Report Ranks Mpls.-St. Paul’s Walkable Urban Spaces 4th for Social Equity

It’s a bit of a head-scratcher, but a recent report puts Minneapolis-St. Paul’s walkable urban places fourth among the nation’s 30 biggest cities for social equity.

Social Equity Index rankings aren’t the main focus of “Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros,” but it’s the subcategory where the Twin Cities shine the brightest. That’s in spite of our notoriety for deep and persistent racial segregation in housing and other areas.

The report, released in June by Smart Growth America and the George Washington University School of Business, crunches numbers to create a master ranking of all 30 cities for walkable urbanism. In the top tier are New York City; Denver; Boston; Washington, D.C.; the San Francisco Bay area; and Chicago. Minneapolis-St. Paul comes in 14th, the bottom entry in the second tier, titled “Level 2: Upper Middle Walkable Urbanism.”

Walkable urban places (or WalkUPs as the report calls them), occupy just 1.7 percent of the land in the United States. But they’re home to 47 percent of the population and they generate 56 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

The study’s researchers eschew strict geographical breakdowns along the usual urban-suburban-exurban lines. Instead, they chop up metro areas into either walkable urban places or drive-able sub-urban places. Either kind can be found in a city center or outlying areas.

Minneapolis-St. Paul is moving up, as measured by the study’s Social Equity Index. In the 2016 edition of “Foot Traffic Ahead,” when the index was first introduced, the Twin Cities were fifth. (We have since surpassed San Francisco.) That year’s Social Equity Index was different — the researchers at George Washington University ranked entire metro areas rather than training their focus on walkable urban places as they did this year. The 11 walkable local neighborhoods they picked out in 2016 included 10 in Minneapolis, plus Stillwater (cue more head-scratching).

Foot Traffic Ahead also had a 2014 edition. The study sprang from a 2007 Brookings Institution effort titled, “Footloose and Fancy Free: A Field Survey of Walkable Urban Places in the Top 30 U.S. Metropolitan Areas.”

This year, the study’s authors combined three factors in equal thirds to create their measurement of social equity: housing cost (which they define as “percentage of household income for a household earning 80 percent of the area median (AMI) required to pay for housing”); transportation cost (“percentage of household income for a household earning 80 percent of the AMI required to pay for transportation”); and rental/for sale housing (percent of housing that’s rental, with a 50/50 split between rental and for-sale housing considered ideal). readers who relish digging into this kind of stuff will likely find other nuggets or themes in “Foot Traffic Ahead” worth highlighting. What jumps out at you?

Foot Traffic Ahead 2019

Foot Traffic Ahead 2019 is the third edition of this report on walkable neighborhoods.



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