One of the great things about Boston is that it carries big time clout in many respects, but is small enough to navigate on foot. Sure, to get from one end of The Hub to the other may require the aid of transportation (we recommend biking if it’s a longer distance), but most of the city’s amenities are available by just a hop, skip and a jump. It’s almost no surprise, then, that Boston has been ranked third out of the nation’s 30 largest metropolitan areas in terms of walkable urbanism.
What is walkable urbanism, you ask? It’s the ability for one to enjoy as much of a city’s urban characteristics by simply putting one foot in front of the other. The study, though, conducted by LOCUS and The George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate & Urban Analysis, delves a bit deeper.
The report aggregates different types of WalkUPs – geographic boundaries of each metro’s regionally significant walkable urban places – in location-based categories such as Downtown, Downtown Adjacent, Urban Commercial and Urban Commercial.
Cities were then ranked based on number of, and access to, WalkUPs.
“Research in this report, observations, and in-depth analysis of metro Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, DC, suggest that WalkUPs account for about 1 percent of all metropolitan land in the 30 largest metros,” reads the report. It also credits the urbanization of neighboring Cambridge for its high ranking.
Boston was bested only by Washington D.C. and New York City, while San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago rounded out the top six. All 30 cities were then split up into four tiers based on their rank – high, moderate, tentative and low walkable urbanism.
Interesting to note is that New York has the highest number of WalkUPs with 66, followed by San Francisco with 57 and Los Angeles (which ranks 18th overall and sits in the tentative tier) with 54.
But wait, there’s more good news!
GW and LOCUS sifted through notable trends – office space absorption, central city vs. suburban balance and office rent premiums – to determine future rankings for cities, though it doesn’t note how far. Just consider it imminent.
For that, Boston was designated the top dog. Following in Boston’s footsteps are fellow heavy hitters Washington D.C. and New York City, as well as Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, Detroit and Denver.
“If metro Boston and Washington D.C. are indicative of the future, this means there is the potential for hundreds of WalkUPs to be developed throughout the country as well as millions of walkable urban square feet,” the report notes further.
Boston’s WalkUPs are innumerable. Just step outside and put your head on a swivel. Public art is blossoming, urban innovation is booming and designated areas such as the Innovation District in Southie’s Seaport as well as a potential Literary Cultural District are essentially sprawling WalkUPs in and of themselves.
As proud as we are of Boston’s walkability, however, plenty more future research ought to be conducted. The report suggests, for example, analyzing rail transit, housing and affordability, and the relationship between education and GDP. All of these items pertain directly to Boston as well.
The MBTA carries Boston workers in and out of the city (whether they appreciate it or not); there’s a startling lack of housing available to middle-income employees and recent graduates; and surely the dense concentration of wealth and prestigious higher education institutions have some kind of affect on our day-to-day happenings.
But, we’ll leave that for the professionals to iron out. In the meantime, get outside and enjoy all of Boston’s civic conveniences and be proud that other metro areas are looking to us to keep blazing the innovation trail.
Featured image via Shutterstock, Tables via Smart Growth America,