Connect Santa Fe

Why Walkability?
The City of Santa Fe has done a great job establishing Santa Fe as a biking city and a city with great hiking and biking trails. Unfortunately, Santa Fe’s sidewalks have been left behind and are in terrible shape if they exist at all. Santa Fe’s climate, strong neighborhoods, and proximity to cultural and physical beauty should make our city one of the most pleasurable walking communities in the world. However, more than 50 percent of the sidewalks, curbs, and gutters in downtown Santa Fe are in poor condition, according to a report from the city’s Street and Drainage Maintenance Division.

CrSF’s first objective in our Walkability (aka physical infrastructure network) portion of the Connect Santa Fe initiative is to bring attention and action to establishing larger, clearly delineated and more accessible sidewalks and pathways between streets, neighborhoods and business districts. Many studies have proven that walkability provides cities with economic stimulus, attracts tourism, promotes public health and safety, and contributes to the beauty and environmental sustainability of our city.

He said, “We are determined that one of the most unique, historic, and beautiful townscapes anywhere in the world will continue to be an anchor for our economy, a vibrant downtown for locals and our visitors, a downtown filled with history, art, cultures that is walkable, bikeable and welcoming.”

The Walkability initiative grew our of a “Plaza to Plaza” workshop in the October of 2012 with city staff and civic leaders discussing ways to make a clearly defined, interesting and pleasurable way or ways to walk between the Railyard plaza and Santa Fe’s downtown plaza. In his annual State of the City Address in October 2012, Mayor David Coss talked about the importance of our downtown Plaza and Railyard as an anchor for our economy.

Walkability is a driver of economic development. A 2012 study of 66 areas in Washington DC by the Metropolitan Policy Project of the Brookings Institution found that “more walkable places perform better economically. For neighborhoods within metropolitan Washington, as the number of environmental features that facilitate walkability and attract pedestrians increase, so do office, residential, and retail rents, retail revenues, and for-sale residential values.”

Especially important for the Plaza-to-Plaza project is their finding that “walkable places benefit from being near other walkable places. On average, walkable neighborhoods in metropolitan Washington that cluster and form walkable districts exhibit higher rents and home values than stand-alone walkable places.”

Walkability promotes public health. Much of the original impulse to promote walkability came from the public health sector, such as the Irvine-Minnesota Inventory, the first in-depth assessment tool for walkability.

Walkability promotes public safety. Quite simply, having more people on the street is a deterrent to crime. There are more eyes, more people to contact police or other first responders, more people to aid those in distress. Designing a “walk-friendly community” can also significantly reduce the hazards to pedestrians from automobile traffic–motivating the Federal Highway Administration and FedEx to partner in promoting walkability.

Walkability supports tourism. A central city or urban community that can be navigated on foot is characteristically more attractive to tourists. They can visit without the hassle of a car, and without needing to figure out a transit system. They can have the joy of wandering with a reduced need for wayfinding. Tourists on food have increased opportunities for small interactions with residents, in shops or cafés or simply in chance conversations.

Walkability is an amenity for residents. A 2011 study by the National Association of Realtors shows an increased preference among Americans for mixed-use neighborhoods where homes, stores, restaurants, parks and other amenities are within walking distance.

An expanded Downtown Santa Fe anchored by the Railyard to the south and the Plaza to the north also provides an expanded civic zone, with ample space for residents as well as tourists, and increased opportunities for public art and public programs attractive to residents.

Walkability drives beauty. Pedestrians can see the streetscape with a finer eye for detail and pattern than those moving at higher speed. An attractive walkable zone provides opportunity for design innovation in both structure and infrastructure.

Walkability is a feature of an environmentally sustainable city. Walking simply uses less fossil fuel and generates fewer harmful emissions than automobiles or even mass transit. Pedestrian walkways last longer than drivable surfaces, have lower maintenance costs, and generate less construction waste. The United States Environmental Protection Agency promotes walkability through its sponsorship of the Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute.

In sum: a connectivity project linking the Railyard and the Plaza as a downtown walking district potentially improves Santa Fe in terms of economics, public health, public safety, aesthetics, and environmental sustainability, for visitors and residents alike.

Learn more about Walk [Santa Fe], a month-long city prototyping project demonstrating simple, affordable, and practical solutions to increase walkability in Santa Fe.