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Economic Value of Walkability
1 February 2011

Todd Alexander Litman

Victoria Transport Policy Institute

This paper describes ways to evaluate the value of walking (the activity) and walkability
(the quality of walking conditions, including safety, comfort and convenience). Walking
and walkability provide a variety of benefits, including basic mobility, consumer cost
savings, cost savings (reduced external costs), efficient land use, community livability,
improved fitness and public health, economic development, and support for equity
objectives. Current transportation planning practices tend to undervalue walking. More
comprehensive analysis techniques, described in this paper, are likely to increase public
support for walking and other nonmotorized modes of travel.

Presented at the Transportation Research Board, 82nd Annual Meeting
January 2003, Washington, DC, Paper 03-2731, where it won the TRB Committee on

Pedestrian’s 2003 Outstanding Paper Award. Published in Transportation Research Record
1828, Transportation Research Board (, 2003, pp. 3-11 and in Volume 10, Number

1, 2004, of World Transport Policy & Practice (

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


What is more important, driving or walking? Conventional transportation planning
practices suggest that personal motor vehicle travel is far more important than walking,
representing about fifty times as many person-miles as nonmotorized travel. From a
conventional planning perspective, walking (the activity) is a minor mode of travel, and
walkability (the quality of walking conditions, including safety, comfort and
convenience) deserves only modest public support.

But consider another perspective. Would you rather lose your ability to drive or your
ability to walk? Being able to drive, although useful, is less essential than the ability to
walk. With a little planning, a physically-able non-driver can engage in most common
activities, but being unable to walk affects nearly every aspect of life, creating barriers to
employment, recreation and social activities.

Homo sapiens are walking animals. Walking is a fundamental activity for physical and
mental health, providing physical exercise and relaxation. It is a social and recreational
activity. Environments that are conducive to walking are conducive to people. Walking is
also a critical component of the transportation system, providing connections between
homes and transit, parking lots and destinations, and within airports. Often, the best way
to improve another form of transportation is to improve walkability.

Walking (including variations such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs) can be considered
the most basic form of transport, for the following reasons:

• It is universal. Virtually everybody walks, and virtually all trips include walking links.
• It is very affordable. Economically and socially disadvantaged people tend to rely

heavily on walking for transport.

• It provides connections between other modes of transport. Automobile, transit and air
travel trips all depend on walking.

• It provides additional benefits, including exercise and enjoyment.

Conventional planning tends to assume that transport progress is linear, with newer,
faster modes replacing older, slower modes. This series model assumes that the older
modes are unimportant, and so, for example, there is no harm if walking and cycling
conditions decline provided that automobile travel conditions improve. From this
perspective it is always undesirable to give walking priority over automobile travel.

Walk Æ Bike Æ Train Æ Bus Æ Car Æ Airplane

Walk + Bike + Train + Bus + Car + Airplane

Conventional planning often assumes a series model in which newer, faster modes replace slower
modes, leading to reduced investment in walking and cycling facilities. In reality, slower modes
such as walking and cycling continue to be important even as faster modes develop.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


But there is plenty of evidence that walking plays an important role even as motorized
travel increases, and that many people want to walk for both transportation and
recreational purposes. In many situations the best way to improve urban transport is to
improve walking and cycling conditions and restrict automobile travel. Although this
does not increase travel speeds it improves the overall convenience, comfort and
affordability of access to destinations.

Nonmotorized transportation tends to be more affordable and resource efficient than
alternative forms of transportation and recreation, as summarized in Table 1. This is not
to suggest that walking and cycling can serve every purpose, but it does highlight the
potential financial and resources savings it can provide.

Table 1 Non-motorized Transport Is Generally Cheaper Than Alternatives
Affordable and Efficient Expensive and Resource Intensive

Walk and bike for transport Own and operate an automobile
Walk and bike for exercise Join a health club
Walk and bike children to school Chauffeur children to school
Build sidewalks Build roads and parking facilities
Walking and cycling tend to be affordable compared with alternatives.

This high value placed on driving and low value placed on walking in conventional
planning reflects how transport is measured (Litman, 2003). Most travel surveys
undercount nonmotorized travel because they ignore short trips, non-work travel, travel
by children, recreational travel, and nonmotorized links. For example, most travel
surveys classify “auto-walk,” or “walk-transit-walk” trips simply as “auto” or “transit”
Walking links are often ignored even if they take place on public rights-of-way and
involve as much time as motorized links. If instead of asking, “What portion of trips only
involve walking,” we ask, “What portion of trips involves some walking,” walking would
be recognized as a common and important mode. For example, although only 7% of
Canadian urban commutes are entirely by walking, about three times as many involve a
walking link (Table 2). Similarly, in Germany only 22% of trips are completely by
walking, but 70% include some walking (Brog, Erl and James 2003).

