According to the web site WalkScore.com, Chicago is the fourth-most walkable city in the United States, after only New York, San Francisco and Boston.
Walk Score grades cities on how easy it is to live a car-free life, taking into account public transportation, as well as how easy it is to walk to grocery stores, restaurants, shopping, coffee shops, banks, parks, schools, book stores and entertainment. Chicago’s overall Walk Score is 74.3.
But of course, some neighborhoods are more walkable than others. The city’s most walkable neighborhood is Printers Row, with a score of 99, which means that almost everything you’ll ever need is just a walk away. Close behind are Near North, Sheridan Park and Old Town.
The least walkable neighborhoods are all on the Far South Side, which was designed for industry, not residency. At the bottom of the list is Trumbull Park, near the old Wisconsin Steel site. Equally unwalkable are Eden Green (on the Calumet River), Altgeld Gardens and Golden Gate.
The most walkable neighborhoods are also the most expensive. That’s because they’re close to plenty of amenities, and because people are willing to pay higher rents in exchange for no car expenses. But that means the people least able to afford cars end up living in the least walkable neighborhoods. In Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project between 130th Street and the Calumet River, only half the residents own cars.
Basically, the most walkable part of the city is the area bounded by the Evanston city limit and 18th Street, and Lake Michigan and Kedzie Avenue. The West Side, the Southwest Side and the Far South Side both have large “walking deserts.”
Renters should use this map to figure out where to live. The city should use it to figure out which neighborhoods need more amenities. Extending the Red Line to 130th Street would raise the Far South Side’s Walk Score. While campaigning at 107th and Halsted, candidate Rahm Emanuel declared it his top mass-transit priority. But he never mentioned during the speech in which he listed the $7.2 billion in infrastructure improvements for his “Building A New Chicago” project.
An L extension will be an intensifier, because businesses grow up around train stations. Chicago will never be as walkable as New York or San Francisco, but maybe the South and the West Sides can become as walkable as the North.
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