Iowa State landscape architecture professor receives national planning award

Sample I-WALK data

A sample of the map data from Adel, an I-WALK pilot community.

AMES, Iowa -- The American Planning Association is honoring an Iowa State University faculty member with a national award. Christopher J. Seeger, an associate professor of landscape architecture and extension specialist, will receive a 2013 National Planning Achievement Award for Transportation Planning at the APA annual conference in April.

The planning profession's highest honor, APA's national awards program was established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

Seeger's APA award is one of 12 for exemplary planning achievement and one of two for achievement in the area of transportation planning.

Seeger won for his development of the geospatial planning tools and processes that help communities identify and collect information to create a Safe Routes to School program. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program provides funding to improve the ability of primary- and middle-school students to walk and bike to school safely. To create such a program, steps include obtaining maps; collecting information about where children live, the routes they take to school and the condition of the streets along the way; and identifying walking and bicycling barriers. Seeger recognized that this task was difficult for many communities, and sought to help them.

In partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health, Seeger co-developed I-WALK  (Iowans Walking Assessment Logistics Kit), and spearheaded creation of  the innovative, participatory process that uses smartphones, global position system and geographic information systems technology. The I-WALK process provides detailed site data and public perception information that enable community coalitions to make decisions, which will result in the most impact with the limited funds available.

Riceville volunteers

Volunteers in Riceville collecting walkability information.

In 2011, the program was piloted in 12 Iowa communities and the results documented. Hundreds of parents, students, teachers and community residents participated in surveys and GPS walkability assessments. A total of 3,300 midblocks, 2,080 intersections and 1,247 additional features were mapped during the pilot year. The program continues in 2012-13 at 17 additional elementary schools in Iowa. It has been expanded into a broader-based, community-wide walkability assessment, and the processes have been implemented in neighboring states. Tens of thousands of current and future students will be impacted. I-WALK is administered by the the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

APA is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in community planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.