Want to walk to work? You might consider living in a college town. They dominate a new list of the places where commuters walk to work most.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to Harvard, MIT, and other universities, tops the list. About a quarter of residents walk to work, according to an analysis by Governing magazine using census data. Columbia, South Carolina (home to USC) is next, with more than a fifth of people walking. After that comes Berkeley, California (18.1% walkers), and Ann Arbor, Michigan (15.5%), where the University of Michigan is located.
Governing says college towns tend to have higher numbers of people under 25, who are more likely to walk. But the top cities in the list are also working to create environments conducive to pedestrians, and don't privilege cars unduly.
Check out the magazine's analysis plotted on the map above, with bigger bubbles indicating where walkers make up a greater share of commuters.
Many cities have been trying to improve walkability amid evidence that more people want to live in walkable environments. Governing also identified those places with the greatest improvements in walking share. Fayetteville, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Boston, Atlanta and Cleveland saw the greatest increases between 2007 and 2012. Atlanta, for example, went from 3.8% to 5.9%. (The data doesn't include people walking to transit stops, just completed journeys on foot). Cities in Arizona and Texas had some of the lowest levels of walking. Arlington and San Antonio were both under 2%, reflecting their car-centric planning.
Top 10 cities by % of people walking:
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Berkeley, California
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Provo, Utah
- Washington, D.C.
- New Haven, Connecticut
- Syracuse, New York
- Providence, Rhode Island
Governing's analysis offers a different perspective to, say, Walk Score's, which measures walkability (as opposed to whether people walk). Its most recent rankings had New York City, San Francisco, and Boston as its three most walkable large cities.
Cambridge has an overall Walk Score of 87, classifying it as "very walkable" (one rung below the very top category). On the other hand, it has several neighborhoods ranking as the most walkable urban areas in the country.