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DC Ranks Among Most Walkable Cities, But at a Cost

NBC 4 Washington

The D.C. metropolitan area is a model for the development of walkable cities, but pedestrian-friendly areas come with higher rent costs, a recent report found. 

The George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, with others, found that walkability is positively correlated with gross domestic product per capita, workforce education level and general economic performance.

The Foot Traffic Ahead report used Walkscore data on how easy it is in an area to run errands on foot, access public transportation and more.

The District ranks fourth behind New York City, Denver and Boston for most walkable urban real estate, third in population per walkable urban place and fourth in Future Growth Momentum, a measure predicting a region’s future walkability performance.


Walkable urban places are not distributed equally. According to Leinberger's D.C study, they tend to be clustered “in the northwest portion of the metropolitan area, which has been metro D.C.’s ‘favored quarter’ since at least World War II.”

Despite the uneven spread, D.C. ranked second in the nation for social equity in walkable urban places — a finding the researchers admitted seemed "counter-intuitive."

A number of factors may explain the high ranking, [Jordan] Chafetz said.

The social equity index is based on cost of housing, cost of transportation and percent renter-occupied housing in a metropolitan area, the study says. 

Lower transportation costs in walkable D.C. significantly offset the higher cost of housing compared with other cities, which may also explain the high social equity score, Chafetz said. She explained that the data used to create the rankings — housing and transportation data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology — is based on households making 80% of the median income, which for D.C. is about $66,000 of an $83,000 median, according to Data USA.

“One of the data limitations is just that households making 80% of the area median income also tend to be making a lot,” Chafetz said.

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