Paper: Marked crosswalks in US transit-oriented station areas, 2007–2020
Meiqing Li, City & Regional Planning
Improving the built environment to support walking is a popular strategy to increase urban sustainability and walkability. In the past decade alone, many US cities have implemented crosswalk visibility enhancement programs as part of road safety improvements and active transportation plans. However, there are no systematic ways of measuring and monitoring the presence of key built environment attributes that influence the safety and walkability of an area, such as marked crosswalks. Furthermore, little is known about how these attributes change over time at a national scale. In this paper, we introduce an innovative approach using a deep learning-based computer vision model on Street View images to identify changes in intersection-level marked crosswalks around more than 4,000 US transit stations over a 14-year period. We found an increase in the overall number of marked crosswalks at intersections. Furthermore, high-visibility crosswalks became more common, as they replaced existing parallel-line crosswalks. We further examine crosswalks around transit stations in New York City and San Francisco to illustrate geographic variations and compare associations with other characteristics of the built environment as reported in the Smart Location Database. Areas with increases in high-visibility crosswalks focused on high density residential areas and areas with a higher percent of zero-vehicle households. However, geographic variations exist. For example, in San Francisco, transit station areas outside downtown or major corridors (South and Southwest of the city) had the lower prevalence of marked crosswalks. This analysis confirms important gaps in crosswalk visibility that call for safety enhancements and opens the door for additional research involving these data. We conclude by discussing the limitations and future research opportunities using computer vision to automatically detect large-scale transportation infrastructure changes at a relatively low cost.
Paper originally published in Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science