Chicago Department of Aviation
University of Illinois Students Share Ideas for Improving ORD Walkability

CHICAGO, April 1, 2015 - Graduate students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are identifying strategies to make traveling to and from O'Hare International Airport more pedestrian-friendly and easier to navigate. Walkability is a measure of how safe, convenient and accessible an area is for using a mode of transport aside from a personal vehicle; this includes walking, bicycling, and public transit.


The students are addressing challenges and opportunities faced by passengers navigating inside the airport's terminals and outside amid the terminal curb fronts, parking areas, rail stops, bus stops, and other connection points.


The study is being guided by the Walkable and Livable Communities (WALC) Institute, which is providing professional walkability leadership, training, and assistance to the students. The WALC Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to create healthy, connected communities that support active living through walkable streets, livable cities, and better built environments.


Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) staff met with the University of Illinois students last week to answer questions, share existing challenges and focus areas, discuss upcoming improvement projects, and more. Additional CDA staff that oversees terminal management, landside operations, tenant/concession and airline uses, airport improvement projects, signage and way-finding, and environment and sustainability programs joined in the discussion. The students then walked the terminal concourses and terminal curb fronts to better understand the indoor and outdoor O'Hare environment that passengers typically navigate.


The students are supervised by Dr. Joshua Peschel, a professor in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Human-Infrastructure Interaction Lab. The eight students conducting the study are pursuing graduate and doctoral degrees in fields such as transportation engineering, construction management, and structural engineering, with an added interdisciplinary focus on sustainable and resilient infrastructure. The project is part of Professor Peschel's "Sustainable Urban Systems" graduate course and will assess, document, and develop recommendations for "walkability" at O'Hare.


Professor Peschel's students will present their findings and recommendations to the CDA later this spring.  In late fall, the students and the WALC Institute will be invited to present the study findings at the 2015 Airports Going Green Conference held in Chicago. Kelly Morphy, the Executive Director of the WALC Institute, made a presentation on walkability during the 7th Annual Airports Going Green Conference in Chicago last November.  The walkability discussion included a sample outdoor walkability study tour and helped form a unique partnership between the CDA and the WALC Institute - one of many mutually beneficial partnerships the CDA has formed with educational, local, and governmental organizations.


Airports Going Green 2015 will be held October 26-28 at the Holiday Inn Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago.  Visit for information on Airports Going Green.