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American Society of Landscape Architects


October 2008 Issue


Research Design Connections
Studies examine what makes subway riders walk, what makes greenways popular, and what makes parking lots safer.

By Sally Augustin and Jean Marie Cackowski-Campbell, ASLA

Research Design Connections

Landscape Architecture, in partnership with the web-based newsletter and daily blog Research Design Connections, uses this column to report current research of interest to landscape architects from a wide array of disciplines. We welcome your comments, suggestions about future topics, and studies you have encountered in your own practice.

Walk or Transfer? Boston Subway Riders Take the Path of Least Resistance

If a subway rider sets out for a destination, but his or her particular train doesn’t go that far, will the rider catch another connection to get there or leave the subway system and walk the rest of the way aboveground?

Using data collected in downtown Boston, researchers Zhan Guo and Joseph Ferreira investigated how the design of pedestrian environments influences that decision. They discovered that pedestrians will opt to walk the remaining distance to their destination if they like the ground-level environment and that they will choose the more desirable walking route, even if it’s longer than less-desirable pedestrian routes.

The researchers evaluated pedestrian environments using five criteria: the presence of parks, coffee shops, and other pedestrian amenities; sidewalk continuity; sidewalk convenience (how easy it is to use and get to); open space; and topography. The researchers statistically analyzed information from riders’ activity logs and trip surveys, combined with transit-route and land-use information, to understand “how riders choose among multiple paths to downtown destinations.”


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