Bushes obstructed a sidewalk along the audit route; Source: Michael Baker Jr., Inc.

On Thursday, May 23rd, NJAIM attended a walkability audit of six selected corridors in Elizabeth.  This examination was conducted by the YMCA of Eastern Union County, Elizabeth Branch and Michael Baker Jr., Inc., with assistance from the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center.  Also participating in the audit were New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), Meadowlink, Groundwork Elizabeth, the City of Elizabeth, and the Elizabeth Police Department.   A ShapingNJ grant, awarded to the YMCA of Eastern Union County, funded the audit in an effort to promote physical activity in New Jersey through healthier lifestyles.  The audit sought to identify deficiencies and barriers that limit walkability in the study area and highlight opportunities to enhance connectivity, mobility, and safety.

A total of 16 people (split into 3 groups) audited the six major transportation corridors.  These corridors were selected through a comprehensive process that included public participation and data collection and analysis. Each group walked their designated corridors and observed sidewalk conditions, road widths, driver habits and the general surroundings. Auditors also noted the presence of ADA-compliant curb ramps, marked crosswalks and pedestrian signals at intersections.  Special attention was paid to complex intersections and other barriers to pedestrian movement.  After the audit was complete, each group discussed the issues that they encountered and determined a rating for each corridor.  A score (1 – 6) was determined for each of the following five categories to produce a total walkability score, with 30 being the maximum attainable: Did you have room to walk? Was it easy to cross the streets? Did drivers behave well? Was it easy to follow safety rules? Was your walk pleasant?

Ambassador Andrew Bomberger presented his group's walkability audit findings

Each team presented their findings and summarized the major issues present in each corridor.  Following the presentation of the individual corridors, the entire group discussed common themes and conditions present throughout the city.  Among these were a lack of crosswalks and pedestrian signals, inadequate sidewalks, illegally parked vehicles, and unnecessarily wide streets.  These issues and deficiencies will be formally summarized in a report by Michael Baker Jr., Inc., which will be presented to the YMCA of Eastern Union County. The recommendations in the report can be used to improve the pedestrian environment in these corridors, enhance walkability and reduce the likelihood of pedestrian-vehicle crashes in the City of Elizabeth.