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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Study Ranks America’s “Walkable” Cities

posted by on December 4 at 15:15 PM

ECB is out of town so I’ll have to handle this one: A new study from the Brookings Institute ranks the most “walkable” cities in the USA. Washington D.C. comes in first. And what makes a city walkable? From MSNBC:

Leinberger attributes Washington’s success with walkability to several factors, including a large population of 20- and 30-somethings and recent strong economic growth. But the chief factor, he said, is the success of the Metro. The 31-year-old rail system has transformed the region, shaping development and making the walkable urban model more viable.

Leinberger calls rail transit a key factor in the success of walkable places . Roughly two-thirds of the 157 places he counted are served by rail, he said.

Local supporters of rail might want to go read the whole story before they start crowing about this report. While the report supports the arguments of light rail proponents—rail makes cities walkable, dense, and desirable—there’s one little detail in the report that’s going to come as a shock.

Seattle ranks high on the list of walkable cities.

There must be other factors that play into making a city walkable since Seattle—without much rail to speak of (SLUT does not count)—somehow managed to rank sixth, coming in above Chicago (#7), which has shitloads of commuter rail and the rapid elevated transit. Seattle also beat out New York Fucking City (#10)… which makes me wonder about the validity of the study and the sanity of its author. Unless talking about rail—monorail, light rail, trollies—has the same effect that building rail does, it seems incredible that Seattle could make the cut at all.

Our local anti-rail activists—from smarmy Bellevue businessmen to shitty daily newspapers—are going to point this study and claim victory. “If we came in sixth without rail,” they’ll argue, “we don’t need to invest in rail at all.”

I sent an email to the author of the study asking how we placed so high.

RSS icon Comments


Maybe it's the Ride-Free zone.

Posted by Mike of Renton | December 4, 2007 3:16 PM

having spent a large chunk of my young adult life in the Washington D.C. area the cities first place further calls into question how this ranking was meted out- Washington is not really all that walkable and UNLIKE NYC I never met a resident of the city itself- not just the near suburbs- that didn't won a car and use it frequently. Until recently the Metro shut down at midnight even on weekends and only in the lsat 5 years did it start staying open later to serve entertainment on the weekends such as bars. Large swaths of the city are not places where most people might be comfortable being walking on the streets for fear of safety. NUTS! As a former resident I would hardly rank D.C. as very walkable at all.

Posted by NELBOT | December 4, 2007 3:17 PM

seattle is walkable. there isn't anywhere i can't walk in an hour or so -- cap hill to u dist, cap hill to queen anne, cap hill to sodo is all within an hour or so by foot. we're penned in by water, so there isn't that much geographically to cover.

now if you want to go somewhere OUTSIDE of that, you're SOL and have to resort to begging online for a ride to oly.

Posted by charlie goes sock puppet all over your asses | December 4, 2007 3:21 PM

I only walk. The only time I'll hop on a bus is if the weather is horrid or if I'm going to work, which is (unfortunately) in Bellevue. I have no problem walking from the sound up to Broadway. I do it all of the time. It's good for you, anyway. And it gives you time to strut your stuff.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 4, 2007 3:23 PM

DC #1, NYC #10, Seattle #6? That's completely bullshit.

Maybe the best way to measure "walkability", whatever that is, is to measure ACTUAL WALKING. If a city's walkable, people will walk it; if it's not, they won't. Anyone who thinks that Seattle has a high percentage of pedestrians on its streets doesn't get out much.

Posted by Fnarf | December 4, 2007 3:23 PM

"I walk, therefore Seattle is walkable" is bad reasoning.

Posted by Fnarf | December 4, 2007 3:24 PM

Like #3 and 4, I'm rarely fazed by a couple mile walk, but most people are. So, for most people, Seattle is absolutely not walkable.

Posted by keshmeshi | December 4, 2007 3:25 PM

Well that's a bit odd. Brookings papers in the past have been really good; what's the deal here?

Posted by Greg | December 4, 2007 3:26 PM

@4, but you have no stuff to strut.

