How Far Will You Walk to Transit?

Find out at this week’s PSU seminar

Portland State University
Center for Transportation Studies
Spring 2006 Transportation Seminar Series

Join us for two excellent presentations by PSU MURP Candidates!

Sumi Malik: Exploring Factors Influencing Perceived Walking Distance to Light Rail Transit Stations Erin Wilson: Employer Incentives and Mode Choice

When: Friday, May 26, 2006, 12:00-1:30 pm
Where: 204 Urban Center (

5 responses to “How Far Will You Walk to Transit?”

  1. Hmm, this question has always intrigued me. It seems to have different anwers depending on how you ask it.

    Is the question, how far away can you build really transit-dependent development? That is, buildings with no on-site parking requirements, where presumably the lions share of their occupants take transit, walk or bike to and fro? This might seem to be a third-of-a-mile radius.

    Is the question, how far away can you build developments that are transit-oriented, but not perhaps 100% transit-dependent? This would seem to be more like a half-mile walking radius.

    Is the question, how far might somebody conceivably walk from their house to transit, without beginning to think seriously of another alternative? If the scenery is interesting along the way, this would seem to be more of an average one-mile walking radius.

    …but some people just like to walk. So, there are probably larger distances that will be reported, too.

    I hope any findings from the conference get re-posted here.


  2. The standard pedestrian shed (distance most people will walk) for a Traditional Neighborhood Development or a Transit-Oriented-Development is 1/4 mile, a five minute walk for most people. This is the distance people are willing to walk for most day to day items. The density is greatest at the center, least at the edges.

    If you look at nearly all the small towns in the United States, they measure 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile, so everybody lives within a 5 minute walk to the center of town. In larger cities, like Chicago, older transit systems make stops every 1/2 mile and you’ll notice that the boundaries between neighborhoods are also 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile. A mile seems rather unreasonable as that’s a 20 minute walk. Although this could be different in a biking city.

    I would suggest that most commuters would also have the 5 minute walk in mind (or out of mind). Of course this depends on the regional culture. A New Yorker is probably more willing to walk farther than a suburbanite from Iowa. Garlynn is right about the scenery. If it’s not pleasant to walk from point A to point B, a person will tend to notice that it takes a long time to get there.

    I worked on a project with Andrews University for small town county seat Plymouth, Indiana. They have a beautiful Midwest Courthouse Square, but the rest of town was thinning out and becoming less walkable. The courthouse had a perceived parking problem and employees refused to walk the two blocks to the county-owned parking lot, so they slowly bought up and bulldozed the houses fronting the square to provide closer parking. If it were a nice walk, they probably wouldn’t have had a problem.

  3. The way I figure if I will walk to transit is based on two things. How long will I have to wait once I’m there and how fast will it get me to where I am going. The second one also is effected by whether I can walk to my end destination.

    One clause, I will walk MUCH farther than most people to get to transit. Even by Portland standards.

    If I’m walking to something that is extremely slow, such as the streetcar, or a downtown only bus, I’ll walk maybe 1-3 blocks at the most if I’m going 15-20 blocks away. Otherwise I’ll just walk.

    If I’m going from Riverplace to 23rd on the streetcar, I’ll walk 4-8 blocks to get to the streetcar or a slow downtown bus to get there. If more than that I’ll just walk.

    If I have to go to Beaverton from the downtown core I’ll walk 20 blocks to get to the MAX daily (which I do).

    I think the scenary, nice air, and hospitable people are worth far more than the 20 minutes a day it would save to drive. I also find that since I am forced to pay for public transit costs since I’m in the top 10% bracket that I might as well use the service. I save somewhere to the tune of 18-20,000 dollars per year from not having a car (That’s my previous average expenditure based on car price, insurance, etc., etc).

    That 18-20k ads up to a lot of trips, nights out on the town, and general piddling about.


  4. Hello all,

    I live in Portland, but am in Houston for a few days…and I’ll tell you what…I am much more willing to walk further in Portland than I am here in Houston. Why? well, the sidewalks here come and go in no particular order I can figure. The lights change while I’m still in the cross walk and the “walking path” goes from somewhat nice, to under a seedy overpass with -no camping- signs and pedestrian islands where you may as well be standing on a pizza box on the banfield. hmmm. am I exaggerating due to the humidity and heat? perhaps.

    main point= It felt like I walked 5 miles here in Houston when I probably walked a mile…and I love to walk.

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