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).

Streets.mn 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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9 Responses to Report Ranks Mpls.-St. Paul’s Walkable Urban Spaces 4th for Social Equity

  1. Karen Nelson September 19, 2019 at 10:37 pm #

    Wow!

    “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.”

  2. Lou Miranda September 19, 2019 at 11:09 pm #

    “The 11 walkable local neighborhoods they picked out in 2016 included 10 in Minneapolis, plus Stillwater (cue more head-scratching).”

    I didn’t know “Downtown St. Paul” was in Minneapolis. 😉

    I’ll have to download the report to see if they talk about any suburban nodes other than Stillwater (downtown?).

    • Lou Miranda September 19, 2019 at 11:17 pm #

      From the report:

      “Minneapolis-St. Paul [has] heavily invested in light rail systems from the center cities to the suburbs and there is a chance than urbanizing suburbs might occur, assuming proper zoning is allowed.”

      Yes! Maybe Metro Transit and the Met Council aren’t so dumb after all, having LRT go to the suburbs.

      I mean, it’s too bad that we don’t have enough money to also do more LRT in the core cities, but the current strategy makes sense if we truly want the (or some) suburbs to densify. Certainly St. Louis Park and Hopkins have both done great things for walkable urban areas in the parts of their cities surrounding future SWLRT stations.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell September 20, 2019 at 7:48 am #

        One problem is that LRT is somewhat WalkUP unfriendly. The stations are massive, forbidding, have social safety problems (too separated from local streets and people walking), and create divisions. They are much more like commuter rail stations.

        Look at the differences in a Tram system in Amsterdam or anywhere in Europe or Asia (or Portland?) compared to our LRT. Tram stations are small, unobtrusive and fit well in to neighborhoods. Step out of a tram car and in 15′ you’re walking in front of stores and cafés, you can see across the street and are connected to the places across the street, you’re not in the shadow of a massive station.

        • Lou Miranda September 23, 2019 at 7:27 am #

          In St. Louis Park & Hopkins, at least, LRT stations are being built around the same time (or after) transit-oriented development occurs surrounding it. This is true for Beltline Blvd., Wooddale Ave., Blake Rd., and the downtown Hopkins stations.

          These stations will be completely integrated into the surrounding neighborhood.

        • Andrew Evans September 23, 2019 at 8:14 am #

          Agree Walker,

          Light rail is our commuter rail system, although with the green line being an oddball running where it does.

          It’s not the street car style tram that would extensively serve a given neighborhood. This is part of the reason why it wasn’t run through south mpls or up through north.

  3. Scott September 20, 2019 at 3:36 pm #

    The only Uptown Minneapolis neighborhood making the list is Lowry Hill East (aka the Wedge)? Not one walkable neighborhood outside downtown in St. Paul? Stillwater? I’m a bit skeptical that this is a definitive list…

  4. lisa September 21, 2019 at 10:15 am #

    METC keep picking the wrong locations for LRT/BRT in low density areas that cannot support high frequency transit .
    GREEN LINE should have build underground maybe Blasidel/Nicollet to Uptown .The Northstar is waste of money with limited schedules which depend on P/R for riders ,this promote urban sprawl with high subsidy $18/rider while buses are under $10 with highly subsized parking
    RED LINE is joke with less 1000 riders /day and is listed as high freq route with 20-30 headways
    Rush line and Gold line will be worst than Green
    The Orange Line will not have the ridership to operate every15mins off peak ,the weekends service was short lived with dismal ridership on #535

    • Andrew Evans September 23, 2019 at 8:09 am #

      It’s the difference between street cars vs light rail.

      A light rail line with few stops doesn’t make sense going through the neighborhoods south of downtown, buried or not. There would be few stops for residents, and it wouldn’t really be all that useful for the congestion it causes. This is the same argument that was used for the northern extension not going through North. The few stops wouldn’t have really benefited residents.

      A street car system would be different, and something maybe the city should explore. That way it can stop every few blocks, without the need of designated stations or platforms. This is more of a benefit to residents there.

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