In news that one would probably categorize as downright obvious, San Antonio has once again been described as one of the least walkable major cities in the country.
In a recently published report from Smart Growth America, an organization geared toward researching and advocating for smart urban growth, San Antonio ranked in the last of four tiers in multiple analyses determining the walkability of major cities. They evaluated the number of neighborhoods a city has, which incorporate office spaces, residences, commercial areas and civic services (like schools, doctors offices, and the like) in close, strolling proximity. The report builds on a previous study the Brookings Institution published in 2007.
The report states, for example, that "Metro New York contains 66 WalkUPs [walkable urban places], while metro San Antonio has only two." While such a comparison may seem unfair, with a new focus on the expanding neighborhoods around the Pearl and SA2020's continued downtown push, it certainly isn't negligible.
Yet most startling in the report isn't our current standing, but rather, our future ranking in regard to smart urban development — dead last of 30.
The future rankings are determined by comparing the market share of office space in urban areas to that in suburban areas, and WalkUP office space rent premiums. So yes, we may be making strides to improve walkability in central San Antonio (and pretty much only central San Antonio). But it still costs an arm and a leg to do so, and that's an arm and a leg that many here simply can't afford. In regard to the growth and development of this city, this certainly isn't a good sign.
Of course, the question of why this is the case can't merely be because of San Antonio's sprawling size or some simple "everything's bigger in Texas" rationale. It takes a confluence of elements to make such a motor vehicle-centric city. The report goes on to comment on the correlation between educational attainment, income level and walkability. However, Texas cities like Dallas and Houston are considered outliers with higher educational attainment and GDP while their metropolitan areas are moderate and tentatively walkable developed urban areas respectively.
Considering the recent report of how our income levels are generally too low for homeownership in general in San Antonio, squabbling on walkabilty just seems to be tossing onto the already large pile. The report even takes note of how San Antonio and cities similarly ranked — Sacramento, Pittsburgh, San Diego and St. Louis — have city officials who prioritize walkable urban development, but such supporters are in the minority.
The report, in essence, doesn't say anything most folks here may not inherently know, but it is a clear sign that San Antonio has a long road ahead to be the great "city on the rise" that we're perpetually striving to be. We cannot deny that the infrastructure of the city is built on a series of crisscrossing and looping highways with expressways continually usurping surrounding neighborhoods. Considering how our giant landmass has made us undeniably the seventh largest city in the nation, it bears a certain responsibility that accompanies our ever-growing spotlight.