These boots were made for walking

A recent survey of America’s top 30 metropolitan areas – the findings of which are tabled in the publication ‘Foot Traffic Ahead - Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros’ reveals just how important Walkable Urban Places are – otherwise referred to as ‘WalkUPs’.  

To ascertain a city's walkability, the study looked at each city’s WalkUPs or areas where homes, offices, schools, retail, cultural and entertainment facilities/spaces are accessible by public transport, compared with driving. It then considered what percentage of a city's office and retail space was concentrated in those WalkUPs.

The report was prepared by LOCUS, a coalition of developers and investors who partnered with Smart Growth America and researchers at George Washington University. It demonstrates who’s winning, who’s in transition, and who’s lagging behind in the race towards capturing the market demand for WalkUPs.

Chris Leinberger, president of LOCUS, says that “as economic engines, as talent attractors and as highly productive real estate, these WalkUPs are a crucial component in building and sustaining a thriving urban economy. Cities with more WalkUPs are positioned for success, now and in the future.”

Based on the following major findings of the survey, dynamic, productive walkable districts are in high demand.
  • The top ranking metros had more office and retail space in their walkable areas which correlates to an average of 38% higher GDP per capita as compared with the lower ranking metros
  • The top ranking metros were also typified by a higher percentage of residents with university degrees.
  • Office rent in urban WalkUPs is at a 74% higher premium per square foot over drivable suburban areas.
  • WalkUPs are easier to navigate, have a higher concentration of housing and reduced carbon footprint.
Foot Traffic Ahead underlines the economic power of walkable places and identifies which metro areas are adding them fastest. The likes of Washington, DC, New York, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago ranked among the top current areas for walkable urbanism - no surprises there, as they have history on their side. Many of these locations are home to major industry and business and developed their infrastructure long before cars became an American mainstay, making them naturally more walkable.  Some cities with a reputation for urban sprawl, like Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Denver, are however getting on board, making some surprising and unexpected shifts toward walkable urban development.
(See our other blog post: 'Who would have thought?')

Based on these unfolding trends, there is the potential for market demand for tens of millions more square feet of walkable urban developmentwhich equates to hundreds of new WalkUPs. Meeting this demand is an opportunity to create huge value for these communities – where a greater portion of the population have ease of access to jobs, schools, shopping, transportation, cultural and entertainment facilities, all the while attracting increasing development and investment every year. Sounds like a winning formula to me!

Image source: The Wake Up Call

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