Table 2 Commute Trips By Mode (Statistics Canada, 1992)
Car Only Walking All or Part Transit All or Part
Winnipeg 73% 16% 15%
Vancouver 72% 20% 12%
Calgary 72% 21% 12%
Canada 69% 22% 10%
Toronto 61% 24% 20%
Ottawa 60% 33% 16%
Average 68% 23% 14%
Although only 7% of urban commutes are entirely by walking, about 23% involve a walking link.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Similarly, conventional traffic surveys tend to ignore many types of pedestrian activity.
For example, they often ignore people who are sitting or waiting on sidewalks, skaters
and skateboarders, and people walking from cars or buses to buildings (Haze 2000).
Some newer travel surveys attempt to record all nonmotorized travel (although
participants often have trouble recording short walking trips, so they still tend to be
undercounted). According to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, 10.9% of
personal trips are by walking and 1.0% are by bicycle, a 25% increase since 2001, and
about twice as much as indicated by most travel surveys (Litman 2010b). One study
found that the actual number of nonmotorized trips is six times greater than indicated by
conventional surveys (Rietveld 2000).

According to a U.K. survey, walking represents 2.8% of total mileage, 17.7% of travel
time, and 24.7% of trips, as indicated in Table 3. If measured simply in terms of distance,
walking seems insignificant, but not if evaluated in terms of trips, travel time, or
exposure to street environments. For example, on a particular street, nonmotorized
travelers may constitute only 5% of person-trips but 40% of the person-minutes of
exposure, due to their slower speeds, and taking into account people waiting at bus stops
and standing in front of shop windows. Walking conditions therefore have a major impact
on how people perceive the transportation system and the local environment, since we
experience activities by the amount of time they take, not just distance traveled.

Table 3 Average Annual Travel By Mode (DfT 2003)
Travel Travel Time Trips
Miles Percent Hours Percent Trips Percent

Walk 192 2.8% 64 18% 245 25%
Bicycle 34 0.5% 5 1.3% 14 1.5%
Motorcycle/Moped 36 0.5% 1 0.4% 3 0.3%
Car or Truck Driver 3,466 51% 140 39% 401 41%
Car or Truck Passenger 2,047 30% 82 23% 226 23%
Other private vehicles 162 2.4% 7 1.9% 8 0.8%
Public Transit 897 13% 62 17% 92 9.3%
Totals 6,833 100% 361 100% 990 100%

Walking represents just 2.8% of personal mileage, but a much larger portion of travel time and trips.

This tendency to undervalue nonmotorized travel can be particularly harmful because
transportation decisions often involve tradeoffs between different travel modes (Litman
2003b). Wide roads, high traffic speeds and large parking facilities create barriers to
walking, so evaluation practices that undervalue walking tend to create automobile
dependent communities (“Evaluating Nonmotorized Transportation,” VTPI 2008).

Transportation planners have standard ways to evaluate motor vehicle traffic conditions
and improvements. For example, computer models such as the Highway Design and
Maintenance Model (World Bank) and MicroBENCOST (TTI 1997) calculate the
monetized (measured in monetary units) value of vehicle operating cost savings, safety
benefits and travel time savings from roadway improvements. These economic evaluation
models generally assume that society is better off if a person spends 5 minutes driving for
an errand than 10 minutes walking or cycling, since it applies an equal or greater cost

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


value to nonmotorized trips than motorized trips, only considers vehicle operating costs
(vehicle ownership costs, and external impacts such as congestion and parking costs are
ignored), and no value is assigned to the health and enjoyment benefits of nonmotorized
travel. Such assumptions tend to skew countless planning decisions toward motorized
travel at the expense of non-motorized travel. For example, it justifies expanding
roadways to increase vehicle traffic capacity and speeds, requiring generous amounts of
parking at destinations, and locating public facilities along busy suburban roadways, in
order to facilitate automobile transportation although each of these tends to reduce
walking accessibility.

These practices help justify roadway projects. Walkability is not as easily quantified and
so tends to be undervalued in planning and economic evaluation. This:

• Shifts resources from walking facilities to roads and parking.
• Favors automobile-oriented land use patterns (wide roads, generous parking, low density,

single-use) over pedestrian-oriented development.
• Undervalues traffic management practices that support walking, such as traffic calming.
• Undervalues pedestrian safety investments.

