The 10 Most Walkable Cities in the U.S.
What Does Walkability Mean for Home Values?
There was a time when roads were multi-use affairs, and it was not uncommon to see wagons and pedestrians utilizing the same thoroughfares. But these days, the automobile has monopolized the roadways, and foot traffic has been relegated to the sidewalk.
By the 1950s, our love affair with the automobile was in full swing. To many Americans, walking seemed almost passé. After all, why would you want to brave the elements when you could be transported to your destination in climate-controlled and comfortable style?
During that era, efficient roadways were the top priority for many urban planners, and cities kept expanding as freeways made it convenient to work in the city while living farther afield.
Getting Around on Your Own Two Feet
Unfortunately, the emphasis on optimizing public infrastructure for vehicle traffic made it unpleasant, inconvenient or impossible to get anywhere on foot in certain metros.
Now, some of our nation’s most desirable cities are seeing substantial bumps in real estate value — and not for their elaborate freeway systems, but for their good old-fashioned walkability.
Indeed, walkable urban housing is some of the most sought-after residential real estate in the country, fetching a premium of 50-200% over comparable suburban sales.
A new generation of homebuyers wants to be able to bike to work and walk to the local business district, and many would prefer to leave the car in the driveway unless they’re taking a road trip. They want fresh air, exercise, and a sense of community, and walkable neighborhoods give them exactly that.
Let’s take a look at some of the most walkable cities in the U.S.
New York, NY
It’s a well-known fact that many New Yorkers don’t own cars. In a city where a parking space can cost as much as an apartment elsewhere, and the streets are often crowded and chaotic, owning a car is a luxury at best, and at worst, an albatross.
San Francisco, CA
As one of the oldest cities on the west coast, much of San Francisco’s development predates the arrival of the automobile. Plus, San Franciscans are known for their environmental sensibilities and their community spirit.
Smart Growth America has praised Boston, MA for “leading the country toward a walkable urban future.” And though the weather isn’t always suitable for strolling about, there’s no denying that getting around on foot is a pleasure when the sun’s shining.
In Philadelphia’s most walkable neighborhoods, there are plenty of desirable amenities within walking distance. It’s estimated that on average, Philadelphia residents have four restaurants within a five-minute walk.
Some of the cities on this list have been walkable since the Founding Fathers walked the streets, but Miami is a city on the move. According to Walk Score, Miami has made big gains over the past few years, due to an influx of youthful energy and organized efforts on the part of city leaders.
Chicago is known for its rich foods, but if you walk enough, it’s probably OK to indulge in an Italian beef sandwich every now and then. Fortunately, Chicago makes it easy to get around on foot, with neighborhoods like West Loop and Near North Side talking top honors in the walkability category.
NYC may be rated as the nation’s most walkable city, but its most walkable neighborhoods are concentrated in the urban center. When it comes to distribution of walkable office and retail space and suburban walkability, our nation’s capital just might have the Big Apple beat.
As hilly as it is, Seattle is eminently walkable. However, some neighborhoods have it better than others. University District, South Lake Union, First Hill, Belltown, and Pioneer Square are among the best for those who would rather lace up than gas up.
In Oakland, some of the most desirable neighborhoods are those that the white-picket lifestyle with close proximity to retail districts and restaurants. Piedmont and Rockridge are both prime examples.
Baltimore is another city that has made great strides in stepping up its walkability score. The city’s public transit system offers a wide array of options; there are bus lines, light rail, a subway, and even a water taxi. With light rail expansions in the works, it seems a safe bet that Baltimore will keep rising through the ranks, and its real estate values should follow suit.
Who Needs Wheels?
If you happen to live in one of these cities, then odds are good that you could do without a car entirely, leaving more cash to pay for nights out, a better apartment, or the occasional rental car road trip. Walking may be as old as humankind, but it’s still the hippest way to get around.
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