Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Dec 16th 2010 at 11:00am UTC

America’s Most Walkable Cities

The great economic reset we are in the midst of extends even to Americans’ choices of places to live. The popularity of sprawling auto-dependent suburbs is waning. A majority of Americans – six in 10 – say they would prefer to live in walkable neighborhoods, in both cities and suburbs, if they could. Writing in The Wall Street Journal a few months ago, I noted how changes in our economy and demography are altering “the texture of suburban life in favor of denser, more walkable, mixed-use communities.” Christopher Leinberger has shown the positive effects of walkability in cities, towns, and suburbs; the architects Ellen Dunham Jones and June Williamson have detailed ways that older car-oriented suburbs can be retrofitted into more people-friendly, mixed-use, walkable communities. And walkability pays. According to research by Joe Cortright, housing prices have held up better in more walkable communities.Walkscore.com, the online group that rates walkable neighborhoods, provides detailed data on walkability for 2,500 cities and 6,000 neighborhoods across the United States. Nate Berg of planetizen used their data to come up with a new way to rate and rank America’s most walkable cities and metros. The chart below shows his results. The first column shows how metros stack up on walkscore.com’s overall walkability index. The second lists Berg’s calculation based on the number of neighborhoods in these metros that have above-average walk scores. (Details on Berg’s methodology are here.)

Most Walkable Metros

By WalkscoreBy % of above avg neighborhoods
San FranciscoSan Francisco
New YorkBoston
BostonPhiladelphia
PhiladelphiaNew York
ChicagoWashington, D.C.
SeattleChicago
Washington, D.C.Denver
PortlandSeattle
Los AngelesPortland
Long BeachLong Beach
BaltimoreLos Angeles
DenverFresno*
MilwaukeeAustin
San DiegoBaltimore
San JoseAtlanta
Las VegasTucson
SacramentoSan Diego
AtlantaHouston
FresnoSan Jose
OmahaOmaha^
AlbuquerqueColumbus
AustinMilwaukee
HoustonLouisville
ColumbusLas Vegas
DetroitAlbuquerque
TucsonSacramento
DallasDallas
PhoenixDetroit
MesaMesa*
San AntonioNashville
LouisvilleKansas City
Fort WorthPhoenix
Kansas CityEl Paso
El PasoCharlotte
Oklahoma CityOklahoma City^
IndianapolisSan Antonio
MemphisJacksonville
NashvilleFort Worth
Charlotte

Indianapolis^

Jacksonville

Memphis*

Source: Nate Berg of planetizen, based on walkscore.com data.

Either way you slice it, San Francisco tops the list, followed by the East Coast communities of the Bos-Wash corridor: NYC, Boston, Philly, and D.C. Seattle and Portland do well, as does Chicago. Somewhat surprisingly, L.A. scores reasonably highly on both metrics.

With the steady statistical hand of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, we examined the correlations between this new walkability data and key economics and demographics of metro areas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census, American Community Survey, and Nate Berg of planetizen, based on walkscore.com data.

As before, we found significant associations. Walkable metros had higher levels of highly educated people (.44) and of the creative class (.46). Perhaps more significantly, they also had higher incomes (.64) and higher housing values (.55), more high-tech companies (.58), and greater levels of innovation (.4).

Walkability is more than an attractive amenity — it’s a magnet for attracting and retaining the highly innovative businesses and highly skilled people that drive economic growth, raising housing values and generating higher incomes.

2 Responses to “America’s Most Walkable Cities”

  1. evangelos Says:

    I have been fascinated by the creative explosion in Ancient Athens sustained over a number of centuries in fact. This case compared to any other ancient city is interesting. All ancient cities, I should think, were walkable.So, in addition to ‘macro-cultural’ factors, eg democracy (itself an innovation! and therefore derivative), why did Athens excel? Perhaps the nature of social networks and interpersonal communication was an important factor, leisure (schole in Greek)and perhaps what we might call ‘co-sitability’, the facility/opportunity of sitting together and talking! Therefore micro-cultural organisation that encourages this level of togetherness and exchange (cafes and tavernas in contemporary mediterranean culture)and generally, the geography of working and social space. This brings me back to spatial organisation in Some new Scandinavian Universities which enhance creativity and innovativeness.
    Thanks for the virtual opportunity to co-cogitate!
    evangelos, Muscat, Xmas 2010

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