Connect Santa Fe

Why Walkability?

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.