National Pedestrian Design

IHCD's involvement in public transit and pedestrian design has been a constant in its history. Projects have included consulting on accessibility with major public transit systems in a number of states, direct participation in design teams contracted to design new or renovated accessible stations, preparing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Guide to Access manual, and, in 2004, published Getting Around Boston, A Guide to Riding the MBTA for People of All Abilities. Since 1998, IHCD has had a priority on promoting universal design at the urban scale through the Neighborhoods Fit for People project. Starting in 2004, IHCD became the pedestrian consultant on surface restoration for the Central Artery/Tunnel project, the largest, most complex and expensive public realm project in US history. Through all of this work, we have found that issues of the quality and usability of pedestrian design dominate our attention and have taught us when and why problems arise. We conducted a conference, Streets Fit for People, in collaboration with WalkBoston in 2001 and have built extensive relationships nationally and internationally to understand the state-of-the-art. We have undertaken user research locally.

This initiative speaks directly to the core frustration of this work. There is excellent guidance, especially from the US Access Board, but there are a number of gaps related to installation practices, testing and specification of materials and to on-going maintenance. Those gaps offer a manageable set of priorities for further research. The most significant impediment to good practice is knowledge and understanding by the diverse sector that make decisions: government transportation and public transit agencies, and trade and professional organizations. Building bridges between those responsible parties and the disability, elder and advocacy sectors who understand the needs and benefits of good pedestrian design is the heart of the solution.