To their credit, many transportation professionals support walking more than is justified
by their own evaluation practices. They intuitively know that transport diversity in
general, and walking in particular, are important to society and so favor walkability
improvements. Although most travel surveys indicate that only about 5% of trips are by
walking, many local transportation agencies devote 10-15% of their resources to
nonmotorized facilities and services. However, this occurs despite, rather than as a result
of, conventional transportation survey data and evaluation methods.

This is a timely issue because there is increased recognition of the benefits of
transportation diversity (Litman 2001a), and support for creating more walkable
communities. Better tools for evaluating walkability can help with many transportation
and land use planning decisions (Sælensminde 2002; Litman 2002).

This paper investigates the value of walking (the activity) and walkability (the quality of
walking conditions, including factors such as the existence of walking facilities and the
degree of walking safety, comfort and convenience). It identifies categories of economic
benefits, describes how they can be measured, and the degree to which these are reflected
in current transportation and land use planning. This paper can only provide a general
review of these issues – more research is needed to create practical tools that can be used
by transport planners to quantify the full benefits of walkability.

Most analysis in this paper applies to any form of nonmotorized transportation, including
cycling and skating and wheelchair use. For simplicity I use the term “walking” and
“walkability”, but readers may wish to substitute “nonmotorized travel” and
“nonmotorized travel conditions” to be more inclusive.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


How Walking Is Undervalued
There are several reasons that walking and walkability tend to be undervalued in
conventional transport planning. Some of these are discussed below.

Difficult to Measure
Walking tends to be more difficult to measure than vehicle travel, and walkability
tends to be more difficult to evaluate than motor vehicle traffic. As mentioned earlier,
travel surveys often collect little information on total walking activity, and it is
relatively easy to count vehicles, measure traffic speeds and incorporate vehicle travel
into travel models. Walking is given little attention in most travel models. As a result,
most walking is invisible to transportation planners. However, travel surveys can
collect more detailed information on nonmotorized travel (for example, asking
respondents to identify any walking trip on public right-of-way), and in recent years
new techniques have been developed to better evaluate walkability (“Evaluating
Nonmotorized Transport,” VTPI 2008).
Low Status
Walking is generally considered a lower status activity compared with motorized
travel. Civic leaders and transportation professionals generally prefer to be associated
with improvements to air travel, driving conditions, and major transit service, since
they are perceived as more important. Because it is used by lower-income people,
walking tends to be stigmatized while motorized transport tends to be associated with
success and progress.

Low Cost
One of the reasons that walking tends to be overlooked is that it is so inexpensive. As
a result there is not an organized walking industry as with automobile, transit and air
transport, and there is little dedicated funding. Improved walkability can provide
consumer cost savings, but such avoided costs are difficult to predict and are often
given little consideration.

Benefits Ignored
Conventional planning tends to ignore or undervalue benefits such as fitness and
public health benefits of active transportation, enjoyment of walking and cycling, and
improved mobility options for non-drivers. The role that nonmotorized travel plays in
supporting public transit and rideshare travel is often overlooked. Many
transportation economic evaluation models even ignore benefits such as reduced
congestion, parking cost savings and consumer cost savings that result when travel
shifts from driving to nonmotorized modes.

Taken For Granted (“It Will Take Care of Itself”)
Decision-makers often take walking for granted and assume that it can take care of
itself (Goodman and Tolley 2003). For example, it is possible to walk along roads
that lack sidewalks, either in the roadway or on dirt paths that develop along road
shoulders. As a result, walk and cycling facilities are often given low priority. Such
insensitivity to walking conditions is misplaced: areas with poor walkability tend to
have significantly less walking and more driving than more walkable areas.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Categories of Economic Impacts
Economics refers to the allocation of valuable resources. This can include both market
resources (money, labor and land) and nonmarket resources (safety, clean air, wildlife
habitat and aesthetic features). Economic impacts refers to benefits and costs, that is, an
increase or reduction in resource value.

This section describes major categories of economic impacts associated with walking, the
degree to which they are recognized in current transport evaluation, and how they can be
evaluated (Litman 2002a; “TDM Evaluation,” VTPI 2008; Litman 2009). The Active
Transport Quantification Tool (ICLEI 2007) provides a methodology for valuing the
active transportation benefits, including savings from avoided driving, increased
happiness, and reductions in coronary heart disease, diabetes risk, congestion, pollution
and crash risk. The report, Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs (Litman 2004b)
provides similar analysis for transit economic evaluation, which provides a model and
useful information for evaluating non-motorized transportation.