Posted by Just Me | December 4, 2007 3:30 PM

Anacostia and most of SE is not walkable, chunks of NE DC are not walkable unless you wanna get capped (180 murders so far this year.) Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, the Mall, and the newly gentrified Adams Morgan are walkable. The only walkable parts of DC in the surrounding counties are the white and upper class parts and the tourist parts. Ironic in a city with the highest population of African Americans.

Posted by SeMe | December 4, 2007 3:31 PM

I think I've figured it out. According to the MSNBC story, the study "ranks the 30 biggest metropolitan areas according to the number of 'walkable urban places' relative to the area’s population" (emphasis mine).

So we may not be as walkable overall as, say, New York, but this study ranks walkability on a per capita basis (which is really freakin' weird, I think).

Posted by Greg | December 4, 2007 3:33 PM

As usual with rankings, it's the list makers whose input determines the ratings, not you, not me, not Dan Savage (unless You, Me, & Dan Savage are making a Top 10 list. You, Me, & Dan Savage also makes for a great band name, but I digress.)

Top 10 lists are fun to argue about in public, but that's about all.

Back to Seattle, but perhaps Seattle ranked high on the list because Seattle is about 1/10th the size of NYC? If there was a major per-capita/city-limits only constraint on the study, Seattle would rank high, because Seattle is SMALL. D.C., while not NYC BIG, is still BIG. Buses are the least sexiest form of public transit, but the combo of King County Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit, etc. make for a navigable city. Not driving makes people walk more, period.

Also, you can still be a walkable city *and* a driveable city. There are a few mutually exclusive factors between the two but not as many neither pro-transit nor pro-car fundamentalists would have you believe. Many Seattlites take the bus to work, then go driving on the weekends to do errands or go skiing or hiking or whatever. It's not a black & white thing here.

Now I know how Gomez feels whenever this subject comes up.

(For the record, I am very much pro-light rail and not pro-car unless it's a crucial issue for something about to collapse, hint hint.)

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 3:35 PM

Dan, you travel too much to make such an ignorant statement.

Seattle is far more walkable than most other cities. I can walk around neighborhoods here. I cannot walk around neighborhoods in Fresno, Las Vegas, Phoenix, LA, San Antonio, Little Rock, Jacksonville, etc. Look outside the bubble.

Or live in one of these other places without a car for a few months, and report back to us on how walkable you think Seattle is.

Posted by Gomez | December 4, 2007 3:35 PM

Greg@11, why is a per-capita constraint weird in this context?

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 3:37 PM

Baltimore scored 15...our light rail is woefully inadequate and our subway is a joke. Some of our neighborhoods are walkable (mine is very walkable), but I would not say the city as a whole is very walkable at all. Public transportation here is not very good at all.

Posted by Bruce Garrett | December 4, 2007 3:39 PM

Also of interest to local armchair urban planners (I'm looking at you, Josh Feit):

When the Metro was being built, county officials lobbied to put their portion underground along a central commercial road, rather than above ground and along the interstate. The county then loosened zoning regulations around each Metro stop, a policy that gave rise to "urban villages" such as Ballston.

Density doesn't just happen by accident. It has to be encouraged.

Posted by Greg | December 4, 2007 3:40 PM

Yes, Gomez. I walk everywhere. But here's where I don't walk: Ballard. West Seattle. Columbia City. White Center. Ravenna. If we had rapid transit I would walk in all of those 'hoods, just as I walk through the Village in Manhattan and then hop on the subway and walked around Midtown or Brooklyn or the Upper West Side.

Seattle isn't a walkable city by my estimation. It's a jumble of isolated, walkable-on-their-own neighborhoods that aren't knit together by a rail system the way other walkable neighborhoods are in cities with rail transit.

Posted by Dan Savage | December 4, 2007 3:40 PM

The report ranks cities by the number of walkable places relative to their population. So in NYC you'd have Gr Village, East Village, SOHO-Tribecca, Chelsea, Mid-Town, and that's probably it. So they have maybe six *walkable places* and a huge population. Seattle has maybe downtown, cap-hill, U District/Walingford and Frelard maybe - so maybe 4 places with a much smaller population. What a stupid way to rank anything.
It's like ranking women by the number of beautiful features they have for their size, or something like that.

