Feb 5, 2024 - News

Walking trips decline in Austin

Daily walking trips per 1,000 people in 2022
Data: StreetLight Data; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

There's been a staggering decline in the number of trips Austin residents take by putting one foot in front of the other, per a new report, writes Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj.

Driving the news: The number of annual average daily walking trips per 1,000 people in the Austin metro area dropped 37.5% between 2019 and 2022, per a new StreetLight Data report.

  • There were 200 average daily walking trips per 1,000 people in 2022, compared to 320 in 2019.
  • That's an even steeper decline than the national average, which dropped 36% during the same period.

How it works: StreetLight measures travel behavior based on anonymized data from mobile devices, vehicle GPS systems and more.

  • For this analysis, one "walking trip" is any trip taken by foot that is more than 250 meters — about 820 feet — from start to finish.

Zoom in: Austin officials have worked to make the city more walkable in recent years, creating a "Shared Streets" pilot program in some neighborhoods to slow traffic and improving pedestrian access around Zilker Park.

  • City Council members in November also approved updates to Austin's urban trails, bicycle and sidewalk plans to try to increase how many people walk, bike or take public transit.

What they're saying: It's clear that the pandemic had an impact, StreetLight says. But beyond that, the group isn't sure what's keeping Americans off their feet.

  • Some of this could be remote work, which can make it all too easy to become overly sedentary.
  • And some of it could be part of the downtown recovery story — if a city has fewer restaurants, shops and other businesses open, there's less reason for locals and visitors to have a walkabout.
  • "In every metro and state that StreetLight analyzed, walking trips declined over the three-year period by at least 20%," per the report.

The bottom line: "For communities focused on safety, climate, health and equity initiatives, an all-hands-on-deck strategy across safety, transit, land use and more will be needed to increase walking activity," per StreetLight's report.

Dig deeper: Walking plummets across America

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