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Seattle Sidewalk Survey Update

SDOT started planning the first ever comprehensive survey of Seattle’s sidewalks in December 2016 – and we are almost done! As of August 24, 2017, we’ve inspected 95% of the city’s sidewalks!

This sidewalk assessment project is just one piece of the puzzle in implementing the City of Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan (PMP). The PMP aims to transform Seattle into the most accessible and walkable city in the nation and improve safety for everyone, as well as make walking routes more accessible to all ages and abilities. At some point during the day, almost every Seattle resident becomes a pedestrian!

What Did We Find?

So far we found: 87,559 uplifts, 36,232 surface conditions, and 19,332 obstructions. Uplifts are the most common irregularities in our sidewalks and can happen when one piece of sidewalk rises above another.

Seattle’s sidewalks, with a replacement value of approximately $5.3 billion dollars, are one of Seattle’s most valuable assets. Maintaining and improving these sidewalks is essential for a healthy, growing city. It’s key for us to know what the conditions are so that we can equitably manage and prioritize sidewalk work across the city, and not just where people call in to report an issue.

Who Did the Inspecting?

SDOT hired 14 college interns to take on the overwhelming task of walking over 2,300 miles of city sidewalks looking for sidewalk cracks, gaps, obstructions, and other features like benches and rear bus pads. Armed with electronic levels, fluorescent safety vests, mini iPads, and lots of sunscreen, our interns hit the streets in late May. They observe conditions where people walk that might be more challenging for some living with vision-impairment, or for those navigating in wheeled mobility devices, like wheelchairs.

What We’ll Do with the Data

We’re developing a model that prioritizes sidewalk repairs based on safety, mobility impacts, cost, and use like transit, hospital, and connections to key locations.  We’re hopeful that the information can be used to increase funding, and heighten awareness about the need for sidewalk repairs. In many cases, the city will partner with homeowners, community members, and businesses to improve sidewalk conditions. This might be as simple as clipping back overgrown vegetation, clearing gravel, or grinding an uplift.

This new wealth of condition information will greatly improve our already existing Curb Ramp Map & Accessible Route Planner, which can be used to plan convenient routes that follow sidewalk surfaces without major slope and obstruction issues, and provide access to curb ramps.

The survey should be complete by the end of September, when students head back to school. This data collection is ahead of schedule and already greatly benefiting the city’s planning efforts for new Bus Rapid Transit (BRTs), the Georgetown Mobility Study, and key connections.