The annual WalkScore rankings always include the Magic City in the top ten. In the latest edition, Miami was ranked America's fifth most walkable city. Which inevitably leads to lots of locals shaking their heads. How could this city, with its gridlocked highways and lack of public transit infrastructure, ever be considered walkable?
Well, WalkScore has its own way of measuring things, and it takes into account only the city of Miami proper.
But the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University School of Business's latest report, Foot Traffic Ahead, confirms your suspicions. The Miami metro area (including Broward and Palm Beach counties) is indeed not very walkable. Of the nation's 30 largest metro areas, the Miami area ranks a paltry 22nd.
The study then identified the total percentage of the area's office space, retail space, and multifamily housing units that are located in those WalkUPs. In Miami, only 18 percent of all office space is located in a WalkUp. Just 8 percent of both retail and multifamily housing is in a walkable area.
Think about it: Supermalls in Aventura, office park after office park in Doral, gated neighborhoods full of townhouses in Kendall — none of those is in particularly walkable areas.
Here's how Miami stacks up. Find us all the way down there in the yellow-highlighted area, just below Detroit.
It's not a mistake that the report singles out Miami, along with Houston and Los Angeles, as the "three metros that are nearly synonymous with drivable sub-urbanism."
The report also finds a direct link between walkability and both the local economy and the average level of education in each city. In five of the top six cities, the Metro GDP per capita is above $70,000. In Miami, the Metro GDP per capita is just $46,104. In all but one of the top 13 cities, the percentage of the adult population with a bachelor's degree is greater than 35. In Miami, just 29 percent of those 25 and older have a bachelor's degree.
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The report doesn't speculate about why that's the case, but the link is unmistakable.
Here's the good news: The report expects that Miami will be among the leaders in becoming more walkable. In the separate "Development Momentum Ranking," Miami is ranked ninth. That means future development in the area is likely to put a premium on walkable areas.
That's not a mistake. Renters in South Florida's walkable areas already pay a 74 percent rent premium to live or lease. The report suspects that developers will respond by building and revitalizing more walkable areas.