Posted by kinaidos | December 4, 2007 3:41 PM

Too wonky.

Posted by elenchos | December 4, 2007 3:41 PM

Dan@17, I walk in those neighborhoods all the time by taking the bus.

I'm not going to berate you for your feelings on the bus. You made that very clear.

Just note that you are limiting yourself with your preference, and that's your choice.

And I say that supporting the idea of rapid transit between all the above mentioned neighborhoods too.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 3:44 PM

Because it's a flat "number of walkable zones" per capita. The size of the zone doesn't matter at all. Midtown Manhattan counts as one zone; so does Reston Town Center, a "lifestyle center" near DC. There's also no gradation -- if you cross the threshold of "walkable place", you count, even if you're at 51% or whatever it is, while another place at 100% or whatever counts the same. That's bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.

If you looked at the percentage of pedestrians in those two places who GOT THERE on foot, or the percentage of their TOTAL MOVEMENT that was on foot, New York would win in a landslide. I'll bet close to 100% of the pedestrians in Reston Town Center own cars, while in most NYC walkable places the number is much lower, possibly as low as 10% in some of them.

Posted by Fnarf | December 4, 2007 3:46 PM

@14: Dividing the number of walkable places by the population is useful, since it allows you to make a rough comparison between cities of very different sizes (like Portland and D.C.). However, the actual quantity that you're comparing is the somewhat perverse "number of walkable places per person."

Posted by Greg | December 4, 2007 3:46 PM

They're right on Boston. That city is damn walkable. Actually, it's not really anything else. I don't know anyone there with a car.

Posted by Ryno | December 4, 2007 3:47 PM

Greg@22: I know that phrase is vague. However, Leavenworth is a walkable place. Are we going to include that as part of greater Seattle? Of course not!

And neither Olympia too, right? Um, sure.

And neither Fife, nor Tacoma, nor Federal Way, and.. well, you see where a line has to be drawn.

I have no clue where the line was drawn for Seattle.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 3:51 PM

Apparently they didn't take into account all the fucking sidewalks closed for months and months due to construction!

Posted by DOUG. | December 4, 2007 3:53 PM

Ballard and Ravenna are a hell of a lot easier to walk to from Capitol Hill than Columbia City or, really, anyplace south of the CD. Ranier Valley is a huge stretch of ugly nothing but, from Capitol Hill, you can make it to Ravenna via the Ave and Ballard via the BG Trail,and those are both nice corridors.

If I have the time I find anyplace north of Yesler to be a pretty nice walk. South of Yesler, the distances between walkable neighborhoods is just too vast.

Posted by Judah | December 4, 2007 3:54 PM

This will sound odd, but Fnarf is right: You just don't see that many people walking in Seattle. Oh, they walk around the Capitol Hill or Pioneer Square clubs, or around Pacific Place and the downtown shopping district. But most people drove to those places, parked, and then walked. That's not a walking city.

Posted by bigyaz | December 4, 2007 3:54 PM

So anyone from Denver or Miami want to vouch for the #4 and #8 rankings respectively?

I never talked to anyone from Denver that said great things about their transit or even knew the city had transit, but I might have weird friends in Denver, too.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 3:55 PM

Maybe they are using similar methods as that Walk Score website and scoring neighborhood nodes compared to how easy it is to crisscross the city? If I see all my movies at Central Cinema, work out at Curves, can tolerate El Gallito, and do all my drinking at the Twilight Exit, then my shit is totally walkable.

Posted by Abe | December 4, 2007 3:56 PM

If you come from a place like Los Angeles or Dallas or Nashville and you are in downtown Seattle on any given weekday, you would never say "Seattle is not walkable."

There's a lot of "pavement is more walkable on the other side of the city limit"-ness going on in this thread.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 3:58 PM

@24: I'm not really sure what you're getting at. The study counts the number of walkable places per person within a single city, which means that Leavenworth, Poulsbo, and Fife are right out.

The problem is that even if the boundaries are well-defined, just counting the number of "walkable" places and scaling by the population doesn't tell you much.

For example, I would say that the inside of Northgate Mall is very walkable, but how many people get there on foot? (And Northgate has a major bus park and ride just across the street.)

