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New York Metro Area Lacking Walkable Urban Places Outside of Urban Core, New GW Study Finds

Walkable Communities are Centers of Economic Vitality and Social Inclusion, According to New Report from the George Washington University
April 04, 2017
Jason Shevrin: [email protected], 202-994-5631
Brett Zongker: [email protected], 202-994-6466
NEW YORK (April 4, 2017)—Despite some of the most iconic walkable urban space on the planet, the New York metropolitan area has very little walkable urbanism outside of the urban core, according to a new report. In contrast, other metropolitan areas like Boston and Washington, D.C., have extensive walkable urban places in the suburbs. 
The new study from the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis (CREUA) at the George Washington University School of Business encompasses an inventory of office, retail, residential and industrial space in nearly 100 percent of the metropolitan region. The study identifies and ranks both emerging and potential walkable urban spaces. The research also evaluates real estate and measures gross regional product down to the location and place level and provides a place and location-based measurement of social equity, which is the combination of affordable living and access to job opportunities. 
Walkable land is extremely scarce in the New York metropolitan region but is highly valued by the market. The study finds there is an average of a 150 percent premium on a per-square-foot basis for real estate prices in walkable urban places over drivable locations. Walkable places are also attractive to lower-income households because of their low transportation costs and high access to jobs. As the region grows, more walkable urban places must be built in order to ensure continued opportunity for economically productive, sustainable and inclusive places, the report found.
“Our research shows that right now, this is a tale of two regions,” said Christopher Leinberger, the Charles Bendit Distinguished Scholar and Research Professor at the GW School of Business, lead author of the report and chair of the center. “Right now, most walkable development is concentrated in the urban core. The future of the tri-state region goes beyond only developing walkable urbanism in New York City. It especially requires fostering walkable urbanism throughout the rest of the region.”
The study defines 149 regionally significant walkable urban places (or “WalkUPs”) in the tri-state region. WalkUPs are neighborhoods that are both pedestrian-friendly and major centers of commercial activity or employment. These in-demand neighborhoods have grown almost twice as fast as their drivable counterparts in the last real estate cycle, researchers found. Despite this momentum, WalkUPs are still more affordable for low-income families because typical household transportation costs are 30 percent less than in drivable areas.
“This research signals a major challenge and opportunity for the tri-state region,” said Emily Pacetti, associate director at the Rockefeller Foundation, which was one of the funders of the report. “A challenge to maintain affordable neighborhoods that are near jobs and transit – a critical lever for residents’ upward mobility – and an opportunity to identify and invest in other potential hubs that could do the same.”
The report, released today at an event at the World Trade Center, also found that:
  • Transit is critical. Of the 149 WalkUPs in the tristate region, 87 percent (130) are within a half-mile of a rail transit or commuter rail station.
  • The highest performing WalkUPs are concentrated in Manhattan, other parts of New York City and the core of the region, but other top performers are in outlying areas, including downtown Greenwich, Princeton and Great Neck.
  • The region’s total walkable urban places presently are located in only 2.5 percent of the region’s land. That land holds 42 percent of the population, 31 percent of regional real estate square footage and 56 percent of the region’s gross regional product.
  • The region’s real estate market has substantial pent-up demand for walkable urban areas, demonstrated by premium real estate market values for walkable urban real estate over drivable suburban areas in all real estate categories.
  • There is a positive correlation in WalkUPs between economic performance and social equity, as these places provide greater transit access, lower combined transportation and housing costs and more opportunity.
  • Meeting the pent-up demand for walkable urbanism will be the foundation for the tri-state region’s economy, but it will require rethinking planning, investment and management of development as well as a conscious approach to improving social equity.
The study attempts to quantify the interaction between walkable urbanism, economic performance and social equity. Because WalkUPs have significant price premiums compared to drivable communities, the affordability of these places may be diminished. While this study shows a positive relationship between walkable urbanism, economic performance and social equity, concerns remain over equity and affordability issues addressed by public policy tools. The study concludes that policymakers, communities and other stakeholders must act proactively to preserve affordable housing, particularly in populations vulnerable to displacement.
“This is critical research that proves that walkable urban neighborhoods are one of the greatest strengths of the tri-state region both economically and socially,” said Thomas K. Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association. “It’s a wake-up to government, civic and business leaders and the real estate industry that our prosperity relies on creating the type of mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods that are now in such demand, everywhere in the region. RPA will be incorporating these findings into the Fourth Regional Plan later this year.”
The full report contains detailed maps showing existing WalkUPs, walkable neighborhoods and drivable suburbs. Interactive versions of these maps are available online at
The New York research is the latest in a series of WalkUP reports from the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. Previous reports focused on Michigan, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.

Neighborhood Rankings

The report, "WalkUP Wake-UP Call: Metro New York," ranks 149 walkable neighborhoods in the New York metro area by economic performance and social equity. 
The full report also includes lists of emerging and potential walkable urban places in the metro area.