Report: Most Walkable Cities Also Most Equitable

(Walkable New York City)

In an era where gentrification is pushing out lower income residents with deep roots in their neighborhoods, methods for ensuring equality in urban centers is paramount.

Soaring housing costs in cities such as San Francisco have created a crisis in which members of particular industries and income brackets gain an almost exclusive right to live in desirable areas. As tech companies bloom and add even more jobs across the western seaboard – from the Bay Area to Seattle – the process repeats itself, driving housing costs up and lower income residents out.

Popular cities across the country have experienced similiar patterns in recent years, as well.

A new report has pointed out an interesting factor that contributes to greater urban equality, however, and may show how some cities struggling with social stratification can improve the overall quality of life for residents.

According to Smart Growth America, the most walkable cities are more socially equitable than their car-centric, spread-out counterparts. Researchers at the nonprofit compared cities’ walkability ratings to their rank on the Social Equality Index, which rates the equality of cities based on variables including housing costs, access to employment and transportation costs.

Their study found that the most socially equitable cities in the United States – New York, Washington, DC and Boston –  are also the most walkable.

While those cities have high housing costs, this is offset by very low transportation expenditures.

According to Michael Rodriguez, the director of research at Smart Growth America, walkability eases financial burdens:

People can rely on automobiles less than they otherwise would, or not at all, and thereby save in transportation, get to destinations, and have more destinations near them. Those are equity points because the moderate- to low-income family needs jobs, they need ways to get to jobs, and they need housing.

The report looks to promising developments in cities not necessarily known for easily navigable layouts for pedestrians. These future walkable metropolises include Detroit, Phoenix, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Miami, Atlanta, and Cleveland.

By exploring ways to easily connect residents from all income levels to the destinations they need to reach, these cities can not only combat social inequality, but also help improve the overall living standard and health of their populations by encouraging people to get out and move.

Read the whole report here.

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