Walking in Walnut Creek
Due to its mild climate and relatively flat terrain, Walnut Creek is an ideal place for pedestrians. Walnut Creek residents and visitors enjoy access to a variety of destinations via sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities. In the context of Rethinking Mobility, walking in Walnut Creek is vital for short trips and access to transit and other amenities which encourage transportation options other than single-occupancy vehicle trips.
Key Focus Areas
Focus areas for pedestrian access in Walnut Creek include places with concentrations of employment and public transit. Pedestrian facilities can provide important first- and last-mile connections to these destinations, and in turn reduce the need for automobile trips. Key focus areas include the following:
Downtown Walnut Creek’s relative density and comfortable pedestrian facilities make it an attractive destination for walking. The Walk Score® for most areas of downtown Walnut Creek is 90 or above (out of a total score of 100), meaning that most daily errands do not require a car to complete. Downtown includes many examples of facilities used to make walking more attractive for pedestrians, including well marked pedestrian crossings and traffic calming measures.
While the immediate downtown area is attractive for pedestrians, access from surrounding areas is not as direct or comfortable as it could be. This includes access from the Walnut Creek BART station (discussed more in the following section) and adjacent centers of employment, such as the Kaiser Medical Center. Conditions such as these are usually the result of fewer available pedestrian amenities (such as wide sidewalks, directional curb cuts, or buffers from adjacent traffic), and roads with multiple lanes and high traffic volumes.
What is Walk Score®?
Walk Score® uses a patented system to measure the walkability of any address by analyzing hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities. Points are based on the distance to amenities in each category (e.g., grocery stores, coffee shops, etc.). A maximum of five points is given to amenities within a five-minute walk, and points drop to zero for amenities that are a 30-minute or more walk away. Walk Score® also measures pedestrian friendliness by analyzing population density and roadway network characteristics, such as block length and intersection density. More information is available on the Walk Score® Methodology web page.
Walnut Creek BART
The Walnut Creek BART Station is a regional transit hub for both BART and buses. Its proximity to downtown and nearby employment centers makes pedestrian access to the station especially important. The Walk Score® in the surrounding station area varies from “very walkable” to “walker’s paradise,” meaning that most errands can be accomplished on foot.
This heat map shows the most walkable locations in darker green and the least walkable in orange. According to Walk Score®, the center of downtown Walnut Creek is one of the city’s most walkable locations due to its pedestrian-friendly environment and concentration/diversity of stores, restaurants, and services.
Pedestrian access to major employers with dedicated campuses such as John Muir Medical Center, Kaiser Medical Center, and Shadelands is mixed. Many of these campuses include comfortable pedestrian facilities within and immediately adjacent to the campus area itself, including a multi-use path that runs parallel to both the John Muir and Kaiser Medical Centers. However, pedestrian access outside the campus area is mixed, limiting comfortable connections to nearby destinations and transit connections.
In addition, the Walk Score® for these areas varies. Kaiser Medical Center has a Walk Score® of 70-80, meaning that most errands can be accomplished on foot. Both Shadelands and John Muir Medical Center have significantly lower Walk Scores®, ranging from car-dependent to somewhat walkable. The heat map below shows that the Walk Score® decreases significantly (with far fewer areas shaded green) as one travels east on Ygnacio Valley Road toward John Muir Medical Center and the Shadelands business park.
Walnut Creek Pedestrian Master Plan
The Walnut Creek Pedestrian Master Plan provides a key framework describing pedestrian infrastructure, accessibility, and programs throughout Walnut Creek. The Pedestrian Plan seeks to “provide safe, convenient, and well-maintained pedestrian facilities for all ages and abilities.” Relevant to goals related to mobility and sustainable transportation, the Pedestrian Plan recognizes the importance of creating a safe and attractive walking environment for vehicle trip reduction. This enables people to walk from their homes to transit connections, employment centers, commercial areas, and other destinations.
Downtown is a key focus area within the plan due to its role as a hub for employment, entertainment, transit, and other uses. Comfortable pedestrian facilities allow better connections from other modes of transportation, including transit and parking facilities for bicycles and cars. In addition to facilitating use of alternative modes, improving the pedestrian realm improves the livability of downtown Walnut Creek, supporting businesses and building a sense of place.
Diversity of Pedestrian Conditions
Pedestrian conditions vary considerably across Walnut Creek. Depending on where you live and work within Walnut Creek, you may or may not be able to walk to a grocery store, cafe, or shop. While downtown has a high Walk Score®, Walnut Creek’s overall Walk Score® is only 39 out of 100; meaning that most errands require a car.
High Pedestrian Demand
Areas of high pedestrian demand include the downtown area, pedestrian facilities immediately adjacent to large commercial centers, and the area immediately surrounding the Walnut Creek BART station.
Due to the presence of multiple transit providers, many transit stops are easily accessible via a short walk in most areas of Walnut Creek. However, the actual conditions and comfort of these connections for pedestrians can vary greatly across the city, limiting access and potentially discouraging walking to and using transit.
Recommended Pedestrian Improvements
Improvements proposed by the Pedestrian Master Plan generally focus on pedestrian comfort and safety, including the following:
The availability of direct links to key destinations via comfortable pedestrian facilities encourages walking.
Better design of crossings at major intersections and other interventions can improve safety for pedestrians.
Providing well designed lighting can improve safety and comfort for pedestrians.
Landscaping that provides shade, wayfinding, and other elements can improve pedestrian experience and comfort.
Needs, Opportunities, and Challenges
Infrastructure improvements are needed to enhance walkability between locations within the City’s Core Area, including the Walnut Creek BART station and downtown. Providing direct, safe, and inviting paths of travel for pedestrians throughout the City’s Core Area has the potential to shift some automobile trips to walking.
Implementation of the West and North Downtown Specific Plans presents an important opportunity to improve pedestrian connectivity, safety, and comfort between destinations in the City’s Core Area. New development within the City’s Core Area provides opportunities for Walnut Creek to work with developers on improving pedestrian connections between new and existing land uses. Adding to the density and diversity of land uses within the Core Area will also facilitate more walking trips.
Parts of Walnut Creek were developed without sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure, and automobile travel is prioritized over other modes in a number of areas. Retrofitting roadways to enable them to better serve the transportation needs of non-drivers can be resource intensive. To make the best use of limited resources, Walnut Creek will need to coordinate multi-modal improvements and develop clear priorities for implementation based on measurable objectives.