Accessibility (or just Access) refers to the ability to reach desired goods, services and
activities (Litman 2003b). Walking is an important form of access, both by itself and in
conjunction with other modes (transit, driving, air travel, etc.). Walking provides basic
mobility, that is, many people rely on walking to access activities with high social value,
such as medical services, essential errands, education and employment (“Basic Mobility,”
VTPI 2008). It is particularly important for people who are transportation disadvantaged
(people with disabilities, elders, children, and people with low incomes). Poor walking
conditions can contribute to social exclusion, that is, the physical, economic and social
isolation of vulnerable populations. Pedestrian access to public transit is an important
accessibility factor.

Evaluation Methods
Several methods can be used to evaluate walkability, taking into account the quality of
pedestrian conditions and the geographic distribution of destinations (FDOT 2002;
“Evaluating Nonmotorized Transportation,” VTPI 2008). Accessibility can be evaluated
using resident surveys, field surveys and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to
determine the portion of important destinations (medical services, shops, schools, jobs,
government offices, etc.) that can be conveniently reached by walking or walk-transit-
trips, particularly by disadvantaged populations. The value of marginal changes in
walking conditions can be quantified using contingent valuation surveys to determine the
value people place on improved pedestrian accessibility, and cost savings compared with
other access options (such as driving).

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Consumer Cost Savings
Walkability affects consumer transport costs. Improved walkability allows consumers to
save on vehicle expenses (“Affordability,” VTPI 2008). For example, one study found
that households in automobile-dependent communities devote 50% more to
transportation (more than $8,500 annually) than households in communities with more
accessible land use and more multi-modal transportation systems (less than $5,500
annually) (McCann 2000).

Evaluation Methods
Consumer savings from improved walkability can be evaluated based on potential
transportation cost savings. For example, walkability improvements that allow more
people to walk or ride transit, rather than drive, can reduce vehicle ownership and
operating costs.

At a minimum, shifting reduced driving saves fuel and oil, which typically total about 10-
15¢ per vehicle-mile reduced, and more under congested conditions. Vehicle operating
cost savings can be particularly large because walking tends to substitute for short trips
when vehicle engines are cold, during which they are less efficient. In addition,
depreciation, insurance and parking costs are partly variable, since increased driving
increases the frequency of vehicle repairs and replacement, reduces vehicle resale value,
and increases the risks of crashes, traffic and parking citations. These additional mileage-
related costs typically average 10-15¢ per mile, so cost savings total 20-25¢ per mile
reduced. Savings are greater if improved travel options allow a household to own fewer
vehicles. Potential savings are summarized in the table below.

Table 4 Potential Vehicle Cost Savings (“Vehicle Costs,” VTPI 2008)
Category Description How It Can Be Measured Typical Values

Operating Costs

Fuel, oil and tire wear. Per-mile costs times mileage

10-15¢ per vehicle-
mile. Higher under
congested conditions.


Mileage-related depreciation,
mileage lease fees, user costs
from crashes and tickets.

Per-mile costs times mileage

10¢ per vehicle-mile.

Special Costs Tolls, parking fees, Parking
Cash Out, PAYD insurance.

Specific market conditions. Varies.


Reductions in fixed vehicle

Reduced vehicle ownership
times vehicle ownership costs.

$3,000 per vehicle-year.


Reductions in residential
parking costs due to reduced
vehicle ownership.

Reduced vehicle ownership
times savings per reduced
residential parking space.

$100-1,200 per vehicle-

Reducing automobile travel can provide a variety of consumer savings. (2001 U.S. dollars).

The “Costs of Driving” and “Affordability” chapters of the Online TDM Encyclopedia
(VTPI 2008), and the “Vehicle Costs” chapter of Transportation Cost and Benefit
Analysis (Litman 2009) provide additional information on potential cost savings.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Public Cost Savings (Reduced Transport Externalities)
Motor vehicle use imposes various public costs for road and parking facilities, traffic
congestion, crash risk, and environmental damages (Murphy and Delucchi 1998; Litman
2010). Shifting travel from motorized to non-motorized modes reduces these external
costs. Walking substitutes for relatively short vehicle trips, which tend to have high costs
per vehicle-mile. In particular, energy consumption and pollution emissions are several
times higher than average for short trips when engines are cold, and parking costs are
high when measured per vehicle-mile, since these costs are divided into few miles. A
short walking trip often substitutes for a longer motor vehicle trip. As a result, each
percentage shift of vehicle trips to walking can reduce transport external costs by several
percentage points, particularly under urban-peak conditions when emission and parking
costs are high.

