While patterns of development from the previous century dictated a sprawling suburbia focused on the automobile, many Americans have begun to turn their back on this way of living and are now seeking walkable places to shop, work, and live. Below are four of the reasons that have fueled this increased demand.
1. A boon to the local economy: Walkable places have the power to support a thriving local economy and are best suited to meet the increased consumer desire for smaller retail. Researchers at the Brookings Institution have found a strong correlation between walkable space and strong retail sales. Stores in walkable neighborhoods were likely to see an 80 percent gain in sales over their counterparts elsewhere primarily due the ability to capture higher levels of foot traffic. In turn, this creates local jobs and makes real estate less susceptible to recession.
2. Older adults, not just millennials, still crave a walkable lifestyle: Although millennials have driven much of the demand for walkability, they are not alone. Older adults want to “age in place” and in order to do so they need places that don’t necessitate driving. According to the AARP, over 20% of adults over the age of 65 do not drive and for this portion of the population, walkable places are at a premium. Demographic trends indicate that by 2030 almost 20% of Americans will be over 65, so expect this demand to continue to increase.
3. Americans want sustainability: People are willing to buy into products and services that they recognize as sustainable, even if it costs them slightly more, and walkable places are no exception. Walkable neighborhoods lessen the amount of CO₂ emitted by motor vehicles, which also creates financial advantages. For every mile that isn’t driven, a car owner saves 60.8 cents. This leads to our final factor for this growing demand.
4. The expense of the car: The average price of a new car has risen to over $32,000, which puts it out of reach for many American families. Even with used vehicles, the average American will spend over $9,000 per year to maintain and fuel it. These increases in costs have led former drivers to seek out the alternative forms of transport that walkable places are well suited for, such as bicycles and public transit. In addition to saving money, residents of walkable neighborhoods also avoid the frustration that comes with traffic congestion and no longer have to drive all across town to complete their daily errands.
For further information on the increasing demand for walkable places and walkability in general, see Opticos Design’s blog “Logos Opticos: Composing Vibrant Urban Places”.