International Research Seminar on Modeling Urban Pedestrian Mobility 2023


A growing body of research at the nexus of transportation and urban planning indicates that a shift to sustainable modes of urban travel—walking, biking, and public transit—is necessary to reduce carbon emissions, combat climate change, and address public health crises in urban societies. Although still in the minority, some municipal and state agencies have started addressing non-motorized travel more rigorously, such as requiring pedestrian mobility to be included in travel demand models and development impact reviews. However, mainstream transportation modeling approaches have historically focused on capturing the dynamics of vehicles and public transport, and many still do not know that pedestrian mobility can even be modeled with scientific rigor. While most travel demand models tend to ignore pedestrian trips, the few that do consider pedestrians as a mode of transport tend to focus on aggregate pedestrian trip volumes, not their geographic distribution along city streets. Yet, pedestrian flows are not evenly spread throughout neighborhoods—understanding their geographic distribution along city streets and developing models to explain how the built environment shapes foot-traffic in cities is key to designing policies and plans that can increase the mode-share of non-automobile travel options. A renewed policy emphasis on better pedestrian environments has thus triggered a need to better understand how pedestrian flows are shaped by the built environment in general, and how building and infrastructure developments might affect foot-traffic on surrounding streets in particular. This is critical for prioritizing investment in pedestrian infrastructure as well as understanding how zoning and urban design can be leveraged to increase foot-traffic and improve pedestrian experiences.


This research seminar, co-sponsored by the City Form Lab at MIT and the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF), invites a group of international pedestrian mobility experts to share research approaches for understanding, modeling and operationalizing pedestrian mobility in cities. Invited guest speakers will present and discuss current approaches to pedestrian mobility research, planning and policy.