America's Most Walkable Cities

The great economic reset we are in the midst of extends even to Americans' choices of places to live. The popularity of sprawling auto-dependent suburbs is waning. A majority of Americans--six in 10--say they would prefer to live in walkable neighborhoods, in both cities and suburbs, if they could. Writing in The Wall Street Journal a few months ago, I noted how changes in our economy and demography are altering "the texture of suburban life in favor of denser, more walkable, mixed-use communities." Christopher Leinberger has shown the positive effects of walkability in cities, towns, and suburbs; the architects Ellen Dunham Jones and June Williamson have detailed ways that older car-oriented suburbs can be retrofitted into more people-friendly, mixed-use, walkable communities. And walkability pays. According to research by Joe Cortright, housing prices have held up better in more walkable communities., the online group that rates walkable neighborhoods, provides detailed data on walkability for 2,500 cities and 6,000 neighborhoods across the United States. Nate Berg of planetizen used their data to come up with a new way to rate and rank America's most walkable cities and metros. The chart below shows his results. The first column shows how metros stack up on's overall walkability index. The second lists Berg's calculation based on the number of neighborhoods in these metros that have above-average walk scores. (Details on Berg's methodology are here.)

Most Walkable Metros
By Walkscore By % of above avg neighborhoods
San Francisco San Francisco
New York Boston
Boston Philadelphia
Philadelphia New York
Chicago Washington, D.C.
Seattle Chicago
Washington, D.C. Denver
Portland Seattle
Los Angeles Portland
Long Beach Long Beach
Baltimore Los Angeles
Denver Fresno*
Milwaukee Austin
San Diego Baltimore
San Jose Atlanta
Las Vegas Tucson
Sacramento San Diego
Atlanta Houston
Fresno San Jose
Omaha Omaha^
Albuquerque Columbus
Austin Milwaukee
Houston Louisville
Columbus Las Vegas
Detroit Albuquerque
Tucson Sacramento
Dallas Dallas
Phoenix Detroit
Mesa Mesa*
San Antonio Nashville
Louisville Kansas City
Fort Worth Phoenix
Kansas City El Paso
El Paso Charlotte
Oklahoma City Oklahoma City^
Indianapolis San Antonio
Memphis Jacksonville
Nashville Fort Worth




Source: Nate Berg of planetizen, based on data.
Either way you slice it, San Francisco tops the list, followed by the East Coast communities of the Bos-Wash corridor: NYC, Boston, Philly, and D.C. Seattle and Portland do well, as does Chicago. Somewhat surprisingly, L.A. scores reasonably highly on both metrics.
With the steady statistical hand of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, we examined the correlations between this new walkability data and key economics and demographics of metro areas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census, American Community Survey, and Nate Berg of planetizen, based on data.

As before, we found significant associations. Walkable metros had higher levels of highly educated people (.44) and of the creative class (.46). Perhaps more significantly, they also had higher incomes (.64) and higher housing values (.55), more high-tech companies (.58), and greater levels of innovation (.4).
Walkability is more than an attractive amenity--it's a magnet for attracting and retaining the highly innovative businesses and highly skilled people that drive economic growth, raising housing values and generating higher incomes.