Demonstrator 1: Walkability

Understanding walkability and public transport using Ped-Catch

Co-led by Dr Hannah Badland, McCaughey Centre, VicHealth Centre for Promotion of Mental Health and Community Wellbeing, and Dr Marcus White, Faculty of Architecture, Building, and Planning.


Physical inactivity is the fourth leading contributor to the burden of disease globally (World Health Organization 2009) and increasing physical activity is a priority, in Australia and elsewhere. In the last decade, an emerging and growing body of evidence confirms that pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods with mixed land uses, increased densities, connected street networks and attractive urban design, encourages walking to benefit health (Transportation Research Board 2005; National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence 2008).

Although public transport access is not generally included in the 'walkability' measurement of neighbourhoods, it is hypothesised that neighbourhoods with greater walkability will also have greater access to public transport through enhanced street connectivity, and having public transport located within walkable distances to residences is an important aspect of developing healthy communities with low automobile dependency.

This project aims to test this hypothesis by utilising new methods for measuring walkability whilst bringing together separate data bases from Department of Sustainability and Environment such as road network, residential density, rail networks, and aerial imagery with information from Transnet including public transport frequency and stop locations, with traffic volume information provided by VicRoads.

This demonstrator project will build directly upon another AURIN-funded project that created a walkability index which will be calculated and applied to census collection districts surrounding public transport nodes in the North West Metropolitan Region. This indexing will be overlayed with an animated agent-based pedestrian modelling tool called 'Ped-Catch' which uses artificially intelligent 'agents'  who navigate street networks based on predefined rules to measure catchments around a selected nodes such as schools or railway stations. Comparisons can be made between an existing street network and potential improvements through urban interventions such as pedestrian links, pedestrian bridges, alternative street layouts, or potentially freight volume as a barrier to walking.

The project seeks to develop an interactive tool for planners and urban designers, where they will be able to manipulate the street networks and model how different scenarios impacts agent-based pedestrian behaviours.

The projects aims to answer the following policy related questions: How is neighbourhood walkability related to public transport access (distance and time)? What urban interventions could increase the pedestrian catchments of railway station services? Can freight volume and traffic count data be modelled in walkability measures?

Contact details

Dr Hannah Badland
Research Fellow
McCaughey Centre
VicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health and Community Wellbeing
Melbourne School of Population Health
The University of Melbourne Victoria 3010 Australia

Dr Marcus White
Lecturer, Digital Design in Architecture

Winner of the inaugural 2011 National Emerging Architect Award AIA Victorian Residential Alt/Add winner 2011

Room 512, Architecture Building
University of Melbourne Victoria 3010 Australia