Like Fnarf says, you could get a more accurate picture of walkability by tallying things like the number of trips taken on foot versus by car, the percentage of residents that own a car, the amount of office and retail square footage within a certain distance of certain neighborhoods, the bus and train ridership as a fraction of the total population, etc.

Posted by Greg | December 4, 2007 4:06 PM

@17, if NYC were the pinnacle of walkability, wouldn't you be walking from the Village to Midtown to Brooklyn instead of sitting on the subway?

Fixed rail transit may make it easy to live without a car, but that's not what's being measured here.

Posted by joykiller | December 4, 2007 4:06 PM


This is true. I am hideous.

At least I'm not one to complain about walking 2 miles.

Dan has a point about West Seattle.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 4, 2007 4:08 PM

Well, based on a recent visit to DC and nearby Bethesda MD, this sounds about right - it is far more walkable than here.

My guess as to why we score so high would be that Capitol Hill, Fremont, and the U District bump us up quite a bit.

But if we actually invested in more transit and less roadways, that would probably help a lot too.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 4, 2007 4:10 PM

I think Seattle is very walkable - at least in the central core. When I worked downtown, I regularly walked to work from Beacon Hill and, prior to that, Capitol Hill. You can easily walk across downtown (Belltown to Pioneer Square) in a half hour, or from the waterfront to Captiol Hill in the same amount of time.

I've been known to walk home from Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill if I've had a few. It's an easy walk, even for a drunk.

There are also the destinations for walking: Green Lake, Golden Gardens, Alki, etc. True, you have to drive or bus to get there, but once you do, it's a nice walk.

Or you can walk on a ferry and get off and walk around downtown Winslow (or Bremerton, if you're into that sort of thing) or walk to King Street, hop a train and go walk around Portland.

Then there's our weather: It's never that cold here that you don't want to walk. It hardly ever snows. It never gets that hot. Sure, you might get a little damp, but that won't kill you.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | December 4, 2007 4:12 PM

1. NYC is by far the most walkable and has the most walking. Has rail with crisscorssing lines covering pretty much the whole city. Lots of buses too.
Kis way out in Brooklyn can go to school in the Bronx, work in Manhattan, and date someone in Queens. You go all over.

2. DC is next most walkable. With buildings limited to 12 stories it is less dense. Has rail with crisscorssing lines covering pretty much the whole city and metro area. BTW, DC started building its Metro when its metro population was the same as ours. Prior to the Metro it was a low density sprawly suburbanish "city" surrounded by suburbs -- but with bad congestion everywhere -- like our area today.

Walkable in DC means you walk to your local business/commercial district OR hop on the Metro and go all over. It does not mean most people don't own cars or it isn't useful to own a car. Guess what: building a metro does not take away your roads or your cars. The "we love cars and we need roads" argument against rail is silly at heart; you can have both.

Also: building the metro rail system means you can get around the area quickly and without the expense or delays of using a car -- not that rail will reduce or ease congestion.

3. Seattle is walkable in that you can usually walk to a pretty good neighborhood business district. But you can't get around town without a car very easily because there's no metro. Sadly, there's no plan for one that will cover most of the city or most of the region.

So of the three, Seattle is the least walkable by far.

Posted by Cleve | December 4, 2007 4:26 PM

Freaking Atlanta at #14?

Atlanta is not a walkable city. It's not even a coherent city--it requires a car to get between neighborhoods; it's essentially a series of suburbs of radiating density surrounding a bunch of office buildings. Nobody lives within walking distance of where they work, and nobody goes to restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues within walking distance of others.

The exceptions to this are the areas directly surrounding the colleges (Virginia Highlands for Emory, Midtown for GaTech/GaState, Decatur for Agnes Scott, et cetera), which are pleasantly walkable and mix work, play, and home. However, getting into and out requires a car, and they're isolated neighborhoods surrounded by non-walking areas.

This isn't a list of walkable cities--it's just a list of cities the author could name.

Posted by Christin | December 4, 2007 4:28 PM

I don't know why you're focused on rail/transit for a study about walkability. Riding mass transit is like, you know, NOT walking.

