Number and Percentage of Linear Miles of Newly Constructed Sidewalks and Urban Trails that Lie within Census Tracts with Low Levels of Leisure-time Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 18 Years or Older

Status

In calendar year 2021, over 19.2 miles of sidewalks and urban trails were constructed within City of Austin full purpose jurisdiction.  About 8.5 miles of that construction fell within areas with low levels of adult leisure-time physical activity.  Detailed construction data can be found here.
Sidewalk and urban trail construction are guided by plans adopted by City Council.  The Urban Trail Plan was adopted in 2014; the Sidewalk Plan in 2016.  Prioritization of community health considerations varies between the two plans.  The Sidewalks Plan explicitly considers health factors in how it prioritizes sidewalks for construction.  The current Urban Trails Plan does not explicitly include community health factors in its prioritization scheme; it concentrates on transportation and recreational uses for its system.  The Public Works Department (PWD) is updating both plans in calendar year 2022.  The process is planned to be completed by 2023 community health concerns will be incorporated into the prioritization criteria for both plans.  The updated plans will be sent to City Council for approval and adoption once the review process is completed.
Methodology
The Center for Disease Control’s 500 Cities Project provides the data for this measure.  The dataset includes 198 census tracts from the 2010 Census that include the City of Austin.  This measure uses data released in December 2019, which is for the 2017 calendar year.  Austin census tracts are divided into five equal groups based on the portion of the adult population that has no leisure-time physical activity.  Tracts with less leisure-time physical activity are classified as higher risk.  Lower risk areas have more leisure-time physical activity.
Limitations
There are several limitations to consider when using this measure:
  • The CDC data is two years old when released.  While PWD is using the most recent data available for comparisons, the data is already two years old, and will continue to age over time. 
  • The baseline is based on 2010 U.S. Census tracts associated with the City of Austin by the CDC.  These tracts do not include recent annexation activity by the City of Austin.  As a result, there are some areas of the city’s current full purpose jurisdiction that are not included in this measure.
  • This measure will rely on the 2019 released data for the near future.  The CDC releases a new dataset every year.  However, a review of the historical data shows the CDC’s data to be inconsistent, cycling between relatively low and high levels of leisure-time physical activity for most census tracts.  The 2019 data release provides a consistent reference point for measurement for the time being.
  • PWD will update the measure’s baseline in the future once plan updates are completed and updated demographic data and new census tracts are released following the 2020 census. 

Trending

Construction of sidewalks and urban trails are largely based on availability of funding.  Sidewalk construction is financed by 2016 and 2020 mobility bonds and some smaller funds.  Urban trail construction receives money from both 2016, 2018, and 2020 bonds.
Both programs leverage the work of other agencies and private developers to promote completion of their networks.  Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) are two of the agencies that have constructed sidewalks or urban trails.  Construction by outside agencies and private developers may occur in areas that are not considered high priorities.
One factor to keep in mind when evaluating construction trends is the timeline involved in creating sidewalks and urban trails.  Sidewalk planning and construction is relatively straightforward and does not require significant lead time to complete construction of new sidewalks.  Urban trails, however, require significant planning and engineering prior to breaking ground for construction.  It generally takes a minimum of six years to build an urban trail from initial engineering studies through completing construction.  As a result, there may be years where little to no construction is completed.  These long timelines mean that it will take a while for community health considerations to be reflected in urban trail program outputs. Note: To see the underlying data for the chart, please select the "View Source Data" link.

Additional Measure Insights

The chart to the right shows the construction completed in high and very high risk areas for each program over the last five calendar years.  Overall, construction has generally favored high and very high risk areas.  One reason is that the sidewalk program has built community health considerations into how it prioritizes construction, and sidewalks are about 80% of total construction from year to year.  The slight decrease in overall performance in CY2021 is because sidewalks construction temporarily pivoted to supporting the Safe Routes to Schools projects that year.
Regarding urban trails, long segments of urban trail built by outside agencies and developers greatly impact these results. The drops in CY2018 and CY2019 were due to construction of urban trail segments by outside agencies and developers in lower risk areas, and the percentage increases in CY2021 are largely due to CTRMA construction of a shared use path along US183, which is located in a high risk area.

Measure Details and Definition

1) Definition: This measure shows the percentage of new urban trail and sidewalk construction each calendar that occurs in areas where there are low levels of leisure-time physical activity.

2) Calculation method: The sum of linear feet of sidewalks and urban trails constructed in a year is divided into the sum of linear feet of sidewalks and urban trails constructed in high and very high risk areas.

3) Data Collection Process:  Data is collected by the urban trail and sidewalk construction programs.

4) Measure Target Calculation: There is no target set for this measure.

5) Frequency Measure is Reported: Annually (Calendar Year)
Date page was last updated: April 2022