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This manual, initially developed for work on an grant funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research program provides protocols for measuring environmental variables associated with walking. It was initially developed to document likely measures used by various RWJF grantees.  It has been updated several times for different studies including the TREC-IDEA, ECHO, and EAT-III.

The manual is in seven sections.

  • Chapter 1, on conceptual issues, deals with the organization of the manual, how it was produced, data sources, and measurement geographies.
  • Chapter 2 includes protocols for measuring items that are not in themselves possible measures of walkability, but that are components of such measures. An example is land area.
  • Chapters 3 though 7 look in turn at measurements of density, pedestrian infrastructure, mixed use, street patterns, and other variables related to the built environment and traffic.
  • Appendices and references are at the end of the manual.

Companion Link: TREC-IDEA GIS Manual: Measuring the Environments of Youth

Environment and Physical Activity GIS Protocols Manual:

Table of Contents: Ver. 2.2 (July 2005)

  • 1. CONCEPTUAL ISSUES
    Chapter by: Ann Forsyth (major draft), Michael Oakes (statistics and sampling), Kathryn Schmitz (measurement); fact checking by Joel Koepp (data), Jason Zimmerman (data).

    • 1.1 Protocol Purposes and Audiences
    • 1.2 Organization of the Protocols Manual
      • Additional Information on this version of the manual
    • 1.3 The Context of the Manual: The Twin Cities Walking Study
    • 1.4 Steps in Developing the Manual
    • 1.5 Data
      • Problems
      • U.S. Census
      • MetroGIS
      • Ramsey County, Cities in Ramsey County, and I-35W Corridor Coalition
      • Excensus
      • Digitized Street Trees, Street Lamps, and Sidewalks
      • Irvine-Minnesota/Modified Boarnet-Day Inventory
    • 1.6 Measurement Units
    • 1.7 Measurement Logistics
    • 1.8 General Measurement Geographies
    • 1.9 Creating the Initial Focus/Context Area Study Geography for the Twin Cities Walking Study
      • Major Decisions
      • Deciding to Look at the Residential Environment
      • Deciding to Recruit from and Measure Specific Places Rather than Sampling People from Across the Metropolitan Area
      • Using a Grid to Demarcate Neighborhoods Rather than using “Natural” Neighborhoods, Census Geographies, etc.
      • Stratifying by Density and Street Pattern, Rather than Other Factors such as Mixed Use or Pedestrian Infrastructure
      • Things We Would do Differently
    • 1.10 Definitions of Terms
  • 2. FUNDAMENTAL PROTOCOLS AND PROCEDURES
    Chapter by: Ann Forsyth (drafting, conceptual issues and formulae, some comments and GIS approach text); Joel Koepp and Jason Zimmerman (GIS Steps and the rest of the comments and GIS approach text)

    • Background
    • 2.1 Net Land Area (without water)
    • 2.2 Gross Area (including water)
    • 2.3 Creating a Focus Area Sampling Grid and Sampling Extreme Areas (followed by randomly sampling addresses)
    • 2.4 Measurement Geography Type 1: Grid Cell
    • 2.5 Measurement Geography Type 2: Straight Line or Airline Buffer
    • 2.6 Measurement Geography Type 3: Network or Street Distance Buffer
    • 2.7 Measurement Geography Type 4: Straight Line or Airline Distance to Nearest Feature
    • 2.8 Measurement Geography Type 5: Network or Street Distance to Nearest Feature
    • 2.9 Measurement Geography Type 6: Parcel of Residence
  • 3. DENSITY
    Chapter by: Ann Forsyth (drafting, conceptual issues and formulae, some comments and GIS approach text) and Joel Koepp (GIS Steps and the rest of the comments and GIS approach text).

    • Background
    • 3.1 Raw Population per Unit Land Area
    • 3.2 Population per Unit Land Area (without water)
    • 3.3 Population per Developed Land Area
    • 3.4 Residential Population in Residential Parcels (Residential Density)
    • 3.5 Population plus Employment per Unit Land Area (excluding water)
    • 3.6 Employment per Unit Land Area
    • 3.7 Housing Units per Unit Land Area (gross, census data)
    • 3.8 Lot Coverage
    • The following variables are not proposed to be used in the study, so only a detailed formula is included
    • 3.9 Housing Units per Unit Land Area (parcel data) Not Used in Study
    • 3.10 Housing Units per Unit Residential Land Area Not Used in Study
    • 3.11 Households per Unit Land Area (excluding water) Not Used in Study
  • 4. PEDESTRIAN INFRASTRUCTURE
    Chapter by: Ann Forsyth (drafting, conceptual issues and formulae, some comments and GIS approach text) and Joel Koepp (GIS Steps and the rest of the GIS approach/comments text) 62
    Background

