Thursday, August 20, 2009

Walkability Good

I don't think the results of this study are surprising and I also don't think they demonstrate that much. Neighborhoods with high walkscores have high density and variety of neighborhood amenities, so one would expect that to show up in property values.

But it's a good moment to spell out a few things for the millionth time, because some people generally fail to understand. People like me have no desire to convert the world into Manhattan or take your cars away or force you all to live in skyscrapers in urban hellholes. We think that there's a shortage of good walkable neighborhoods in this country, and evidence of this shortage is the fact that such neighborhoods tend to be quite expensive. Obviously there are plenty of urban neighborhoods which for a variety of reasons are not pricey and are not "good," so simple density is not enough. We also think the shortage of such neighborhoods exists in large part because of policies ranging from transportation to zoning to land use, and not simply a matter of the market giving the people what they want. Obvious policies are things like emphasis on roadbuilding rather than mass transit. Less obvious - but extremely important - policies include things like mandatory setbacks and parking requirements. As I've written before, no developer could get approval to build my block as it is in my neighborhood today. That is, it would be illegal to rebuild my urban hellhole in its current configuration. And this is in the city!