Interlude: Pittsburgh a Top-10 Walkable City

Pittsburgh is ranked #9 most walkable city, according to a Brookings Institution study that surveyed the top 30 U.S. metro areas.

In the study, Chris Leinberger identified walkable urban areas, which are dense, mixed-use, compact,  accessible by multiple transportation means, and walkable for nearly every destination once in place.  The urban areas were ranked as the number of “walkable places” per capita.  The study identified three walkable places for Pittsburgh:  Downtown, Oakland, and South Side.  (I suspect that a number of our other neighborhoods ought to qualify as well–Lawrenceville and Central North Side immediately come to mind–but for the sake of the study, we’ll take them at their word.)

In an interview on Marketplace, Leinberger attributed the driving force behind the residential growth of walkable urban communities to Gen-Xers from the suburbs who were raised on “Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and the City: All showing a safe, lively, hip, walkable urban existance”, and who are willing to shell out up to three times as much for a condo in a walkable downtown area than they would pay to live in a drivable suburb.  I’m not sure that I completely buy this analysis as it relates to Pittsburgh specifically, but the sentiment that New Urbanism is being embraced by the young professional set certainly rings true.

An interesting aspect of the study was that they looked at the prevalence of light rail transit in walkable areas and found that there seems to be a potential for it to play a role in catalyzing walkable urban development.  They noted that of Pittsburgh’s three walkable areas, only one (Downtown) has rail access.  With the exception of Seattle, all of the metro areas that rank ahead of Pittsburgh have rail access to at least 40% of their walkable areas.  In Boston and Portland, that number is 100%.

Pittsburgh ranked behind Washington DC (1), Boston (2), San Francisco (3), Denver (4), Portland (5), Seattle (6), Chicago (7), and Miami (8).  We were ranked just ahead of New York (10), San Diego (11), Los Angeles (12), and Philadelphia (13).  The bottom three were Cincinnati (28), Cleveland (29), and Tampa (30).

(h/t Briem at Null Space)

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