ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant sidewalks is an important component of transportation equity, and can greatly improve the mobility of community members with disabilities. In the Sidewalk Explorer, an interactive viewer for the Sidewalk Network Inventory and Assessment conducted by CUUATS staff, a compliance index was developed based on a thorough inventory of the pedestrian network. The results of the inventory are analyzed using an ADA compliance index that scores each variable on a scale from 0 to 100. A score of 100 represents preliminary compliance with the proposed Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG). A similar index rates condition for sidewalks and curb ramps.
The 2018 data showed modest gains in accessibility over 2017. Sidewalk compliance scores improved slightly, however; vertical faults continued to remain a persistent challenge. Curb ramps had the greatest gains in ADA compliance, increasing by five percentage points from 2015 to 2018. Change in ramp type is one factor that affects the pace of change in curb ramp compliance. Frequently, a single ramp is replaced by multiple ramps. For example, this occurs when a perpendicular ramp is replaced by combination ramps, which count as two ramp records in the sidewalk database. Consequently, the number of compliant ramps increased faster than the number of non-compliant ramps decreased, even when accounting for ramps constructed at new sidewalk locations. Crosswalk compliance scores between 2017 and 2018 remained mostly stable. The lower score ranges did not change, while 0.7 percent of the best crosswalk compliance scores degraded to the next compliance score category (scores between 80 and 90). The most recent pedestrian signal compliance score results were mixed, but pedestrian signal compliance scores for 2018 improved compared to 2015. The lowest score range decreased by 3.9 percent, and the second-best score range increased by 4.0 percent of pedestrian signals.
While overall ADA compliance for sidewalks have declined between 2015 and 2018, the numbers only tell part of the story. In 2018, the results of the analysis showed increased compliance scores for curb ramps and pedestrian signals compared to the baseline data (2014-2015). Even though the original performance measure refers to sidewalks, the rating criteria was expanded to consider curb ramps, which leads to a positive rating for this performance measure in 2018. Most of the local agencies have been focusing their ADA upgrades on curb ramps. In addition, the decrease in overall sidewalk compliance is almost entirely due to changes in vertical fault scores, which are the result of several factors:
- Challenges of tracking spot improvements, such as beveling
- Difficulty of precisely measuring faults
- Scoring of blocks based on the single largest fault
- Limited fault size categories
- Enlargement of faults due to freeze/thaw cycles and other factors
Of these factors, only the last one reflects a true degradation of sidewalk ADA compliance.