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Pedestrian Areas in Los Angeles: Influence of design features and market area on pedestrian activity. A case study of three commercial strips


This thesis examines the spatial, social, and economic aspects of pedestrianism in three active pedestrian areas of Los Angeles to identify the causes of their activity, and to shed light on how these aspects work together to achieve pedestrian vibrancy. Three old commercial strips were selected to reflect a wide range of demographic, socioeconomic, and urban space characteristics; these three cases were analyzed to determine qualitative and quantitative factors that influence pedestrian flow and activity, such as business type and quantity, physical characteristics of streets, blocks and sidewalks, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

These case studies show that there are factors that have a direct and positive influence on pedestrian traffic and activity along sidewalks (such as the gross leasable area and population density in the neighborhood area), while other factors have a direct and negative influence on pedestrian traffic (for example, wide store fronts, and a high number of convenient shopping and personal and professional services). At the same time, other features considered important to walking in the literature, such as ample parking, greenery, landscaping, and street furniture were found to have an indirect or ambiguous influence on pedestrian traffic. Perhaps more importantly, I found through observations across the study cases, that variables interact in different ways to produce at least three design outcomes that attract pedestrians: (1) a business mix that respond to people's tastes and preference in the neighborhood trade area, (2) slower vehicle traffic speeds and frequent opportunities for crossing the street, and (3) physical and psychological comfort conditions along sidewalks that mostly result from providing adequate space for walking, buffering from traffic, and consistency and continuity along shopping strips.

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