San Jose’s “Open Streets” Event Gets People Biking and Walking

San Jose’s “open streets” event succeeds at getting people out to bike and walk, independent study finds

Nearly 75% of survey respondents got more than 60 minutes of physical activity during the event

Open streets initiatives close streets temporarily to vehicle traffic so that people can use the street for walking, biking, dancing, socializing and other non-motorized forms of activity. The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) just released results from an independent survey conducted at San Jose’s second annual open streets event, Viva CalleSJ. The results are reported in A Survey of Viva CalleSJ Participants – San José, California 2016. Researchers found that the event attracted a diverse set of participants and that most got at least an hour of physical activity during the event.

San Jose closed six miles of streets on Sept. 18, 2016, for Viva CalleSJ. An estimated 100,000 people took to the streets, nearly three times the number who attended the first Viva CalleSJ event in 2015. The event offered a wide range of activities, such as yoga, Zumba, soccer in the streets, music and dance performances, and live mural painting. There were also food trucks and other vendors.

The survey, a single-page, self-administered questionnaire available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, was designed by MTI researchers to evaluate the event’s success and provide a comparison to a similar survey conducted in 2015. A total of 318 surveys were collected from a diverse set of participants. Some key findings include:

  • People learned about the event in a variety of ways including word of mouth (41%), social media (33%), and flyers/posters (20%);
  • The most popular way to access the event was by bicycle (51%), although nearly one-third came by motorized vehicle;
  • The most popular organized activity along the route was watching entertainment (65%);
  • Most respondents expected to spend money at the event, with 39% expecting to spend more than $20.

According to Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal, one of the report’s authors, “surveying at events such as Viva CalleSJ can be challenging because of the crowds and difficulty obtaining a truly random sample.” Planners for future events may want to consider alternative methods of surveying participants, such as online surveys.

Tweet this: MTI research shows that open streets events like #vivacallesj get people moving

Asha Weinstein Agrawal, PhD, and Hilary Nixon, PhD, are professors of urban and regional planning at San José State University.

The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) conducts research, education, and information transfer programs regarding surface transportation policy and management issues, especially related to transit. Congress established MTI in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. MTI won national re-designation competitions in 2002, 2006 and 2012. The Institute is funded through the US Department of Transportation, the US Department of Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. The internationally respected members of the MTI Board of Trustees represent all major surface transportation modes. MTI, the lead institute for the nine-university Mineta National Transit Research Consortium, is affiliated with San Jose (CA) State University’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. Visit

Head of Mineta Transportation Institute receives national award

Karen Philbrick, executive director, Mineta Transportation Institute and the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium.

Karen Philbrick, executive director, Mineta Transportation Institute and the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium.

Karen Philbrick, the executive director of Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC) and the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), has been awarded the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) Women Who Move the Nation Award in the academia category.

“I am so incredibly honored to be the recipient of this fine distinction,” said Philbrick, who has served as executive director of MNTRC and MTI since 2014. The programs are housed in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business at San Jose State.

Philbrick was nominated by former Secretary of Transportation and former Congressman Norman Mineta, Nuria Fernandez, the CEO of VTA and Rod Diridon, MTI’s emeritus executive director. The trio nominated Philbrick for her role in developing MNTRC’s university partner relationships with four Minority Serving Institutions including SJSU, Howard University, Rutgers University and University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“Your status and role in the transportation industry is an inspiration to all women, particularly women of color,” wrote Mioshi Moses, the president and CEO of COMTO, in the award notification letter. “Your professional achievements and pioneering spirit have opened career paths for women across the country.”

Philbrick said the university transportation center is focused on research, education, technology transfer and workforce development.

“In our particular field, we have a crisis of people available to enter the workforce,” she said, noting that a majority of people in the transportation sector are eligible for or nearing eligibility for retirement. “It includes everything from bus drivers to logistics managers to pilots. It includes everything from management all the way to the people on the ground maintaining the system.”

The center offers a master’s of science and transportation management as well as undergraduate courses. It also is involved in a variety of initiatives for K-12 students, including the Summer Transportation Institute that is designed for underrepresented minority and female high school students. Since 2012, the four partner universities have received $10.8 million to support initiatives.

MTI’s research informed the placement of new bike lanes in San Jose and formed the basis of the Caltrans Bus Rapid Transit handbook. The research has statewide, national and international impact. A recent focus of research has been on connectivity.

“We are looking at how to connect people and we are seeing a lot of different trends,” she said, noting that recent research is finding that millenials want to live, work and play where they can walk or take public transit.

Prior to being appointed as executive director of MNTRC and MTI, Philbrick served as MTI’s research director for five years, with two years as deputy executive director and research director for both MTI and MNTRC. She led three MTI research subcenters, directed more than 200 principal investigators for both agencies, oversaw the completion of 122 research projects and the production of more than 175 peer-reviewed research reports and journal publications.

She serves on the U.S. Department of Transportation Transit Advisory Committee for Safety and as treasurer of the Executive Committee of the Council of University Transportation Centers.