A Placemaking Journal

Places that Pay: Benefits of placemaking

Hazel Borys
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When we updated and republished the Codes Study last week, I was deeply encouraged by all of you who expressed support. Thank you! From Rome to Finland to the UAE and across North America, I enjoyed the conversations and online exchanges regarding this group of towns and cities that are using character-based land use laws to guide proactive, locally-driven efforts to improve quality-of-life and become more economically competitive.

Others of you were asking for insights for how to get this change rolling at home, looking for value capture. Many reports quantify the value of the sorts of livable, walkable places that a form-based code generates. Here is a selection of studies that help make the case for walkability.

These are gathered from many sources, including Kaid Benfield, Strong Towns, and Center for Neighborhood Technology. If you make it though this whole list, you’re definitely a candidate for next week’s Placemaking@Work with Lee Sobel on Market-Driven Smart Growth. Or the week after, Andrew Burleson will be talking about How Urban Design Affects Property Values, a Strong Towns online event. I’m interested to hear your favourite studies and statistics in the comments section.

Building Equity: Commercial and Home Values

Over time in D.C. metropolitan neighborhoods, “each step up the walkability ladder adds $9 per square foot to annual office rents, $7 per square foot to retail rents, over $300 per month to apartment rents, and nearly $82 per square foot to home values, ” according to Chris Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo in a Brookings Institution study. (New York Times, 2012)

Homes in walkable urban neighborhoods have experienced less than half the average decline in price from the housing peak in the mid-2000s. (Brookings Institution, 2011)

A 10-point increase in Walk Score increases commercial property values by 5% to 8%. (University of Arizona & Indiana University, 2010)

A one-point increase in Walk Score (based on number of destinations within a short distance) is associated with between a $700 and $3,000 increase in home values. (CEOs for Cities, 2009)

Building City Coffers: Increased Tax Base and Decreased Costs

Emotional connection to community = highest rates of GDP growth. (Soul of the Community, Knight Foundation & Gallup, 2011)

Urban mixed-use mid-rise is 25 to 59 times more revenue per acre than its suburban counterparts (PlaceMakers on Woodstock, GA, 2012; Minnicozzi on Sarasota, FL, 2011)

An EPA-sponsored study indicates compact infrastructure is up to 47% less expensive than conventional development patterns. (Morris Beacon, 2010)

Calgary estimated compact development will save the City $11 billion in infrastructure costs, making it 33% less costly to build the roads, transit, water, recreation, fire, and schools that it expects to need over the next 60 years. (PlanIt Calgary, 2009)

Building Health: Cycling and Walking

Walkscore’s new Bikescore offers up some strong reasons to cycle: “$10 saved for each 10 mile commute. One pound CO2 saved for every mile pedaled. 30 minutes per day of riding cuts odds of stroke and heart disease by 50%.” (Walkscore, 2012)

Forbes’ Pedaling to Prosperity lays out the ways that biking saves U.S. riders billions a year. Average annual operating cost of a bicycle: $308. Average annual operating cost of a car: $8,220. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of bicycle commuters grew 40% in the US. The average American household spends more on transportation (16%) than on food or healthcare. Low-income families may spend up to 55% of income on transportation when they live in auto-centric environments. (Forbes, 2012)

Copenhagen’s Bike Account values one mile on a bike is a $.42 economic gain to society, one mile driving is a $.20 loss. (Grist, 2012)

2012 Benchmarking Report for Bicycling and Walking in the United States:

  • Cycling and walking levels fell 66% between 1960 and 2009, while obesity levels increased by 156%.
  • Percent of children who walk or bike to school fell 75% between 1960 and 2009, while childhood obesity rose 276% during that same period.
  • Canadians walk or bike for 12% of daily trips. Americans are the same. Netherlands 51%; Denmark 34%.
  • While biking and walking comprise 12% of all US trips and 14% of fatalities, facilities get less than 2% of US federal transportation funds.
  • Cycling and walking investments return up to $11.80 for every $1 invested.

