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Why a 10-minute walk to a park?

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With the announcement on Tuesday of San Francisco becoming the first US city to achieve a 10-minute walk to a park for all citizens, we thought we’d provide the background on how we arrived to the 10-minute walk standard.  This research is also available on our ParkScore website under the methodology section.

And we’ll be talking about this a lot more beginning next Wednesday, May 24th, when we unveil the 2017 edition of Parkscore.

Why a 10-minute walk to a park?

We have identified a half-mile, or 10-minute, walk to a park as a common national standard.

As cities vie to attract talented college graduates and sustain population growth, they are focusing attention on parks to increase livability and support a strong economy. Since parks must be convenient if they are to provide their benefits, many places have set goals for the maximum distance any resident should be from the nearest park. Although individual cities’ goals vary with population density, from a remarkable eighth of a mile in Chicago to two miles in Atlanta, our data supports a standard of no more than a half-mile as a reasonable distance to walk to a park.

Among the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 70 have explicit distance goals, with 43 (61 percent) using a half-mile standard. Of the remaining 27 cities, 12 have a standard of less than a half-mile (many using a quarter-mile), and 15 have a standard greater than a half-mile.

We identified several studies suggesting that most people are willing to walk half a mile to a park. The largest, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2012 National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, surveyed almost 10,000 people about their general walking habits.[1] The average trip length was 1.3 miles—roughly equivalent to the round-trip walk to a park located a half-mile from home. Of the walking trips reported in that study, 61 percent were for exercise, recreation, or walking the dog, with the remainder of trips split between commuting and errands.

A study of the Bay Area transit system found that 80 percent of transit riders who walked to the station lived within a ten-minute walk, or approximately a half-mile.[2]

Walking preferences are variable, with people willing to walk further for greater amenities in commuting, and even further for recreation. A planning study for a Seattle suburb found that people would walk nearly double the distance to a commuter rail station (1,700 feet) as they would to a bus stop (1,000 feet).[3] Looking beyond commuting, a study from Austin, Texas found that “utilitarian and recreational walk activities have been found to have distinct structural characteristics…Walk distance and duration for commuting, shopping, and reaching transportation are shorter, and recreational walks for exercise, walking the dog, and socializing are longer (71).”[4]

Some lower density cities have longer goal distances to a park, on the theory that suburbanites are more likely to drive to a park. However, the same Austin, Texas, study suggests that spatial and environmental factors are more important than individual factors” in determining walk length and duration (71).[5] That study found that people in modern suburban neighborhoods walked twice as long with their dogs and one-and-a-half times as long for exercise as those in more traditional urban neighborhoods.

Converting these distance standards to time standards hinges on how fast different people walk. The National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior assumes an average walking speed of 0.53 miles in 10 minutes. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices guidelines, which are calculated to ensure that slow walkers can safely cross streets, uses an average walking speed of 0.45 miles in 10 minutes.[6] By any of these estimates, a 10-minute walk is a half-mile or close to it.

[1] U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors (2012).
[2] California DOT, BART’s First Five Years; Transportation and Travel Impacts (DOT-P-30-79-8), (1979).
[3]The Snohomish County Transportation Authority, A Guide to Land Use and Public Transportation for Snohomish County, Washington (1989), http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/GL.html.
[4] Shriver, K., “Influence of Environmental Design on Pedestrian Travel Behavior in Four Austin Neighborhoods.” Transportation Research Record (1997), 64-75.
[5] Shriver, K., “Influence of Environmental Design on Pedestrian Travel Behavior in Four Austin Neighborhoods.” Transportation Research Record (1997), 64-75.
[6] LaPlante, J. and T. Kaiser, “A history of pedestrian signal walking speed assumptions,” 3rd Urban Street Symposium (Seattle, WA), (2007).

 

100 Largest US Cities – What’s the deal?

Maybe its time to talk a bit about the 100 largest US cities are and what they represent in terms of acreage, population and where they are located.

To start, the full list is located on Parkscore or you can download the latest City Park Facts PDF. They are chosen by looking at the latest census data and the 2017 list will be the same as the 2016 list.

Acreage: in terms of our reporting for both City Park Facts and Parkscore, the acreage for all 100 largest cities is 11.45 million acres. The total acreage of the United States is 2.3 billion acres, with 1.9 Billion acres in the 48 contiguous states.

The population of the 100 largest US cities is 63.1 Million, which is 19.8 percent of the total population of the United States, which is 318.9 Million.

Overall, the 100 largest cities have 2,055,324 (over 2 million) acres of parkland, which is 17.94% of the total cities acreage. Here’s another of our forthcoming infographics showing the list of cities and the acreage.

100cities-acreage

Many of our 100 largest cities are clustered in groups. The biggest groups are in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, as shown by the map.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to the Trust for Public Land website. If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org. The City Parks Blog is a joint project of the City Parks Alliance and the Trust for Public Land.

What is Your City’s ParkScore?

How many people in your city live within walking distance of the nearest park? In what neighborhoods should park improvements or additions be targeted to maximize impact? How well is your city’s park system serving the needs of its residents? Are there disparities between the inner-city core and the lower-density urban fringe, or between different demographic groups?

Today, with the launch of The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore, it became easier to answer these questions – and more importantly, to begin to develop solutions to park shortages. ParkScore is the most comprehensive park rating system ever developed, combining advanced GIS analysis and data collected by the Center for City Park Excellence.

San Francisco came out on top of the ParkScore rankings, edging out Sacramento, Boston, and New York. Credit: Flickr user Phillie Casablanca.

The Trust for Public Land analyzed the park systems of the nation’s forty most populous cities, and ranked them according to three categories:

Acreage: a city’s acreage score is based equally on two data points – median park size and the percentage of the city’s area covered by parkland.

Access: a city’s access score is based on the percentage of the city’s population that lives within a half-mile walk of the nearest park, taking into consideration the layout of the road network and barriers to access such as railroads, freeways, and fences.

Service & Investment: a city’s service & investment  score is based equally on two data points – total spending per resident and playgrounds per 10,000 residents.

Park access in Dallas, which placed 21st overall in ParkScore. Areas without walkable park access are either red (very high need) or orange (high need), depending on three demographic factors: density, income, and presence of children. Interactive maps for all cities are available at the ParkScore website.

Combined, these factors provide a fair and comprehensive basis for comparison within cities, between cities, and over time. ParkScore is designed to help city residents quantify their need for more and better parks, and for city governments to craft effective and efficient plans to create excellent park systems.

There is a wealth of information in ParkScore that we will delve into in much greater detail in the coming months. For now, here’s an overview of the best urban park systems and those most in need of improvement. Visit the ParkScore website for all the in-depth rankings, maps, and information.