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America’s most walkable cities — and what they have in common

The Nickel Tour: A groundbreaking new study has quantified what American cities are most walkable — and what that means to the wealth, health, and wellbeing of their residents.

What American cities are the most walkable? What does a city’s walkability tell you about its per-capita GDP, workforce education, and real estate prices? These questions and a slew of others drove researchers at the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, a program of Smart Growth America, to study walkable real estate development projects and places nationwide. Their findings, which revealed walkability on the rise in cities across the country, also showed that certain metro regions are progressing faster than others – and that this progress has significant, real-world impacts on residents.

Their report, Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros, ranks America’s 30 biggest metropolitan areas based on the amount of commercial development in Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs). The study found a link between higher education levels and one-third higher GDP per capita in high-ranking cities. Moreover, using several key metrics, the researchers were able to identify how current development patterns may be used to predict how walkable or how sprawling future expansion is likely to be.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Top ranking metros have an average of 38% higher GDP per capita as compared to the low ranking metros.
  • Office rent in urban WalkUPs rent at a 74% higher premium per square foot over drivable sub-urban areas.
  • Projections for which metros will contain the most walkable places in the future.

While metro areas like Washington, DC, New York City, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago ranked among the top current areas for walkable urbanism, the report found that other cities including Miami, Atlanta and Detroit are well positioned for future growth of walkable places given current efforts in those the communities.

“This is an important study underlining the economic power of walkable places, and identifying which metro areas are adding them fastest,” said Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Cities that want to thrive in our new economic and demographic realities will need to find ways to create and support more of these dynamic, productive walkable districts that are in high demand.”

A secondary but important finding, which may pique the interest of residents of the nation’s capital, shows that Washington, DC is actually the most walkable city in the country. This conclusion seems to pair with another headline from this week, which proclaimed DC to be the fittest city in the nation, too. As in the rest of this study, it is difficult to establish causality, though we suspect that there’s some definite causal connection between sidewalks and waistlines.

The top 10:

1. Washington, DC
2. New York
3. Boston
4. San Francisco
5. Chicago
6. Seattle
7. Portland
8. Atlanta
9. Pittsburgh
10. Cleveland

Content for this article was sourced from Smart Growth America.

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