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Americans Increasingly Want to Live in Walkable Cities
Urban neighborhoods where residents primarily walk are both more economically vibrant and also more expensive than their suburban counterparts. Two researchers from the Brookings Institution, Christopher B. Leinberge and Mariela Alfonzo, studied different neighborhoods in the greater Washington, D.C., area, judging the “walkability” of different neighborhoods on the basis of features such as aesthetics, personal safety, traffic signals and pedestrian amenities like good sidewalks and street furniture. They found a strong correlation between the walkability of a neighborhood and its economic health.
For each step up the five-tiered walkability scale developed by the researchers, a store was likely to boost its sales by nearly 80 percent, thanks to increased foot traffic. They found that these increased sales occurred because, while walkers and transit users spend less per visit to local businesses than drivers do, they make more visits. Rental rates for apartments, office space and storefronts were higher as well.
This exposes one of the underlying economic tensions in walkable communities. Lower transportation costs often come alongside higher rents, placing these neighborhoods out of reach for lower-income Americans.
“Based on data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, we found that places with fair to very good walkability have significantly lower transportation costs than do places with poor to very poor walkability,” wrote Mr. Leinberge and Ms. Alfonzo. “Alternatively, walkable areas have significantly higher housing costs than those with fewer environmental amenities.View Story
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