Evaluation Methods
A variety of methods are used to calculate the external cost savings that result when
travel shifts from driving to non-motorized modes (Litman 2009). Figure 1 illustrates one
comparison of the estimated external costs of driving and walking. Shifting travel from
driving to walking can help reduce various external costs, providing savings estimated to
average approximately 25¢ per vehicle-mile reduced, and 50¢ per vehicle-mile reduced
under urban-peak conditions.

Figure 1 Estimated External Costs of Automobile Travel and Walking (Litman 2009)


















d V



l Se




ion No


e E




r E


d U
















ile Automobile - Urban Peak

Automobile - Average

This figure compares the estimated external costs of automobile and pedestrian travel. Shifting
from driving to walking provides savings averaging approximately 25¢ per vehicle-mile reduced,
and 50¢ per vehicle-mile reduced under urban-peak conditions.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Land Use Efficiency
Low-density development with large amounts of land paved for roads and parking
imposes various economic, social and environmental costs (Appleyard 1981; Burchell
1998; Litman 2002; “Land Use Evaluation,” VTPI 2008; USEPA 2001). Walkability
improvements can help reduce these costs by reducing the amount of land required for
transport facilities and encouraging more accessible, clustered land use patterns, and
supporting Smart Growth development patterns (Ewing, Pendall and Chen 2002; “Smart
Growth,” VTPI 2008). This provides economic, social and environmental benefits.

Evaluation Methods
There are many factors to consider when evaluating the impacts of transportation
decisions on land use patterns. Evaluating these impacts requires:
1. An understanding of how transportation in general, and walkability in particular, affect land

use patterns (Litman 2002; “Land Use Impacts on Transportation,” VTPI 2008). Compared
with driving, walking requires far less space for travel and parking, does not require building
setbacks to mitigate traffic noise, and encourages more clustered development patterns. As a
result, walkable communities can devote less land to pavement and tend to result in higher
development densities than is common with more automobile-oriented transport systems,
reducing per capita land consumption.

2. An understanding of the economic impacts of different types of land use patterns, including
the economic, social and environmental benefits from reduced impervious surface (Arnold
and Gibbons 1998) and more clustered development patterns (Burchell, et al. 1998). The
table below summarizes various land use benefits from improved walkability. Not every
walkability improvement provides every one of these benefits, but in general, a more
walkable community will achieve most of them.

Table 5 Land Use Benefits of Improved Walkability
Economic Social Environmental

Improved accessibility,
particularly for non-drivers.

Reduced transportation costs.

Increased parking efficiency
(parking facilities can serve more
Can increase local business
activity and employment.

Support for transit and other
alternative modes.

Special support for some
businesses, such as walking

Health cost savings from
improved exercise.

Improved accessibility for people
who are transport disadvantaged.

Reduced external transportation
costs (crash risk, pollution, etc.).
Increased neighborhood
interaction and community

Improved opportunities to
preserve cultural resources (e.g.,
historic buildings).
Increased exercise.

Reduced land needed for roads
and parking facilities.

Openspace preservation.

Reduced energy consumption and
pollution emissions.

Improved aesthetics.

Reduced water pollution.

Reduced “heat island” effects.

This table summarizes various benefits from a more walkable community.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Community Livability and Cohesion
Community Livability refers to the environmental and social quality of an area as
perceived by residents, employees and visitors (Weissman and Corbett 1992;
“Livability,” VTPI 2008). Community cohesion (also called social capital) refers to the
quality of relationships among people in a community, as indicated by the frequency of
positive interactions, the number of neighborhood friends and acquaintances, and their
sense of community connections, particularly among people of different economic
classes and social backgrounds (Forkenbrock and Weisbrod, 2001). These are valuable
themselves and can provide indirect benefits including increased safety and health, and
increased property values and economic development (CTE 2007; Litman 2011).

Walkability has major impacts on community livability. Streets are a major portion of the
public realm, that is, places where people interact with their community. More attractive,
safe and walkable streets increase community livability (Forkenbrock and Weisbrod
2001). Residents on streets with higher traffic volumes and speeds are less likely to know
their neighbors, and show less concern for their local environment, than residents on
streets with less vehicle traffic (Appleyard 1981).

Evaluation Methods
Community livability and cohesion provide various direct and indirect benefits. It can
affect property values and business activity in an area, which can be measured with
various techniques such as hedonic pricing and contingent valuation (LGC 2001; Litman
2009). This may not reflect total livability benefits, since benefits to non-residents are not
necessarily reflected in property values. The value of walkability varies, depending on
several factors:

• Pedestrian-friendly, new urbanist community design tends to increase property values
(Eppli and Tu 2000).