Posted by w7ngman | December 4, 2007 4:33 PM

17. Okay, Dan, as an example to illustrate my point, here's a list of walkable neighborhoods in Las Vegas:

(and no, the Strip is not a neighborhood)

San Antonio:

Uh... the Riverwalk?

Posted by Gomez | December 4, 2007 4:45 PM

Usually when you ride rapid transit you walk there; you walk around stations to transfer; then you walk around when you get off; all this walking helps density grow; you leave your house or apt. prepared to spend a day without a car; this all creates more walking synergistically. More people tend to not own ccars or to use them only on weekends. So to folks who have and use rapid transit, on a daily basis, it is part of walking.

In Paris they say to go somewhere "a pie" [by foot]; this means walking AND riding the subway.

Posted by Cleve | December 4, 2007 4:49 PM

No, there are more places to walk in San Antonio, at least the last time I visited the place I was born. The Riverwalk is nice, and it is more car-oriented than here, but you can walk in parts of it.

Part of that is the weather - and the season - of course.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 4, 2007 4:49 PM

Walkability is not about the potential for long slogs home from the bar, or power jogs around Green Lake. It's about how much of your daily routine can you handle easily with short trips on foot -- grocery store? Dry cleaners? Cafe? Hardware store? Shoe store? Job? If any of those options are easier in a car than on foot, it's not walkable. Even if it's POSSIBLE to walk home from Capitol Hill, if a majority of people would still prefer to take a car, it's not walkable.

Heroic stories about your mighty trips across town have no relevance to gauging a city's walkability. It's POSSIBLE to walk across Las Vegas, just like it's POSSIBLE to walk from Capitol Hill to Ballard, but only a loser, or someone trying to make a point, or someone with a special purpose served by walking, would ever do it. Not the same.

The only TRULY walkable neighborhoods in Seattle are Capitol Hill and Belltown -- and even Belltown is shy of many of the services that normal people need, like grocery stores. In no other neighborhoods is car-free living convenient enough to set a majority of the residents and visitors out on foot. Ballard, Fremont, Greenlake -- 90% cars.

Posted by Fnarf | December 4, 2007 5:01 PM

What, exactly, is the purpose of this list anyway? I guess we're all supposed to send Washington DC congratulatory telegrams, and feel bad about where we live because people don't walk enough.

What a bunch of bullshit.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | December 4, 2007 5:10 PM

I agree that NYC and DC's subway systems are awesome, but isn't it a bit odd that so many people here are arguing that the ability to ride around a city on a train makes it walkable?

Posted by josh | December 4, 2007 5:22 PM

@28: Pure BS. Nobody--nobody--in Denver walks. Anywhere. Period. The car, sprawl, and strip malls rule that city and it's insanely spread suburbs. They have a limited light rail system but people don't seem to like it. I've never seen it even slightly full.

Posted by ben | December 4, 2007 5:25 PM

@42 - wrong. Fremont is walkable.

Grocery store - PCC. Dry cleaners - we don't use them - but there's one up near the grocery store Markettime.
Cafe - we have more than u do. Hardware store - Stone Way (easy walk and bus service too). Shoe store - we take the bus, but we have many women's shoe stores. Job - most of us walk to work at Google, Yahoo, Adobe, UW, you name it. And driving takes longer, so we walk.

Maybe you need to get out more Fnarf.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 4, 2007 5:48 PM

and ... by that measure Ballard (around Market St) is also walkable.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 4, 2007 5:50 PM

Fnarf@42: Fremont, Ballard 90% cars? Can you elaborate on this? When was the last time you were in either neighborhood? Asking respectfully.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 5:50 PM

Ben@28: I think you have the greatest counter-argument to this entire study.

I was sitting there scratching my head too!

Denver? #4?

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 4, 2007 5:53 PM

How has San Francisco not made this list? I never owned a car in SF - walked/bussed or biked everywhere. You can even walk to and across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The hills can be a bitch but you angle them going one block vertical, one block horizontal. And with the Embarcadero Freeway's demise, the entire waterfront is fabulous from wherever it is the Giants play to the Presidio.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | December 4, 2007 6:23 PM

Oops - guess I should have looked at the List first - SF there in third place.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | December 4, 2007 6:27 PM

I think most people here have the wrong idea about north Seattle (as in Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, Greenlake). I mean alot of people complain about places like Wallingford as being the burbs in the city, but you'd be damn suprised living here how many people walk/ride bikes.

