These 5 U.S. Metropolises Are Evolving Beyond the Car

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Miami’s future as a walkable metropolis is looking bright; the city has taken important steps toward improving walkability. Now, other America’s cities are growing too. According to the 2010 U.S. census, 80.7 percent of the American population currently lives in urban areas, and that number is expected to continue to rise in the next few decades, with experts at the World Health Organization predicting that by 2030 6 out of every 10 people will be living in cities. By 2050, that number is expected to climb even higher, up to 7 out of every 10 people.

Currently, according to a study conducted by the Georgetown University School of Business, the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. are home to more than 146 million people, or about 46 percent of the nation’s total population. Further, these metropolises also serve as important areas of economic growth; the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that these 30 metro areas account for more than 58 percent of country’s GDP.

America’s cities are changing in more ways than just population growth — however, as climate change continues to have a worsening effect on the world around us, it is increasingly important that the places where we live are easily navigable without a car. Some American metropolitan areas are already fairly easy to navigate without a car, while many others suffer from sprawling suburbs, are poorly integrated, and require long commutes, often in heavy traffic.

In recent years, urban planning experts have put a new emphasis on diverse, multi-use urban spaces which allow an increased level of walkability. In this article, we explore the results of a recent study conducted by the Georgetown School of Business in partnership with Smart Growth America, which ranked the top 30 U.S. metropolises in order from most walkable to least based on a number of criteria, including the city’s office and retail space, walkability score (via, availability of rail transit, per capita GDP, as well as population data.

The study defines a “walkable urban area,” or WalkUP as “characterized by much higher density and a mix of diverse real estate types, connected to surrounding areas via multiple transportation options, such as bus and rail, bike routes, and motor vehicles. For those living or visiting a walkable urban place, everyday destinations such as home, work, school, stores, and restaurants are within walking distance.”

Some of the study’s results may surprise you. Sure, all of the hyper urban areas you’d expect are there — New York, for instance, but many aren’t quite as pedestrian friendly as you might initially imagine, and still other, smaller metropolises take some of the ranking’s highest spots. Still more intriguingly, the study predicted future rankings of the same 30 metropolises and found some interesting (and unexpected) trends.

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