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Where Does LA Rank in Walkable Cities?

Woman walking down the street.

Metro areas within the United States are either defined as central city/walkable urban or drivable suburban. Since the suburban sprawl of the 1950s, Americans have been leaving the central city or urban areas for the suburban ones. But according to a new study by the George Washington University School (GWU) of Business, where they ranked walkable urbanism in America's 30 largest metro areas, the end of sprawl is in sight and urban planning is now focusing on creating walkable development instead of drivable suburbs. Here's a closer look at the study defining walkability and finding out where Los Angeles ranked on the list.

What Makes a City Walkable?

A walkable urban development is comprised of four factors: higher development density, mixed-use real estate products, emerging "new" product types and multiple transportation options. The ratio of a building's gross floor area to the size of land which it's built on, or the FAR, is much higher in walkable areas with the ratio ranging between 1.0 and 4.0 compared to the 0.05 to 0.4 range in suburban areas. This means walkable areas make better use of space, building up rather than out and giving pedestrians the ability to cover more ground.

Walkable areas have mixed-use real estate where business and private homes co-mingle, unlike suburban areas where commercial and private properties are segregated. Think gated communities versus strip malls. While an urban area might have rental apartments over a grocery store, the suburbs don't promote "new" product types and everything is fairly standardized throughout the country. Lastly, while cars and trucks are the primary mode of transportation in the suburbs, walkable areas offer multiple options such as bus, train, metro, bicycle lanes and pedestrian-safe sidewalks.

Where Does Los Angeles Rank?

A good way behind the top six most walkable metro areas—New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco—the Los Angeles metro region ranked #17 overall. The study by GWU identified 619 regionally important walkable urban spaces, also known as "WalkUPS," with Los Angeles housing 53 of these neighborhoods. More walkable cities have development momentum and house the most educated and wealthy, which, according to MoveLA, makes LA an anomaly. It's mid-level overall ranking is a result of five additional counties in the region being evaluated with LA county and potentially skewing scores.

Could Los Angeles Be Ranked Higher in the Future?

There is a general shift happening toward more walkable urban areas as seen by forward-looking indicators that consider rent premiums, absorption of individuals

Walking and biking build better stronger communities.

Street Walking Blog

Street Walking BlogActive transportation not only helps the environment, but has a positive economic impact on communities as a whole. Using walking and biking as primary modes of transportation have helped some cities collect over $80 million dollars in annual revenue.

In a study conducted by the League of American Bicyclists, 70% of businesses reported an increase in foot and bike traffic with bike corrals.

In a study conducted by the League of American Bicyclists, 70% of businesses reported an increase in foot and bike traffic with bike corrals.

Cities that put sustainable transportation first, see increases in local spending and savings in healthcare costs. Active Living Research found cities that are easily accessed by foot and bike also have increased property values. The Vermont Agency of Transportation reported bicycling and walking created at least 1,400 jobs, $41 million in wages and $83 million in revenue for the state during 2012.

While walking and biking have positive health benefits, the economic benefits are becoming far too great for city planners and governments to ignore.

Even in a city known for its traffic, Los Angeles is beginning to understand the importance of walkability and safety for bicyclists. CicLAvia, which is quickly catching the public's attention, is an organization working towards making the streets of Los Angeles safer for active transportation. Throughout the year CicLAvia holds car-free street events to help demonstrate the importance of walkable cities.