Posted by Cale | December 4, 2007 6:30 PM

Fremont last weekend, Ballard yesterday. I go through both of these neighborhoods frequently. Look around: CARS. Fremont Bridge? Chockablock. Market Street? Ditto.

Will, I'll bet you 90% of the humans who pass through Fremont are in cars. Not just the through traffic, either. Ever notice the humongous parking lots for Adobe? Of the traffic circling endlessly for parking spots? PCC is great if you're in the right social class. Most people aren't. And most people IN FREMONT drive out to meet basic needs.

Posted by Fnarf | December 4, 2007 6:35 PM

Walkablility comes from within. My husband and I were sitting in the window of Noah's in Queen Anne this morning reflecting on all the folks who drove up and parked and got stuff to go from Noah's or Starbucks. In HUGE SUV's! Was that necessary? Some folks were eating their "mit" bagel in the car as they drove off. Were they THAT much in a hurry? We were sure most of them could've walked there, like we did, and had a lovely time in the process. People seem to think they'll explode if they walk anywhere. They should really consult the book, "French Women Don't Get Fat". The French stay skinny and fairly happy by walking everywhere -- the market, shops, etc... It makes for a very pleasant life.

On a different note altogether, @7, did you realize that your name means "you are a strainer" in Farsi?

Posted by Sheri | December 4, 2007 8:52 PM

Oops, @7, not "you're a strainer", it's "you're a raisin"

Posted by Sheri | December 4, 2007 9:02 PM

Fnarf darling, now that you have defined what walkability is for all of us (as well as revealed to us the manly tidbit that your daily routine apparently involves both a shoe store AND a hardware store), allow me to murmur that New York has even more cars than Seattle does, and nobody is denying its walkability.

Dearest, it's always "easier" to drive than it is to walk. But sometimes it's a lot cheaper and more convenient to leave the car at home.

Yes, there are those that will ALWAYS want to take the car. Mr. Vel-DuRay (The Colonel) is that way. The man is incapable of even walking to the Red Apple, which is, as they say, within spitting distance. But not ALL of us feel inconvenienced or threatened when sans wheels, and can get around the important parts of town quite nicely on their tootsies.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | December 4, 2007 9:43 PM

If it's more convenient, how can it not be easier? Yes, there are more cars in New York, but not compared to the population. And it IS easier to walk than drive there, much MUCH easier, which is why people do it. The same can not be said of here, which is why you see comparatively far fewer people walking and far more driving. People will drive, you're right, if it's easy enough. In Boston and New York, it's not easy, it's a miserable pain in the ass.

That's why ranking Seattle "more walkable" than New York is fatuous. Which, despite your attempts to turn the conversation in the direction of your heroism, is my original point.

Posted by Fnarf | December 4, 2007 10:32 PM

Seattle is walkable because it's so small. If you live within city limits, you can pretty much walk cross town in two hours. (We tested this frequently in college, when we had to walk home from parties and none of us had a car.)

Anyway, yes, Fremont, except for a little strip of stores, is car-oriented for the most part.

Posted by la | December 4, 2007 11:20 PM

I'm usually with FNARF down the line, but I'd have to add that the U-District is plenty walkable for many of the people who live and work there (even if some of them do still have cars to get around the rest of town too!)

Posted by Mr. X | December 4, 2007 11:50 PM

also, consider the difference between "walkable" and "walked"... ever try to park in Fremont, Ballard, Cap. Hill on a Friday night? Must be all those designated drivers.

Posted by Abe | December 4, 2007 11:54 PM


Posted by Abe | December 4, 2007 11:57 PM

Fnarf, there are large parking structures and cars everywhere in downtown Seattle too -- and downtown anywhere. How do your arguments negate the walkability of Fremont, Ballard, et al?

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 5, 2007 12:27 AM

I live in DC, and I'll tell you firsthand: the rail makes that city. I don't own a car and don't know how I'd get around without my Metro.

