After decades of post-World War II car-oriented development, there's been a "gradual shift" toward change, as more Americans seek to live and work in places where you can get somewhere without a car. That's "demonstrated by the success of the many downtown revitalizations, new urbanism, and transit-oriented development," says Christopher B. Leinberger, visiting fellow at The Brookings Institution.
In a survey of "walkable urban places" among the nation's 30 largest metro areas, Leinberger looked at where such walkable areas were most prevalent per-capita, along with availability of rail transit.
Interestingly, "there are an equal number of walkable urban places in the center cities and the suburbs," the study notes. "While there has been much attention on the revival of American downtowns over the past 10 years, the revival of suburban downtowns, the redevelopment of failed regional malls and strip centers, and the recent emergence of lifestyle centers appears to be an equally dynamic trend."
As the Boston Globe reported today, the study called Washington, D.C. the nation's most walkable, with "the most regional-serving walkable urban places per capita in the country." Boston was second. But the study's rankings are foolish, penalizing places with high population densities. New York -- the only city in America where more than half the population takes public transit to work -- only ranks 10th. That's because while it has the highest number of walkable neighborhoods, the survey divides that over the metro area's huge population, 19 million, coming up with "only" one per 896,000. The fact that "one" place might be serving many more people in New York than it does in D.C. isn't taken into consideration. Yet high population density can be a key attribute of walkable neighborhoods.
In my opinion, pretty much all of Manhattan and many Boston neighborhoods (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, North End) would be a walkable urban place.
I do agree with the methodology showing that Northeast and West Coast have higher than average walkable urban places compard with the Southeast, Midwest and Southwest.