Walkable Communities

As energy prices increase, commuting times grow and the District of Columbia continues to experience a Renaissance, increasing numbers of suburbanites are trading in their commutes and finding the higher cost of real estate is often balanced by the lower costs of commuting and the increased quality of life.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?
WalkscoreWalkScore™, which measures the walkability of neighborhoods across the country and has named DC to the top 10 list of America’s Most Walkable Neighborhoods, has identified several key factors that make a neighborhood walkable:

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a discernable center, whether it’s a shopping district, a main street, or a public space.
  • Density: The neighborhood is compact enough for local businesses to flourish and for public transportation to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Housing is provided for everyone who works in the neighborhood: young and old, singles and families, rich and poor. Businesses and residences are located near each other.
  • Parks and public space: There are plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian-centric design: Buildings are placed close to the street to cater to foot traffic, with parking lots relegated to the back or moved underground.
  • Nearby schools and workplaces: Schools and workplaces are close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.

To find out the walkability of the various neighborhoods in DC, look for their WalkScore™ on our neighborhood pages.

Life without a car
MetroZipcar Many urbanites are finding new-found freedom and time by leaving the auto in the garage.  When the distance is just too far to walk, Metro, bicycles, taxis and hourly car rentals through services like Zipcar, are often more economical, environmental and hassle free.

In fact, many District residents walk, bike and metro to work:

  • 13% of resident workers of DC bicycle or walk to their jobs, while only 3% of the region’s workers as a whole do.
  • 1/3 of DC resident workers use public transportation compared with 11% of the Washington region’s workers.
  • 68% of the Washington region’s workers commute to work by driving alone, compared with only 38% of District residents.

*2006, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

Urban Planning
Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for the city is the basis for DC’s walkability, with city planners intent on insuring that new development contributes to the high-density, mixed-use formula that has made revitalized neighborhoods like Columbia Heights such a success.  On a regional level, the Coalition for Smarter Growth works to encourage sustainable growth that is pedestrian friendly and utilizes public transportation.  They occasionally lead tours of DC’s historic and walkable neighborhoods, such as the14th and U Street Corridor.

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