Living in a walkable neighborhood is essential to our 90-day car-free experiment.
We walk everywhere—to the grocery store, gift shops, art galleries, restaurants and music venues. Walking not only saves us gas money, but it also helps keep us healthy.
Pent-up demand for walkable communities
Lots of Houston area residents want to live in a walkable community. According to the 2016 Kinder Research Institute study, though, about 1 million people in the region aren’t able to do that.
That’s how many people say they prefer “a smaller home in a more urbanized area, within walking distance of shops and workplaces” but currently don’t have it. Much of that unmet demand is in Fort Bend County, where about 28 percent of residents say they prefer an urban home to “a single-family home with a big yard, where you would need to drive almost everywhere you want to go.”
Our most walkable neighborhoods
In Foot Traffic Ahead 2016, Smart Growth America cites research that identifies “significant walkable urban places” in the 30 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. I’ve married the Houston area results with the walking, transit and biking scores from Walk Score, where they’re available.*
Note: In some cases, I input a specific address into Walk Score to retrieve a score. My numbers will differ somewhat from those Smart Growth America used. I think my walkability numbers for the East End and Bellaire are most suspect.
Houston still has huge demand for suburban living
Smart Growth America concludes that across the country “the end of sprawl is in sight.” Still, they acknowledge that huge numbers of people in the Houston area prefer a suburban home with big yard despite having to get in a car for their commute and nearly all errands.
About Houston and Dallas, they say:
“These two metros are the great exception to the walkable urban trend, but things are changing deep in the heart of Texas. Given their histories as oil- and gas-based metro economies, their moderate-to-low walkable urbanism rankings for both current and development momentum are fitting. The recent influx of major corporate headquarter locations and high-tech firms have helped Houston and Dallas generate the sixth- and seventh-highest real GDP per capita of the largest 30 metros in the country.
But as sprawling, car-based metros with top-ten levels of GDP per capita, Houston and Dallas should be considered exceptions that prove the rule. The oil and gas industries provide a unique foundation to their economies that will not be replicated in other metros. Yet, both metros are achieving high FSIs*, indicating strong walkable urban market share capture, and significant rental rate premiums.”
Note: Fair Share Index (FSI) measures the marginal market share increase or decrease for net absorption of real estate for a given time period, compared to market share at the beginning of that time period.
Wow! That was a lot of words. You deserve a break. Me, too. All this walkable urbanism talk has made me hungry. I believe there’s a taco with my name on it just a few blocks away.
Photo credit: Street level view of Downtown Houston from Midtown Houston by Agsftw, Inversion 1 by Jason Eppink, Town Center by Mohit Bangia, licensed under CC 2.0