Research on School Walkability Published

Over the past 50 years, active commuting to school has declined 35 percent in the U.S. TPO’s Ellen Zavisca teamed up with researchers from the University of Tennessee to explore this issue and how increased connections could impact a student’s ability to walk or bike to school. Their case study, Impacts of Small Changes in Thoroughfare Connectivity on the Potential for Student Walking, was recently published in the Journal of Urban Planning and Development.

Through her involvement with Safe Routes to School, Ellen knew that physical activity and active commuting are associated with increased academic achievement, higher attendance rates, fewer disciplinary actions, increased activity outside of school, and lower body mass index. She had started noticing that kids who live very close to their school were often not in the Parental Responsibility Zone (PRZ) because road networks didn’t provide connections needed to easily get there. The lack of commuting options had resulted in increased traffic from private transportation and busing, increased pollution, and increased costs associated with buses, drivers, and associated expenditures.

To further explore this, the researchers conducted a case study to determine what would happen if there was increased road connectivity around schools in Knox County. Ten Knox County elementary and middle schools, both suburban and rural, were selected for the study. New streets were added to the selected areas to evaluate how they would impact walking to the nearby school.

They found that adding a 600-foot street near a suburban school resulted in:

  • 700 additional residences within the PRZ,
  • 120 more students within the walking distance,
  • 120 students who got 40 more minutes of physical activity each day, and
  • 4 less daily bus trips, resulting in approximately $88,500 saved per year.

Ellen’s partners concluded that retrofitting neighborhoods was the answer, but Ellen’s takeaway was different. Through her experience as a transportation planner, she recognized the benefits that could come from working with developers and school systems on the front end. Doing this could ensure that schools are better connected to their surrounding communities by streets, sidewalks, or footpaths. Creating these connections gives families better access to school walkability and saves the school system significant transportation dollars.

Life-Altering Crash Map Available

Every 13 hours in our region, someone experiences a fatal or serious-injury traffic crash. Staff created a new interactive map that shows where these life-altering crashes occur and sorts them by severity and type.

Between January 2016 and June 2019, 2,326 life-altering crashes occurred in the Knoxville Region. Of those, 321 were fatalities and 2,005 involved a serious injury. This tool helps to better understand where, when and how these types of crashes happen, as well as the impact they have on individuals, families and communities. 

The idea for this mapping and data analysis came from previous work on pedestrian- and bicycle-related traffic crashes. Pedestrian- and bicycle-related crashes account for approximately eight percent of life-altering crashes in the region. Staff wanted to investigate additional crash types to better understand the locations and circumstances in which road users of all types are most at risk.

Several categories of crashes were analyzed for the new map, and in some instances, more than one factor is at play. The categories are: 

  • Single-motor-vehicle-only crashes, which are typically crashes in which one vehicle runs off the road and hits a pole, tree, or other object; 
  • Senior-driver crashes, which involve a driver age 65 or older;
  • DUI crashes, where the police report notes the possible presence of alcohol or drugs in at least one person involved;
  • Teen-driver crashes, which involve a driver between the ages of 13 and 19;
  • Motorcycle-related crashes; and
  • Pedestrian- or bicycle-related crashes.

This data is important to our work on traffic safety. Some crash types occur more often on certain days and times of day; for instance, teen-driver crashes happen most frequently on Wednesday evenings and Friday afternoons, while senior-driver crashes occur most often on weekday afternoons. Many of these crashes also involve alcohol or other drugs, which suggests that the use and abuse of these substances is an important factor. And just 13 roadways in the region account for a large share of life-altering crashes. Addressing these issues requires a broad effort by multiple parties. The TPO helps coordinate those efforts by regularly collaborating with local governments, TDOT, and others to share information.

All of this information – including maps, infographics, reports, and access to raw data – can be found on one web page: knoxtpo.org/crashes

Mobility Plan 2045 Adopted

Mobility Plan 2045 was adopted by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization’s Executive Board this spring. The Plan guides transportation investments in the region for the next 25 years, allowing federal money to be received for transportation projects and ensuring that the best long-term decisions are made for residents, employers, and visitors. It is updated every four years to account for changes in community and regional priorities, technology, project costs, and available funding.

The plan explores current conditions and determines expectations for growth and infrastructure needs in the future. It tries to determine the best ways to continue building prosperity and maintaining a high quality of life for everyone in the region. The goals of the plan are:

  • Make the transportation system safer and more efficient;
  • Reduce air pollution and improve the health of residents;
  • Improve links among transportation modes, infrastructure, and development; and
  • Address equal access to benefits and opportunities.

Last fall, local jurisdictions submitted applications for all potential projects to be included in the plan. To determine which projects to fund and when, the TPO considered the year of expenditure cost, project scoring, funding eligibility, and local priority. Projects were selected and prioritized after consideration of both technical analysis and input from residents, stakeholders, and elected and appointed officials. The result is the funding of 134 roadway, bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects, totaling $4.5 billion, over the next 25 years. The final plan is fiscally constrained, meaning that the cost of all included projects does not exceed the available funding.

In addition to the plan, the Air Quality Conformity Report was also adopted. This report demonstrates that the projects within Mobility Plan 2045 conform to the requirements of the Clean Air Act and that federal funds are not spent on projects that violate, increase the frequency or severity of, or delay timely attainments of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The final documents are available at knoxmobility.org.

RFP Open for Transit Studies

Knoxville-Knox County Planning is soliciting proposals for a consultant team to conduct three transit studies for the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO). The TPO is a Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is an independent agency engaged in the performance of meeting the required federal transportation planning regulations for urbanized areas greater than 50,000 population.  Knoxville-Knox County Planning provides the professional transportation planning staff for the TPO and acts as the contracting agency for grant-funded projects such as for these transit studies.

The studies are:

  1. Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) of Knoxville Area Transit (KAT);
  2. Coordination Study of Knox County CAC Transit, East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA) and KAT;
  3. Urban Area Transit Study that identifies areas that might support higher capacity transit services.

The three studies will be part of one contract with Knoxville-Knox County Planning/TPO. All three studies should be accomplished no more than 12 months after the start of the contract.  The KAT COA will be prioritized as the immediate work effort, but the other studies can be worked on in concert with or shortly after depending on the Consultant’s team, capacity, and the agreed-upon final schedule.

Proposals are due on Friday, June 4, 2021 by 4:00 p.m. EST and must be submitted electronically at: https://knoxplanning.org/rfpLook for the Proposal Submission button on this page.

TDOT Pellissippi Parkway Extension Public Meeting Scheduled

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will host a Virtual Design public meeting from April 15, 2021, to April 29, 2021, to gather public input on the proposed project in Blount County on SR-162 Ext. (Pellissippi Parkway), from SR-33 to SR-73 (US-321).

The virtual meeting will be open to the public at 8:00 am EST on April 15, 2021 and will close at 10:00 pm EST on April 29, 2021.  The website link is: https://gather.cdmsmith.com/v/v8jkyAVO149

More information on the project can be found here: https://www.tn.gov/tdot/projects/projects-region-1/pellissippi.html

Staff Gives Presentation on Pedestrian Safety

The Farragut Board of Mayor and Alderman recently held a workshop on pedestrian safety after recognizing problem intersections along Kingston Pike. They also have future plans for a mixed-use town center that they want to be safe and comfortable for people walking. To address these issues, they invited Ellen Zavisca to give a presentation and guide conversation about pedestrian safety in intersection design. You can watch the full presentation below.