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Montgomery Planning presents Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions Report to Planning Board

March 31, 2022

pedestrian master plan
Report assesses the pedestrian experience in Montgomery County and will inform recommendations for the plan

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented the Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions Report to the Montgomery County Planning Board on March 31, 2022. The Pedestrian Master Plan is a multi-year planning effort using a data-driven and equitable approach to make the pedestrian experience in Montgomery County comfortable, direct, and safe.

Read the Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions Report.
Read the Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions March 31 Staff Report.
Review the presentation of the Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions Report.

The Pedestrian Master Plan is the first time Montgomery Planning has comprehensively assessed the pedestrian experience in a countywide planning process. To prepare the report, planners analyzed regional and national data to understand the state of walking and rolling (using a wheelchair, mobility scooter or other similar device) in Montgomery County. In addition, the project team developed several unique data sources:

  • A statistically valid pedestrian survey to document pedestrian activity and perceptions for the county as a whole and various land use types, sent to 60,000 households.
  • A student travel tally to understand how public-school students arrive to and depart from school, completed by over 70,000 students.
  • A Pedestrian Level of Comfort analysis cataloguing pedestrian conditions along the entirety of the pedestrian transportation network in Montgomery County.

Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions Report key takeaways

Key findings from the report are:

  1. Montgomery County residents make 7.5% of their weekly trips on foot or using a mobility device, while only 2.2% of commute trips take place solely on foot.
  2. 16% of students arrive and 18% of students depart from elementary schools on foot. This percentage decreases in middle school (11%/16%) and high school (8%/12%).
  3. Montgomery County residents with a disability are less satisfied with the pedestrian environment than residents without a reported disability (43% vs. 53%). This disparity is most pronounced along the county’s transit corridors (33% vs. 52%) and in the exurban/rural parts of the county (36% vs. 47%). In urban area, pedestrians with and without disabilities have a similar level of satisfaction (59% vs. 60%).
  4. There are over 2,000 miles of sidewalks in the county, but there are prominent gaps in the sidewalk network along some of the busiest streets in urban areas and along transit corridors, particularly along major highways and arterials.
  5. Many sidewalks along wide, high-speed streets in urban areas and along transit corridors are located directly adjacent to the curb and lack separation from traffic.In fact, nearly half of sidewalks along major highways and 20% of sidewalks on arterial streets lack a buffer between the sidewalk and the street.
  6. Crossings in Montgomery County are generally less comfortable than sidewalks and other pathways. 58% of pathways score as comfortable in the county’s Pedestrian Level of Comfort analysis, while 55% of crossing locations countywide are either uncomfortable or undesirable.
  7. Montgomery County pedestrians are more likely to be killed or severely injured than motor vehicle occupants. While pedestrians in Montgomery County are only involved in 4% of the total crashes, they account for 27% of crashes that result in severe or fatal injury.
  8. While only 14% of the county’s roadway miles are located in Equity Focus Areas (EFAs), 40% of pedestrian crashes and 44% of pedestrian crashes resulting in severe or fatal injury are located in EFAs.
  9. A disproportionate share of severe and fatal pedestrian crashes occurs on relatively few roads, largely in urban areas. 55% of severe and fatal pedestrian crashes countywide occur on the 6% of roads in urban areas that are controlled major highways, major highways, arterials, and business streets.

Equitable Approach to Pedestrian Planning

Equity is a foundational goal of the Pedestrian Master Plan and all data points in the report are evaluated through an equity lens to best understand disparities that may exist, so they can be effectively addressed as plan recommendations are developed.

About the Pedestrian Master Plan

The Pedestrian Master Plan will identify best practices, analyze information from people who walk and roll, and examine ways of improving the pedestrian experience using several analytical tools, including a pedestrian comfort analysis and a crash analysis. The resulting Pedestrian Master Plan will provide county leaders and agencies, such as Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the Department of Permitting Services, recommendations and guidance related to:

  • Prioritization of pedestrian pathways and safe crossings.
  • Pedestrian-supportive policies and operational practices.
  • A pedestrian design toolkit of treatments and operational approaches to traffic calming, signal timing, accessibility features, and more.

Recommendations will support making Montgomery County universally accessible to pedestrians of all ages and abilities with particular attention paid to those pedestrians using mobility devices like wheelchairs or canes. The Pedestrian Master Plan will complement the 2018 Bicycle Master Plan, Thrive Montgomery 2050 (currently under County Council review) and other Vision Zero-related efforts to make streets safer and more accessible, including the 2019 Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan and the 2019 Aspen Hill Vision Zero Study.

About Montgomery Planning’s Equity Agenda for Planning

Montgomery Planning recognizes and acknowledges the role that our plans and policies have played in creating and perpetuating racial inequity in Montgomery County. We are committed to transforming the way we work as we seek to address, mitigate, and eliminate inequities from the past and develop planning solutions to create equitable communities in the future. While it will take time to fully develop a new methodology for equity in the planning process, we cannot delay applying an equity lens to our work. Efforts to date include

  • Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning. The Planning Board approved Equity in Master Planning Framework, and staff is working on action items.
  • Prioritizing equity in Thrive Montgomery 2050. Community Equity is one of the three priority areas of our county General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050.
  • Focusing on equity in upcoming plans. Equity is a central focus of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, the first master plan to launch since Montgomery County’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Act passed. All upcoming plans and studies will have an equity focus.
  • Created an Equity Focus Areas mapping tool and developing a Community Equity Index. Equity Focus Areas in Montgomery County have high concentrations of lower-income people of color, who may also speak English less than very well. Montgomery Planning developed this data-driven tool to identify and map these areas to assess potential racial and social inequities and produce master plans that will foster more equitable outcomes for communities in Montgomery County. The Community Equity Index will expand on the previous Equity Focus Area analysis, creating a more robust, diagnostic tool providing additional detail of critically selected neighborhood characteristics relevant for equity analysis countywide.
  • Viewing management and operations through an equity lens. Our efforts are not limited to the master planning process. Management and operational functions like communications and human resources are developing approaches, tools, plans, and training to ensure that we look at everything through an equity lens.