Report: Mpls. to lose ground in battle against sprawl

Minneapolis is the 12th most “walkable” city in the nation, a report released today shows. It’s one of the few national surveys in which the city finishes behind Cleveland (10).

foottrafficaheadThe George Washington University School of Business produced the study, called “Foot Traffic Ahead,” to coincide with the opening of a conference in Dallas (one of the least walkable cities) on the new urbanism.

Minneapolis gets points for having so many jobs in the city, noting that suburbs aren’t appealing to pedestrians.

“These metros have the vast majority of their walkable urban office and retail space in the central city (75 percent to 99 percent), indicating walkable urbanism has not yet spread to the suburbs. This characteristic particularly applies to Portland; despite its national reputation for walkable urbanism, more than 90 percent of its walkable urban space is concentrated within its central city.

Rankings of older industrial metros in this category, such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, may reflect historic, early 20th-century trends. Many of these metros lack significant suburban walkable urbanism and have experienced decades of weaker economic growth and underinvestment in their early 20th-century rail transit systems. However, their center city walkable urban development has been impressive.

Among these moderately ranked metros, Minneapolis and Denver are noteworthy. While most current walkable urbanism is in their central cities, both areas are significantly expanding their light rail systems and the potential of suburban urbanism.”

So Minneapolis gets a boost for thinking about expanding to the suburbs, but, as the Southwest Corridor debate shows, that’s hardly a done deal.

Whatever high ranking Minneapolis gets in current “urban walkability,” it loses in future outlook.

Minneapolis does quite poorly, apparently because more jobs are expected to be located in the suburbs. That, by itself, is not a negative; some high-ranking cities in the survey get a boost from providing “walkable urbanism” in the suburbs.

For other areas, however, suburbs will continue to be designed as suburbs are currently designed.

Atlanta, Boston, and Washington have ended “suburban sprawl,” the report said, which is why they top the list for urban walkability.

The end of sprawl in moderate walkable urban metros in this study largely depends on the question, “Will these metros continue to build predominantly drivable sub-urban, or will they follow the path of high walkable urban metros?” Based on current and future rankings, this analysis predicts the following metros will accelerate their evolution in a walkable urban manner:

• Denver
• Los Angeles
• Portland
• Miami
• Atlanta

Look who’s missing from the list.

“To grow economically, urbanization of the suburbs is a crucial next step for metropolitan areas over the next few real estate cycles,” the report said.

It indicated that while there are champions for a more walkable urbanization of the region, the infrastructure and political leadership here doesn’t seem to exist to make it so in the future.

  • Gary F

    Losing the battle to “sprawl”? That is a good thing.

    Socialist Utopian social engineering types get worked up over this. I don’t.

    Bob, you live somewhere out in an eastern sprawl suburb? Why?

    • spaz06

      Do you really think the sprawl itself wasn’t engineered by policy? Specifically highway, housing, and zoning policies? You can’t make any serious argument that the current situation was the market speaking.

    • I don’t defend where I live as I’ve mentioned to David Brauer many times. I live where I darned well please and I don’t owe anybody an explanation or an apology for it. People should live where they choose to live and everyone else should tend to their own messed-up lives. :*)

      But you’re making a big mistake in reading this and automatically jumping to the — boring and trite, frankly — cities v. suburbs debate. The report, if you take the time to read it, embraces a new urbanism in the suburbs.

      In my suburb, there are increasing examples of housing being near ammenities. That’s hardly anti-suburb. And that encourages are more walkable and efficient community.

      I think we tend to treat this question the way we treat constitutional issues. That because the suburbs were created with one design at one time, they must — in defense of suburbs and liberty — always embrace that design concept from days gone by.

      I don’t see where design can’t change.

      In this case, you have to think of “sprawl” as a design, not a place.

      • Gary F

        Did you take mass transit to work today?

        • MrE85

          The topic is walking, not mass transit.

          • Actually, mass transit is very much part of the report. Didn’t make much sense to me, though, since the transit to the suburbs is quite poor and Mpls got credit for dreaming big, then got dinged in the ‘future’ category.

        • At the moment, I’m sitting on the deck.

          • MrE85

            Damn you, Collins! And it’s beautiful outside, too.

  • MrE85

    “…noting that suburbs aren’t appealing to pedestrians.” I must disagree. Like Bob, I have noted that many new developments in my suburb are designed to encourage foot traffic. The new developments all have sidewalks (my street, built in the early 60s, does not), connections to trails and parks, a mix of retail and housing. Yes, the urban area were I work is nice for walking, but so are many parts of the suburb where I live.
    Bob’s right, the ‘burbs can change. In fact, they already are.

    • jon

      I live on a street with a sidewalk (well on one side) and a fairly large regional path runs past not to far away… I can get to parks, lakes, even walk all the way over to the mississippi…

      And I do walk the dog in all these areas.

      I don’t however walk to get groceries (nearest store is .8 miles one way)
      I don’t walk to restaurants (nearest one is right by the grocery store)
      I don’t walk to the hardware store (2.9 miles)

      My houses walk score (from is a 28 (out of 100)
      The building I work out of (also in the burbs) is a 26 (and that probably isn’t counting the time to walk out of the building)
      That is all northern burbs (out side of the 694 494 loop)

      My old apartment building in st. louis park scores a 48 (still listed as car dependant)

      Punching in an address I used to work at on 6th street in downtown, I get a 92…

      Having infrastructure for walking doesn’t always equate to having amenities in a walkable radius of your home.

      • I have a grocery store and a food co-op both about 0.7 miles from my house that I walk to regularly. Granted, I shop for myself only, so that makes it easier.

      • Kassie

        The opposite is where there are amenities, but no infrastructure. I can walk to the bar closest to my house, but I have to walk on the street since there are not sidewalks. Same with the park closest to me. Here’s the sort of thing I deal with, in St. Paul, the sidewalk stops for one house, then continues: