(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Lace up your shoes: A new study ranks D.C. as the second most walkable city in the U.S.

The report, published this month by the George Washington University School of Business and Smart Growth America, an advocacy group, looked at the nation’s 30 largest metropolitan areas and ranked them according to their walkability.

New York City came out on top in the rankings, closely followed by D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle. At the bottom of the rankings were cities like San Antonio, Phoenix and Orlando.

Just how might one measure walkability, anyway? The authors of the report counted the number of “walkable urban places,” or what they referred to as WalkUPs, in each of the metropolitan areas. WalkUPs include downtown areas like Chinatown; areas surrounding downtown such as Dupont Circle; commercial districts like Columbia Heights; and university campus areas. Suburban areas, too, like Tysons Corner and the Reston Town Center, also count as a type of WalkUP.

To identify the WalkUPs, the authors also factored in the amount of office and retail space in the area, as well as the area’s “walk score,” which is essentially a measure of how car-dependent daily errands are. For example, a walk score of 90 and above means that daily errands don’t require a car, while anything below 50 means that it would be hard to get by without a vehicle.

The first edition of the report, published in 2014, ranked D.C. as the most walkable city in the U.S.; two years on, D.C. has been edged out of its top spot by New York.

It’s not that D.C. has become less walkable since 2014. Rather, as the authors explain in the report, the change in the two cities’ rankings is “due to the inclusion of rental multi-family in this analysis (metro New York City has almost 39 percent of its multi-family rental in WalkUPs, compared to 23 percent in metro Washington, DC).”

Already, the District has a relatively high number of commuters who walk to work: 12.1 percent, according to Census Bureau data. This makes D.C. the second highest walking-to-work city in the nation, just behind Boston and ahead of Pittsburgh and New York.

And with the disruptions of Metro’s Safetrack rebuilding program stretching into the year ahead — coupled with Metro officials’ exhortations to commuters to find alternatives perhaps more residents will add walking as part of their commute.


Pedestrians walk along the parameter of Lafayette Square after it is closed near the White House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)