Estimating pedestrian flow on street networks: revisiting the betweenness metric.

Authors: Andres Sevtsuk*, Harvard University
Topics: Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Urban and Regional Planning, Transportation Geography
Keywords: spatial analysis, urban design, network analysis, pedestrian, walkability, planning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Bourbon Room, Astor, Mezzanine
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There are few indicators of city streets that are as telling about a place as the number of pedestrians using sidewalks. Jan Gehl, the Danish pioneer of empirical pedestrian studies, has relied on the counts of pedestrian engaged in different types of activities over several decades as a key indicator of the success of public spaces and urban policies that support them (Gehl 1987). Many cities desire to increase pedestrian activity on their streets as part of broader sustainability, community building and economic development strategies. Yet planners and urban designers lack tools and methods for measuring, analyzing and predicting pedestrian activity on streets in planned future developments. This paper discusses how the Betweenness centrality index, introduced by Freeman for social networks in 1977, can be adapted for predicting pedestrian activity on spatial networks. Several adjustments and changes are proposed to the index, which is operationalized as part of the Urban Network Analysis toolbox in the Rhinoceros 3D design software environment. The tool allows planners, designers and analysts to model pedestrian flow from a set of origins to a set of destinations along a range of plausible paths, adjusting trip probabilities based on how far the destinations are. We apply the tool to predict the amount of foot-traffic on a range of streets in Cambridge MA during the evening peak hour and demonstrate the validity of the results with observed pedestrian counts at the same locations.

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