• In automobile dependent areas, sidewalks may have little effect on adjacent property

• Reduced vehicle traffic can increase adjacent property values, in part, because it
improves walking safety and comfort (Bagby 1980).

• Proximity to public trails often increases residential and commercial property values
(NBPC 1995).

To the degree that improved walkability increases community cohesion, it may help
reduce crime and other social problems in an area (Litman 2002). However, such
relationships are difficult to measure and walkability is just one of many related factors
that affects community cohesion.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Physical Activity refers to physical exercise. Inadequate physical activity is a major
contributor to health problems (Litman 2004). Health experts recommend at least 30
minutes of moderate exercise a day, at least 5 days a week, in intervals of ten-minutes or
more (Surgeon General 1999).

Diseases Associated With Physical Inactivity (Killingsworth and Lamming 2001)
• Heart disease
• Hypertension
• Stroke
• Diabetes

• Obesity
• Osteoporosis
• Depression
• Some types of cancer

An increasing portion of the population, including many children, lack regular physical
activity. Although there are many ways to be physically active, walking is one of the
most practical ways to increase physical activity among a broad population. Walking
tends to be particularly important for elderly, disabled and lower-income people who
have few opportunities to participate in sports or formal exercise programs. Health
experts believe that more balanced transportation systems can contribute to improved
public health by accommodating and encouraging active transport (Sallis, et al. 2004;
Bassett, et al. 2008).

A few published studies have quantified the health benefits of transport and land use
planning decisions that increase physical activity (“Safety and Health,” Litman 2009).
Boarnet, Greenwald and McMillan (2008) develop a framework for quantifying the value
of reduced mortality from urban design improvements that increase walking activity. The
table below summarizes the estimated benefits of various changes in neighborhood
walkability factors from a median to the seventy-fifth (lower value) and ninety-fifth
(higher value) percentile, for example, if the number of intersections within ½ mile
increased by 0.3816 (lower value) or 1.1844 (higher value), for a hypothetical 5,000
resident neighborhood.

Table 6 Health Benefits From Various Neighborhood Walkability Changes (Boarnet,
Greenwald and McMillan 2008)

Neighborhood Walkability Total Benefits Per Capita Benefits
Changes Lower Higher Lower Higher

Increase number of intersections within ½ mile $2,255,107 $23,205,007 $451 $4,641
Increased retail employment density $466,574 $18,331,955 $93 $3,666
Increased employment density $155,525 $19,492,206 $31 $3,898
Increased Population density $1,555,247 $8,353,802 $311 $1,671
Distance from central business district $4,510,215 $61,725,318 $902 $12,345
This table summarizes the estimated value of health benefits from neighborhood design changes
that increase per capita walking activity. “Lower” and “Higher” values indicate the range from
sensitivity analysis using higher- and lower-bound assumptions.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Of people with safe places to walk within ten minutes of home, 43% achieve
recommended activity levels, compared with just 27% of those who lack safe places to
walk (ECU 2004b). Ray Tomalty and Murtaza Haider (2009) evaluated how community
design factors (land use density and mix, street connectivity, sidewalk supply, street
widths, block lengths, etc.) and a subjective Walkability Index rating (based on residents'
evaluations) affect walking and biking activity, and health outcomes in 16 diverse
neighborhoods. The analysis reveals a statistically significant association between
improved walkability and more walking and cycling activity, lower body mass index
(BMI), and lower hypertension. Regression analysis indicates that people living in more
walkable neighbourhoods are more likely to walk for at least 10 daily minutes and are
less likely to be obese than those living in less walkable areas, regardless of age, income
or gender.

Stokes, MacDonald and Ridgeway (2008) developed a model to quantify public health
cost savings from a new light rail transit system in Charlotte, NC. Using estimates of
future riders, the effects of public transit on physical activity (daily walking to and from
the transit stations), and area obesity rates they estimate the potential yearly public health
cost savings from this project. They estimate that the light rail system would provide
cumulative public health cost savings of $12.6 million over nine years.

Land Transport New Zealand’s Economic Evaluation Manual (EEM) provides monetary
values for the health benefits of active transportation resulting from both TDM measures
and active transportation infrastructure (LTNZ 2006). It assumes that half of the benefit is
internal to the people who increase their activity level by walking or cycling, and half are
external benefits to society such as hospital cost savings. The values for cyclists and
pedestrians are shown in the table below.