    • 4.1 Sidewalk Length per Unit Area
    • 4.2 Sidewalk Length Divided by Road Length
    • 4.3 Sidewalk Length per Length of Major Road
    • 4.4 Street Lights per Length of Road
    • 4.5 Street Trees (trees within an X distance buffer) per Length of Road
    • Note, the next variables use data from an urban design inventory that uses sample data and may need to be modified for 100% data
    • 4.6 Percent of Street Segments with Marked Pedestrian Crossings at One or Both Ends
    • 4.7 Percent of Street Segments with Visible Litter, Graffiti, or Dumpsters
    • 4.8 Percent of Street Segments with Traffic Calming, Broadly Defined
    • 4.9 Other fieldwork based measurements of neighborhood identification, street crossing, street characteristics, views, land uses, barriers, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, mid block crossing, steepness, sidewalk amenities, street trees, buildings, windows, other features of buildings, garages, parking, driveways, maintenance, lighting, freeways, traffic features, architecture/design
    • 4.10 Distance to Nearest Transit Stop
    • 4.11 Transit Stop Density
    • The following variables are not proposed to be used in the study, so only a detailed formula is included
    • 4.12 Percentage of Blocks with Full Length Sidewalks
    • 4.13 Percentage of Blocks with Street Lights
  • 5. LAND USE MIX
    Chapter by: Ann Forsyth (drafting, conceptual issues and formulae, some comments and GIS approach text) and Jason Zimmerman (GIS Steps, many comments/GIS approach text). Reference to additional materials by the team of Active Living Research grantees at the University of North Carolina, led by Daniel Rodriguez

    • Background
    • 5.1 Percentage of Total Parcel Area in Major Land Uses (seven land uses in this case)5.2 Percentage of Land Area in Night Time Uses
    • 5.3 Percentage of Land Area in Social Uses
    • 5.4 Percentage of Land Area in Retail Uses
    • 5.5 Percentage of Land Area in Industrial and Auto-Oriented Uses
    • 5.6 Proportion of Dissimilar Land Uses Among Grid Cells by Cell, Formula 1
    • 5.7 Proportion of Dissimilar Land Uses Among Grid Cells in an Area, Formula 1
    • 5.8 Dissimilarity Index, Formula 2 (new in Ver. 2.1)
    • 5.9 Entropy Index (new in Ver. 2.1)
    • 5.10 Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, HHI (new in Ver. 2.1)
      • Employment Per Unit Land Area (see 3.6 in density section)
    • 5.11 Retail Employment per Unit Area
    • 5.12 Density of Employees in Major Retail Subcategories (Separate Measures)
      • General Merchandise (old SIC 53xx)
      • Food Stores (54xx)
      • Eating and Drinking Places (58xx)
      • Miscellaneous Retail (59xx)
    • 5.13 Distance to Nearest Facility with Employees in Major Retail Subcategories (Separate Measures)
      • General Merchandise (old SIC 53xx)
      • Food Stores (54xx)
      • Eating and Drinking Places (58xx)
      • Miscellaneous Retail (59xx)
    • 5.14 Distance to Nearest Facility for Comparison with NQLS Survey
    • 5.15 Gravity Measure with Competition (new in Ver. 2.1)
  • 6. STREET PATTERN
    Chapter by: Ann Forsyth (drafting, conceptual issues and formulae, some comment text) and Jason Zimmerman (all the terrific illustrations, most comments, GIS Steps and the GIS approach text); comment text represents discussions between Ann Forsyth, Joel Koepp, and Jason Zimmerman.

    • Background
    • 6.1 Average Census Block Area
    • 6.2 Median Census Block Area
    • 6.3 Ratio of Area within X Street Distance to Area within X Distance Radius
    • 6.4 Number of Access Points
    • 6.5 Road Length per Unit Area
    • 6.6 Intersections per Unit Area
    • 6.7 Ratio of 4-Way Intersections to All Intersections
    • 6.8 4-way Intersections per Unit Land Area
    • 6.9 Ratio of 3-way Intersections to All Intersections
    • 6.10 Connected Node Ratio
    • 6.11 Median Perimeter of Block
    • The following variables are not proposed to be used in the study, so only a brief description and detailed formula are included
    • 6.12 Link-Node Ratio
  • 7. OTHER BUILT ENVIRONMENT RELATED/SPATIAL VARIABLES
    Initial outline by Ann Forsyth

    • Overview
    • Work Environments
    • Crime
    • Climate and Air Quality
    • Traffic
    • 7.1 Traffic Levels Along Nearby Arterials
  • 8. DATA STORAGE AND SHARING
    By Jason Zimmerman, Joel Koepp, with Ann Forsyth

    • Steps/problems with obtaining our data
    • Storing/Sharing data
    • Tracking changes/updates
    • Other issues
    • Projections
    • Converting Measures: Blocks and Minutes to Meters
  • APPENDICES
    • Appendix 1A: I-35W Corridor Coalition Land Use Metadata (could have other Metadata)
    • Appendix 1B: Excensus Metadata
    • Appendix 1C: GIS Digitizing and Fieldwork for Street Trees, Street Lamps, and Sidewalks. 176
      By Joel Koepp
    • Appendix 1D: Matrix of Measures by Measurement Geography Used in Twin Cities Walking Study
    • Appendix 1E: Other Data and Measurement Issues
      • 1. Projections
      • 2. Transformation of Raw Data to Final Form
    • Appendix 1F: Detailed instructions for Downloading and Cleaning Census Data
    • Appendix 4A: Modified Boarnet-Day Inventory, Now the Irvine-Minnesota Urban Design Inventory
    • Appendix 5A: Ramsey County Land Use Codes
    • Appendix 5B: I-35W Corridor Coalition Land Use Codes
    • Appendix 5C: Determining Land Uses for Context Areas and Buffers
      By Jason Zimmerman
  • REFERENCES

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