Walkable cities are good for the economy

This post is summarized from “Why walkable cities are good for the economy, according to a city planner”:

A city’s walkability is determined by analyzing how many errands can be done without a car, and cities with the highest scores (like Boston, New York, and San Francisco) often come with an incredibly steep cost of living. On Walk Score’s one to 100 scale that evaluates cities with a population of 200,000 or more, New York City is the most walkable city in the country with a score of 89, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, is the least walkable with a score of 29. The average walk score of all American cities with a population of over 200,000 is 49.  [Springfield IL walk score is 34…]
Learn more about how walkability is scored and see how your neighborhood ranks…

A city’s walkability is dynamic and can be improved with people-oriented city planning, which will benefit the local economy and make societies more equitable.

American city planner Jeff Speck has been advocating for walkability for the past 25 years, and in his new book, Walkability City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places, he carefully outlines how to “sell” walkability and then implement it.

Benefits of walkability

  • Economics – Cities with high walk scores also have high property values. According to a 2009 study, each additional walk score point resulted in home values increasing between $500 and $3,000.
  • Attractive to residents / workers – Walkability attracts diverse populations and creates jobs. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 63 percent of millennials and 42 percent of boomers would like to live in a place where they don’t need a car. And according to the National Association of Realtors, 62 percent of millennials prefer to live in a walkable community where a car is optional. If cities seem less automobile-dependent, chances are they are more appealing to a range of ages.
  • Inexpensive – Walking also costs the city very little, unlike cars and even public transit. According to Speck’s book, if a resident takes a bus ride, it may cost them $1 but costs the city $1.50 in bus operation. If a resident decides to drive, it costs the city $9.20 in services like policing and ambulances. When a resident walks, the cost to the city is a penny.
  • Increased consumer spending – A 2008 report of San Francisco’s downtown found that public transit users and walkers spent less on each trip downtown but made more frequent trips, which meant they spent more money overall.
  • More equitable – Walkability can actually work to make communities more equitable. According to his book, cities with more transit choice demonstrate less income inequality and less overspending on rent. Walkability opens up the world to the elderly, who often struggle to find transportation when they lose the ability to drive, and public transit is used most by minorities and those making under $50,000. Since transit and walking go hand in hand, improving the walkability of a city could help better serve those in lower income brackets.

Why our cities aren’t more walkable

One of the biggest reasons many cities aren’t walkable is because land is dissected into “uses,” something called “single-use zoning”: Retail cannot be next to a medical office cannot be next a single-family home cannot be next to a multi-family home. So in order for a person to get lunch, go to the doctor, and then buy a birthday present, they have to travel to three different “zones,” and can only do so efficiently by car.

This may have been helpful in the 19th century when homes needed to be far away from factories emitting toxic fumes, but today it makes less sense.

Some walkability solutions

  • Adopt regulations that allow land to be multi-use, such as in the mixed-use developments that dot the sprawling landscape of many American suburbs and cities.
  • Push for local parks and schools, both of which foster community and ownership of a neighborhood.
  • Invest in attainable housing downtown so they don’t get overrun with the wealthy.
  • Reallocate road space to accommodate bikes or creating street parking so people can drive to a city, park, and then walk around and enjoy. “Restriping a too-fast street to include a bike lane, or turning a row of parallel parking spaces into angled parking, these things can be done for the price of paint.

Read the full article at https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/10/26/18025000/walkable-city-walk-score-economy