Who would have thought?

Los Angeles, the city of bumper-to-bumper traffic and labyrinth of freeways, could be an up-and-coming city for WalkUPs [pedestrian orientated development], according to a new report Foot Traffic Ahead - Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros’, which ranks walkable urban areas in the top 30 metropolitan areas of the United States. You can see a video about the report here. Or for more check out 'These boots were made for walking'.

Car-friendly LA, as it turns out, ranked 18th on measures of walkable urbanism, out of the 30 metro areas surveyed. Only 16% of its office and retail space is in areas that are considered ‘walkable’. Yet 45% of that pedestrian-friendly space exists in the suburbs. So despite its sprawl, LA has potential to become a hub for walkable development.

In the early 20th century, LA boasted the longest rail system in the world. It was dismantled in the highway heyday of the '60s, but plans are again in place to revive it. Los Angeles is currently investing more into rail transit than any other metro in the US.

With committed funding of more than $40 billion over the next decade, five new rail lines are under construction in 2014, adding to the eight new commuter, light, and heavy rail lines already open.  The former rail system that Los Angeles developed around is essentially being re-built from scratch.

Suburban cities, including Pasadena and Santa Monica - both founded before the widespread adoption of cars - are also developing pedestrian-friendly initiatives, making new rail investment a viable long-term plan. It's hard to take a train to the 'burbs if you still need a car to leave the station right?

That being said, retrofitting suburban cities for walkability is easier said than done. How exactly do you make an immensely sprawling city like LA more community-oriented and more desirable? If LA continues to commit significant resources for new trains and pedestrian initiatives, the subway-streamlined city of Spike Jonze’s imagination in the movie ‘Her’ may just be possible - a future version of LA which is more dense, has better public transport and has managed to overcome its dependence on the car. No wonder this film resonates with architects and urban designers alike. 

Image source: Fast Company and Flickr


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