Posted by Paul | December 5, 2007 5:36 AM

How in the world did San Diego come in just after New York? I lived there for 18 years and it was IMPOSSIBLE to get anywhere without a car. It's a city entirely dependent on freeways, with next to no public transportation and lots of sprawl. NYC on the other hand...

Also, @18, what are you talking about? What neighborhoods in NYC aren't walkable? Maybe East NY at night, or Flushing. But the vast majority of neighborhoods in this city (including in Brooklyn and the Bronx) are extremely walkable, which is why everyone walks all the time.

Posted by GirlAnachronism | December 5, 2007 6:04 AM

My "Heroism"? Fnarf, You sound like Cheney with his line about conservation being a virtue. For the record, I come from a long line of lazy cowards. If it were up to my people to settle the west, we'd all still be living in Boston.

The point I was trying to make was that it may be easy to get in the car and drive someplace, but once you get there, it's a drag to have the damn thing: finding parking, paying for it, worrying about having a drink, etc. Sometimes, it's easier to walk. At least for me. And Seattle is laid out so you can do that. At least where I live.

I do agree that better transit would make the town much more walkable.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | December 5, 2007 6:41 AM

@45--that's bull. I know, because I live in Denver and I walk. I ride the bus to work every day, too. I see a lot of other people riding the bus and walking around every day, so its not just me. I also ride the light rail to get to sporting events and, let me tell you, they are *full* then.

You are right about the spread out suburbs and strip malls, though. On the weekends, when I have multiple destinations in mind, I usually drive. Plus, if you're trying to get from an outlying area to another outlying area it sucks to use public transport; its only going to downtown that its convenient.

Posted by Aurora | December 5, 2007 8:36 AM

@53 - Fnarf, you _go thru_ those neighborhoods.

Those of us who live there walk in those neighborhoods.

People who visit tend to PARK and then walk in those neighborhoods.

See the difference?

Ballard (around Market between 15th and 26th up to say 60th) is walkable. So is Fremont (downtown between Stone Way and NW 3rd - and up on the hill on the West side of Aurora).

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 5, 2007 11:09 AM

No, Will. I park and walk, a block or two, just like I do in Bellevue or Northgate or Greenwood or anyplace else in this city. What I DON'T do, and what the vast majority of Fremont and Ballard residents do as well, is satisfy most of my daily needs by getting into a car and going someplace. That doesn't resemble the experience of the vast majority of New York residents at all.

See the difference, indeed.

Posted by Fnarf | December 5, 2007 1:21 PM

I can't figure why DC rates so highly either - I lived there for a couple of years, didn't own a car, and had trouble getting from place to place. Moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in the city - say, going from upper Northwest on Wisconsin Ave. to Adams Morgan - required taking DC's atrocious bus service. A trip that was too far to walk for efficency but would take 10 minutes in a car took an hour or more on the bus. Now I live in New York City, which offers comprehensive and rapid mass transit combined with a vibrant street life - much preferable to DC. Walking and mass transit have to be considered together. What Brookings should have been measuring is the ability to not own a car and still be able to get around without wasting time - that's a much more useful metric than "walkable."

Posted by msl | December 5, 2007 1:50 PM

@42. I've lived on Queen Anne for the past seven years. It is *very* walkable. I don't know why it hasn't come up in this discussion as one of the pedestrian-friendly 'hoods. My only beef if that they really need to install more crosswalks on QA Ave. It can be treacherous crossing that street.

Many drivers on QA are assholes who seem not to remember some basic rules of the road, like STOP at all stop signs. Looking left and right while your car is still moving through the intersection doesn't count as stopping. YIELD to pedestrians at all intersections, ESPECIALLY if there is no crosswalk. And YIELD to the person on your right. Don't go speeding east/west across Blaine, Garfield, Crockett, etc like it's a fricking arterial and you're the only one with the right-of-way, you moron!

I'm moving to DC next month; my husband has been there since May. We'll be living in Cathedral Heights and he said these past seven months have been quite manageable without a car. If we didn't have two dogs, we would seriously consider getting rid of our Toyota. But it's paid for...and, we have two large dogs. We like to take them hiking and snowshoeing.

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