Walksheds in the District and Maryland. Image by Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments.

Planners have a new tool to understand the barriers people face when walking to a central destination, such as a train station. Analyzing a “walkshed,” the area around a transit stop that’s reachable on foot for the average person, can help planners understand how to make them more accessible.

Planners assume the average person will walk about 10 minutes to get to a transit destination, which is about a half mile in a straight line. If you map that out, the area around a transit station where the average person would be willing from walk forms a circle. In practice however, there are many things that could make that trip take longer.

(Left) Much of the area around the Shady Grove station is cut off by Frederick Road, so only 17% of the area within a half mile of this station is walkable. (Right) Around the Clarendon Metro Station there are small blocks and a variety of paths to transit, so more than 70% of the radius is walkable. Image by Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments.

In the real world, sidewalks may be missing or barriers like highways can obstruct a direct path and force people walking to go out of their way. These “constrained walksheds,” which reflect the more limited reality for people walking, can be expanded with better pedestrian infrastructure.

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) is has released an interactive walkshed map here. It includes walksheds for all 199 high capacity transit stations in the Washington region, including Metrorail, commuter rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit stops. Since the map is online and public, anyone else around the region can use it too.

TPB is using this analysis to identify station areas with deficient walking and bicycling infrastructure so they can be improved. It’s part of a new TPB project to support the region’s long-range transportation plan called Visualize 2045.

Readers: What do you notice about the walkshed map?

Julie Strupp is Greater Greater Washington's Managing Editor. She's written for DCist, Washingtonian, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and others. You can usually find her sparring with her judo club, pedaling around the city, or hanging out on her Columbia Heights stoop.