Aug 3, 2009
With gas prices at record highs, a new report on walking couldn’t come at a better time. The site Walk Score has just released a list of America’s 10 most walkable cities.
Some cities on the list aren’t surprises — note New York and Portland, Oregon — but others are not known for being pedestrian friendly (see Los Angeles). However, in the case of L.A., although many of the surrounding regions are indeed heavily car-dependent, a number of neighborhoods nearer to the city’s center are highly accessible, earning scores above 90.
A project of civic software group Front Seat, and advised by the Sightline Institute, the Brookings Institution and Google, Walk Score ranks 2,508 neighborhoods in the largest 40 U.S. cities, with the goal of helping people locate housing in walkable areas. The group points out that walking is not only a great way to reduce our carbon footprint, but it also carries important health benefits.
Walk Score shows you a map of what’s nearby and calculates a score for any property. The site launched in July 2007, and over 1 million addresses were searched in the first month.
Hopefully, this list will encourage people to seek out, and take advantage of, oases of New Urbanism. Additionally, the increased attention, coupled with high gas prices, may provide impetus for more developers and city planners to ease away from America’s addiction to the automobile.
1. San Francisco, CA
Known for its stable, relatively mild climate and progressive viewpoints, 90% of San Francisco residents have a Walk Score of 70 or above, while 99% have a Walk Score of at least 50. Only 1% live in so-called car-dependent neighborhoods. The top areas are Chinatown, the Financial District, Downtown and North Beach.
2. New York, NY
Most of Manhattan, and even much of the boroughs, are well known for their heavily foot-based culture. In fact, many New Yorkers don’t even own cars, given the city’s 24-hour, reliable public transportation, not to mention the high cost of parking and gas.
3. Boston, MA
With it’s famously labyrinthine roads and tight parking, it’s a good thing Boston has world-class subway and ferry service (although many lament that the T does not run 24 hours). 74% of Boston residents have a Walk Score of 70 or above, and 97% have a Walk Score of at least 50.
4. Chicago, IL
The city by the lake is also very pedestrian friendly, starting with the famous Loop, and radiating out.
5. Philadelphia, PA
The top 7 neighborhoods in Philly are designated as Walkers’ Paradises, and 66% of city residents have a Walk Score of 70 or above.
6. Seattle, WA
Well known as a city of coffee drinkers, cafe sitters and lovers of outdoor gear, Seattle is also highly walkable, with 10 neighborhoods at the Walkers’ Paradise level.7. Washington D.C.
The nation’s capital isn’t particularly known for walkablility, beyond the expansive National Mall and hordes of visiting tourists. But many neighborhoods are arranged with good accessibility.
8. Long Beach, CA
It may surprise you, but sunny Long Beach boasts 52% of residents with a Walk Score of 70 or above, 85% with a score of at least 50 – while 15% live in car-dependent areas.
9. Los Angeles, CA
Nearby L.A. posts similar numbers, despite its reputation for horrendous car commutes and epic traffic jams. The City of Angels may be a case of not enough people taking advantage, or even realizing, how walkable their neighborhoods actually are, given the prevailing culture.
10. Portland, OR
Often spoken about in practically hushed, reverent tones, Portland is home to 7 Walkers’ Paradises. 45% of residents have a Walk Score of 70 or above, and 17% live in car-dependent hoods.