In their vigilant quest to make more “livable” cities, urban planners have long held public transit to be the bell-weather of success. If your community has a good public transit system, then it is therefore livable. However, walkability is now trumping even transit as the gold standard.
Last week I presented at the National Governors Association Policy Academy on “Shaping a New approach to Transportation and Land Use Planning.” Many states still struggle with how to balance these two disciplines. Implementation is made all the more difficult by lack of coordination between state agencies: The state department of transportation usually takes the lead by default, leaving housing, environment and business development – among others – out of the mix.
Most speakers agreed on a common denominator that can unite planners across agencies, in all communities: building walkable communities. After all, whether you drive, take public transit, or ride a bike, most people begin and end their journey on foot.
The cities that focus on walkability, and really get it right, will be the ones to succeed in the future. Here’s more grist for the mill:
- Copenhagen has been at it for 30 years, making incremental changes over time and slowly transforming the city and its people. Today, fully 60 percent of commuters ride their bikes or take transit – but they all begin with walking.
- CEOs for Cities recently released Walking the Walk, which correlated higher real-estate values in 15 U.S. markets with more walkable communities, demonstrating greater demand for pedestrian-friendly homes. In fact the number of single-person households has increased by 50 percent in the last 30 years, while families with children have declined by nearly a half. These new American households desire dense walkable communities in which to live.
- Chicago is embarking on its own pedestrian plan, building off the work of the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council. There is growing awareness that for Chicago to really succeed, it needs to become the most walkable city it can be.
Transit, affordable housing, and good schools remain vital components of sustainable communities. But a healthy pedestrian environment heralds so much more than an active life style – it marks a livable, successful 21st Century city.
Interested in learning more? On April 21, MPC is hosting Talking the Walk: The Importance of Pedestrian Friendly Public Spaces. This lunch roundtable will feature Sam Schwartz of Sam Schwartz Engineering, John Tolva from IBM, and Joe Gonzalez from DeStefano + Partners. Seating is limited, so register now!