Table 7 Active Transportation Health Benefits (LTNZ 2006)
2005 $ NZ/km 2007 USD/km 2007 USD/mile
Cycling 0.16 0.12 0.19
Walking 0.40 0.30 0.48

These values reflect the health benefits of increased walking and cycling for economic analysis.

Walking has a relatively high crash fatality rate per mile of travel, but this is offset by
reduced risk to other road users and by the fact that pedestrians tend to travel less overall
than motorists (for example, a walking trip to a local store often substitutes for a longer
car trip to a more distant shopping center). International research suggests that shifts to
nonmotorized transport increases road safety overall (Litman and Fitzroy 2005; “Safety
Evaluation,” VTPI 2008). For example, the Netherlands has a high level of nonmotorized
transport, yet per capita traffic deaths and the cyclist death rate per million km ridden is
much lower than in more automobile dependent countries (Pucher and Dijkstra 2000).

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Evaluation Methods
Public surveys can be used to determine the degree that people in an area rely on walking
for exercise, and the degree to which improved walkability would increase physical
activity by otherwise sedentary people (Boarnet, Greenwald and McMillan 2008). The
“Safety and Health” chapter of Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis (Litman 2009)
contains more information on methods for quantifying these benefits.

Economic Development
Economic Development refers to progress toward a community’s economic goals,
including increases in economic productivity, employment, business activity and
investment (Litman 2011). Walkability can affect economic development in several ways
(LGC 2001).

Retail and employment centers are affected by the quality of their pedestrian
environment, particularly in urban areas and resort communities. The popularity of retail
malls, suburban office campuses, and pedestrian-oriented resort communities are
indications of the high values that consumers place on pedestrian environmental quality.
A shopping center or office complex may become more economically competitive if
walking conditions improve. Pedestrianized commercial districts (“Mainstreets”) can be
important for urban revitalization, although they must be carefully implemented to be
effective (Tyler 1999; Bohl 2002; “Downtowns,” VTPI 2008).

Retail areas often subsidize vehicle parking on the assumption that customers need to
drive to make large purchases. This may sometimes be true, but not always
(Transportation Alternatives & Schaller Consulting 2006). A study of consumer expenditures
in British towns found that customers who walk actually spend more than those who
drive, and transit and car travelers spend about the same amounts.

Table 8 Consumer Expenditure by Mode (Accent Marketing & Research)
Mode Weekly Expenditures

Bus £63
Car £64
On foot £91
Train/tube £46
Other (taxi, cycle...) £56

This survey found higher weekly expenditures by consumers who travel by walking than those
who drive or rider transit to downtown shopping districts in the UK.

Expenditures on fuel and vehicles tend to provide relatively little employment and
business activity compared with other common consumer expenditures (“TDM and
Economic Development,” VTPI 2008; Litman, 2004b). Walking that substitutes for
driving, and therefore reduces fuel consumption and dependency on fuel and vehicles
imported from other regions tends to provide economic development benefits.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Evaluation Methods
Walkability can affect economic development in several ways, each must be considered
separately (Litman 2002; “TDM and Economic Development,” VTPI 2008). Market
surveys and property assessments can be used to identify how walkability factors affect
commercial activity (such as retail sales), consumer satisfaction, competitiveness,
employment, tax revenue, and property values in an affected area. Economic analysis
techniques using input-output tables can be used to determine how changes in consumer
expenditures affect regional employment and business activity (Weisbrod 2000).

Equity refers to the distribution of resources and opportunities. Transport decisions can
affect equity in various ways. There are several different equity issues, including
horizontal equity (which assumes that people should generally be treated equally), and
vertical equity (which assumes that society should provide extra support to disadvantaged
people) (Litman 2001; “Equity Evaluation,” VTPI 2008). Walkability can help achieve
various equity objectives including a fair distribution of public resources to non-drivers,
financial savings and improved opportunity for people who are physically and
economically disadvantaged, and basic mobility.

Evaluation Methods
Because there are different types of equity, several factors should be considered when
evaluating transportation equity impacts. The table below describes five equity indicators
that can be used to evaluate the overall equity impacts of changes in walkability.

Table 9 Equity Summary (“Equity Evaluation,” VTPI 2008)
Indicator Description

Treats everybody equally. This reflects whether a policy treats each group or individual equally.
Individuals bear the costs
they impose

This reflects the degree to which user charges reflect the full costs of a
transportation activity.

Progressive with respect to

This reflects whether a policy makes lower-income households better or
worse off.

Benefits transportation

Whether a policy makes people who are transportation disadvantaged better
off by increasing their options or providing financial savings.

