service F. Furthermore, you will be filled with annoyance, if you don't fall asleep first.
I have long thought it would be interesting to conduct similar studies to determine how long in fact pedestrians are willing to wait at a red light before the start to cross -- my personal observation is that
pedestrians have a tolerance for waiting at a signal of about 30
seconds. Wait longer than that, especially if there are no cars on the roadway, and people will walk against the light.
Another important thing to be aware of from the Zupan/Pushkarev research. People will actually travel longer distances and for longer times in order to pass through a more enjoyable environment. The team discovered that people would travel up to 10 minutes longer on subway trips in order to make a transfer at a station that had been aesthetically designed with public artwork, good lighting and benches (I think -- actually, I can't remember what the amenities were other than public art) From this I learned that you can make people want to choose to walk a reasonable distance if you make the walk attractive and if you make it appear to be the most reasonable choice. (Conversely, when you place a large parking lot in front of a retail store, most people will choose to drive there).
Pedestrians will not follow a path that seems to take them out of their way or forces them to walk a longer distance. However,
people are willing walk longer distances, even circuitous routes,
if they believe it is the most efficient way to get someplace. Retailers play tricks on shoppers all the time to get them to do just that.
So -- based on Z/P's research and my observations, I'd say that
time is much more important than distance in affecting a person's willingness to walk,
and the perception of time and the quality of the environment are much more important than actual time.
Source: Email to America Walks from Charles
Carmalt Transportation Planner Lawrenceville, NJ
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2005 12:17 AM Subject: Re: time vs distance - people willingness to walk