So what exactly makes a walkable suburb? It's open for some debate, but in general a suburb or town has decent "walkability" if it scores high on the following factors:
- A town center of some kind, whether it's a main street, a shopping district or a public space.
- A good number of local businesses and public transportation.
- Mixed-use neighborhoods – that is, some businesses and residences located near each other. Density, as opposed to sprawl. People can walk to work.
- Public space – lots of parks and public places where people can gather.
- Good sidewalks and places for foot traffic, with sidewalks ideally in front of shops and parking lots in the back, as well as universal accessibility including for people traveling by bike or in wheelchairs.
- Homes are near schools and workplaces – you don't need a car every time you leave the house.
- Walkable communities are designed with human scale in mind – not just designed for cars. Streets on a grid, leading to town center, rather than looping cul-de-sacs. Enough bike lanes, protected bus shelters, pedestrian crossings.
"Recent studies have shown that walkability is profitable. In 1999, Charles C. Tu and Mark J. Eppli of George Washington University analyzed certain mixed-use, planned communities across the United States, concluding that consumers were willing to pay 12 percent more for walkable real estate."
You're Very Walkable, New York, The New York Observer, September 2008
Living in a walkable community saves huge amounts of money each year because you need fewer cars per household. According to the AAA, the average annual cost of driving a sedan 15,000 miles ranges from six to nine thousand dollars per year.
Benefits of walking and biking:
- It's good for your physical health.
- It's good for your mental health.
- It creates no air pollution.
- It builds local community and businesses.
- It saves money.
"A growing number of Americans prefer to live in walkable communities with shorter commutes rather than communities with larger house lots and longer commutes... A commute time of 45 minutes or less is the top priority in deciding where to live for 79 percent of Americans. Other top priorities include easy access to highways, selected by 75 percent, and having sidewalks and places to walk, selected by 72 percent."
American Community Survey 2011, sponsored by the National Association of Realtors and Smart Growth America