Percentage of Existing Sidewalks that are Functionally Acceptable

Status

The Public Works Department (PWD) is responsible for approximately 2,700 miles of existing sidewalks across the City.  The Sidewalk Master Plan / ADA Transition Plan Update (2016) sets standards for this system, including its assessment, repair, and vegetation clearance.  These standards are based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); a sidewalk is considered “Functionally Acceptable” if it can be used by almost all users.  Sidewalk assessments are conducted using on-site visual inspection and measurement. 
PWD efforts currently focus on sidewalks rated as “high” and “very high” priority in the sidewalk plan.  These are sidewalks that are located near areas of high pedestrian activity, such as schools, parks, grocery stores, and transit stops.  Pedestrian health and safety needs, including local population health, is another significant factor in identifying high priority sidewalks. 
Assessments have been completed on the high and very high priority sidewalks – approximately 600 miles, or about one-quarter of all sidewalks.  An initial assessment of remaining sidewalks is underway and should be completed by the end of calendar year 2021.  Once the assessment consultant delivers their data to PWD, it will take some time for the Department to review the data and prepare it for future use.  Only sidewalks that have been assessed are included in the performance measure calculation; sidewalks that are yet to be assessed are excluded. For the measure, Percent Functionally Acceptable is calculated by dividing the total feet of sidewalk meeting Functionally Acceptable standards by the total feet of sidewalk assessed.
The Department’s ability to rehabilitate sidewalks is determined by available funding.  The 2016 Sidewalk Plan recommends spending $150 million over 10 years to upgrade existing sidewalks and improve compliance with ADA requirements, particularly for high and very high priority sidewalks.  The Department currently has about $9 million per year dedicated solely to sidewalk rehabilitation, coming from a combination of bond and operational budget funding.  The 2020 alternative transportation bond provides another $30 million over six years.  The total of $14 million per year (including 2020 bonds) comes close to plan recommendations but depends on when earlier bonds are spent out.  However, total spending over time still falls short of sidewalk plan recommendations.  The result is that it will take longer to achieve the plan’s goals for sidewalk improvements.
Sidewalks are a critical part of the City's transportation system.  They allow people to safely walk to and from schools, bus stops, and other locations.  The combination of sidewalks and public transit allows those who cannot drive or do not have access to a car get where they want and need to go.  The Public Works Department continues to build new sidewalks to complete the network envisioned in the 2016 Sidewalk Plan.
Condition data on individual sidewalk segments is available here.  More information on the PWD sidewalk program is available on the City of Austin web site.

Trending

The Public Works Department built or rehabilitated about 32 miles of sidewalk in FY2021; a 50% increase over FY2020. 
Currently, the Public Work Department has assessed about one-quarter of the sidewalks it maintains, of which more than one-third are functionally acceptable. A complete assessment of all sidewalks is in progress, and is planned to be complete and the data processed by summer 2022. On-going sidewalk assessments will be a multi-year venture, similar to the street condition assessments described in the measure M.E.8 Percentage of Street Network Lane Miles in Fair to Excellent Condition.


As part of the 2016 Sidewalk Plan, the City conducted a pilot assessment of sidewalk conditions using a weighted, randomized sample of sidewalk segments from all ten City Council districts and four roadway classifications (major arterial, minor arterial, collector, and local).  This pilot assessment found that about 20% of sidewalks in the sample were functionally acceptable.  The pilot assessment was designed using well-distributed sampling methods that would allow this review to estimate sidewalks conditions throughout the city.

Additional Measure Insights

Federal law - specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - is a significant factor in the development and execution of the Sidewalk Plan.  The ADA requires all public sidewalks to be free of accessibility barriers.   The ADA also requires cities to maintain an ADA Transition Plan, which includes documenting accessibility barriers and scheduling their repair. Because of the significant amount of noncompliance (90% ADA non-compliant based on 2016 Sidewalk Plan), the City is focusing available funding on functionally deficient sidewalks first. Functionally deficient sidewalks represent higher levels of ADA noncompliance and present access barriers for all users, even those without disabilities. After the City has reached a functionally acceptable condition, full ADA compliance will be the next goal. The functional condition provided in this performance measure will provide an updated assessment of the state of the sidewalk network to evaluate how the City is progressing on this federal mandate.

Measure Details and Definition

1) Definition:  This measure shows the portion of assessed sidewalks that are considered "functionally acceptable."
2) Calculation method: Percent Functionally Acceptable is calculated by dividing the total feet of sidewalk meeting Functionally Acceptable standards by the total feet of sidewalk inspected.  The performance measure is limited to high and very high priority sidewalks.
3) Data Collection Process:  Sidewalks are assessed using on-sight inspection and measurement of existing segment. This program currently concentrates on high and very high priority sidewalks as described in the 2016 Sidewalk Plan.
4) Measure Target Calculation: The measure target is based on ADA compliance requirements.
5) Frequency Measure is Reported: Annually (Fiscal Year)
Date page was last updated: January 2022