Economic Sustainability of Sidewalk Networks and Funding Scenario Cost Distributions in Atlanta, GA

Sidewalk infrastructure presence is a key indicator of pedestrian safety and walkability for neighborhoods in cities throughout the United States. The existence and condition of sidewalk infrastructure, however, is not prioritized as much as motor vehicle infrastructure. Many cities lack sustained maintenance and operations programs for sidewalk infrastructure and comprehensive datasets covering the locations and distributions of sidewalk infrastructure, limiting the ability to develop such programs. This work refines prior sidewalk infrastructure network generation techniques, contributing new methods to identify sidewalk infrastructure presence. QA/QC efforts were conducted for in Atlanta’s sidewalk network by correcting errors identified in input data. Error identification and correction times were comprehensively tracked and used to estimate future labor costs. A Custom application with online access to Bing Maps Streetside and aerial imagery was developed to allow technicians to verify sidewalk presence data, which were joined to the structural sidewalk network and associated with adjacent parcels. Cost of ownership of Atlanta’s sidewalk infrastructure over an 80-year management period is then broken down by asset type and allocated in part to property owners directly adjacent to the applicable infrastructure, while remaining costs are recovered through a proportional increase in property tax millage rates. Sidewalk network estimates developed in previous Atlanta research efforts decreased sidewalk network mileage by 12% (386 miles), post-QA/QC. Regression analysis of error correction activity and labor data indicates gaps between tax parcels and misplacement of intersection centroids significantly increased QA/QC labor costs. Overall, 46% of Atlanta’s potential sidewalk links were present (i.e., along property superblock boundaries), with significant clustering in the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Hence, sidewalk repair and maintenance costs accrue disproportionately to these areas. Sidewalk infrastructure costs across neighborhoods also differ considerably, depending on whether estimates account for existing sidewalk infrastructure. The annual cost burden on property owners to implement a program to fund sustainable sidewalks (lifecycle assessment) by increasing property tax millage rates varies significantly across household income and ethnicity. The research suggests that sustainable sidewalk infrastructure assessments should consider spatial and demographic disparities in cost allocation (i.e., equity) for any proposed pedestrian infrastructure asset management program.