As a result of these cycling trends, Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts (BFBDs) are popping up. (Transportation Issues Daily, 2012)

Regular walking increases memory (hippocampus size) and decreases risk of dementia. (National Academy of Sciences, 2011)

Risks of death from breast and uterine cancer were reduced 19% in those who walked 1 to 3 hours per week, by 54% for walking 3 to 5 hours / week. (Harvard University Women’s Health Study, 2012)

Retired men who walked less than 1 mile/day had nearly twice the mortality rates of those who walked more than 2 miles/day. (Harvard University, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, ongoing)

Among the more than 72,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, those who walked 3 or more hours/week reduced their risk of a coronary event by 35% compared with women who did not walk. (JAMA, 2000)

If one in ten Massachusetts adults started a regular walking program, the state would save $121 million in heart disease expenditures annually. (MA Dept. of Public Health, 2008)

Men and women age 50–71 who took a brisk walk nearly every day had a 27% reduced death rate compared to non-exercisers. Adding 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, 3 days a week resulted in a 32% reduced death rate. Combining vigorous exercise and walking each week produced a 50% reduced mortality. (Arch Internal Medicine, 2007)

A study of over 3,200 overweight adults found that a good diet and walking 2.5 hours/week reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 58%. Participants aged 60 and older reduced their risk by 71%. (New England Journal of Medicine, 2002)

Exercise affects learning, memory and cognition. College students showed improved performance on recognition memory tasks after exercise. (NYU current research)

Sedentary men who began exercising after the age of 45 have a 24% lower death rate than those who remain inactive. On average, sedentary people who became active later in life improved their life expectancy by about 1.6 years. (Harvard Alumni Study, 2000)

The average white male living in a compact community weighs 10 pounds less than his counterpart in a low density subdivision. (British Columbia School of Planning)

Every 1% rise in the urban sprawl index increases the risk of obesity by 0.5%. (Boston University School of Public Health)

The medical costs to treat obesity in the US for 2008 is estimated at $147 billion.

Building Connections: Social Capital

People living in walkable neighborhoods trust neighbors more, participate in community projects and volunteer more than in non-walkable areas. (University of New Hampshire, 2010)

Building Supply: Market Preference

Fewer young people want cars. In 1995, people age 21 to 30 drove 21% of all miles driven in the U.S.; in 2009 it was 14%, despite consistent growth of the age group. Living car-free in walkable areas fits younger lifestyles. (Advertising Age, 2010)

Decreasing Emissions: VMT and Gas Pump Bills

Households in drivable suburban neighborhoods spend on average 24% of their income on transportation; those in walkable neighborhoods spend about 12%. The difference amounts to $700 billion a year in total, according to Scott Bernstein of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Paying for one less car allows a family to afford a $100,000 larger mortgage. (Brookings, 2010)

The biggest difference between spenders and savers is car expenses. (Statistics Canada, 2005)

New Yorkers’ emit far less carbon than those of residents of comparable U.S. cities and about a third as much carbon as the activities of the average American. New Yorkers emit 6.5 metric tons of CO2 per capita annually. (PlaNYC, 2011)

Walkable communities can quell the effects of global warming and peaking oil with mixed use, compact urban design. An average family in auto-dependent community drives 24,000 miles per year, while a family in a walkable community of 16 dwelling units per acre and compact mixed use drives 9,000 miles per year. (Sustainable Urbanism, 2007)

The Transportation Research Board’s “Driving and the Built Environment” details the effects of land development patterns and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Doubling residential density while increasing nearby employment, transit, and mixed use can decrease VMT by 25%, along with reductions in energy consumption and GHGs. (2010)

Sustainable urbanism strategy changes energy demand, efficiency and generation. Decreasing demand via transit-rich compact development patterns, increasing efficiency with high performance infrastructure and green architecture, and increasing generation with renewable energy sources, on-site generation, district energy, and integrated agriculture.

While the average person on North America still spends 6.25 weeks every year in their car, we’re starting to resist what that means to our wallet with rising fuel prices, and to our lifespans with rising obesity. We’re starting to redefine livability in terms of quality of life (community amenities, active transportation, family time, social capital) instead of standard of living (size of house, number of cars, size of lot, earnings).

–Hazel Borys

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