Improves basic mobility
and access

This reflects whether a policy favors more important transport (emergency
response, commuting, basic shopping) over less important transport.

This table describes five indicators of transportation equity that can be used when evaluating
walkability equity impacts.

The most practical approach to evaluating equity impacts is to define equity objectives
and performance indicators, and then evaluate the degree to which a particular policy or
project helps achieve them (“Transportation Planning,” VTPI 2008). Equity benefits are
difficult to monetize (there is no easy way to add equity benefits to other benefits such as
vehicle cost savings or increased property values), but most communities seem to place a
high value on achieving equity objectives (Forkenbrock and Weisbrod 2001).

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Summary of Economic Impacts
Table 10 summarizes the categories of economic benefits described above that should be
considered when evaluating walking. In most situations, several impacts should be
considered, with results added to determine total benefits. For example, a particular
walkability improvement may improve accessibility, provide consumer cost savings,
increase community livability (and therefore local property values), improve public
fitness and health, benefit the local economy (increasing employment, tax revenue and
property values), and support strategic land use and equity objectives. The project’s full
value is the sum of these individual benefits.

Table 10 Walkability Economic Impacts
Name Description Measuring Techniques

Accessibility Degree that walking provides mobility
options, particularly for people who are
transportation disadvantaged.

Travel modeling, analysis of travel

Consumer cost savings Degree to which walking provides
consumer transportation cost savings.

Consumer expenditure surveys

Public cost savings
(reduced external

Degree that walking substitutes for vehicle
travel and reduces negative impacts.

Determine to what degree walking
reduces motor vehicle travel, and
the economic savings that result.

Efficient land use Degree that walking helps reduce the
amount of land used for roadway and
parking facilities, and helps create more
accessible, clustered land use.

Identify the full economic, social
and environmental benefits of
more pedestrian-oriented land use.

Livability Degree that walking improves the local

Property values, business
activities, consumer preference

Public fitness and

Degree that walking provides physical
exercise to people who are otherwise

Travel and health surveys to
determine the number of people
who benefit from walking exercise.


Degree to which walking makes
commercial areas more attractive and shifts
consumer expenditures to goods that
provide more regional economic activity
and employment.

Market surveys and property
assessments. Input-output table

Equity Degree that walkability helps achieve
various equity objectives.

Various indicators of horizontal
and vertical equity.

This table summarizes various categories of impacts to consider when evaluating walking.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Planning Applications
The value of walkability can be incorporated into transport planning decisions in various ways,
reflecting various perspectives and assumptions. Three approaches are described below.

Proportional Share
One approach that many people seem to consider fair and efficient is to allocate transport
resources (money, land, public services, etc.) based on each mode’s share of travel
activity. For example, a mode which represents 2% of travel should receive about 2% of
resources, and a mode which represents 20% of travel should receive 20% of resources.

As discussed earlier in this paper, conventional travel surveys undercount walking.
Although only about 5-10% of trips are made completely by walking, 15-30% of urban
trips involve at least one walking link. By this measure, a major share of transport
resources should be devoted to walking.

Walking only represents a small portion of total person-mileage. However, a short
walking trip often substitutes for a longer automobile trip. For example, consumers may
choose between walking to a nearby store or driving to a supermarket. Motorists tend to
travel far more (about 3 times as much on average) as non-motorists. There is no obvious
reason that society should subsidize automobile trips and motorists at a greater rate than
walking trips and non-drivers.

It is difficult to know exactly what portion of transport funds are devoted to non-
motorized facilities, since this is not usually separated in transportation budgets. Local
governments devote a relatively large portion of infrastructure funds to walking facilities,
perhaps 5-15% of transportation agency budgets, and somewhat more if recreational trail
expenditures are also included. However, other levels of government provide much less
support. For example, the state of Oregon is considered a leader in nonmotorized
planning because it devotes 2% of state transport funds to walking and cycling facilities.
Most states probably spend less than 1% of their transport budgets on walking facilities.
The table below illustrates the estimated portion of transport expenditures devoted to
walking, using upper-bound values (actual numbers are probably smaller). By this
estimate, walking receives somewhat less than its proportion of trips as measured by
conventional travel studies, and far less than indicated by more comprehensive counts.

Table 11 U.S. Roadway Expenditures (Based on FHWA 2000; FHWA 2004)

Expenditures (billions)
Walking Facility

Expenditures (billions)
Estimated Portion

Devoted To Walking
Federal $30.8 $0.42 ÷ 2 = $0.21 0.6%
State $66.4 $0.7 1%
Local $31.3 $3.1 10%
Totals $128.5 $4.6 3.5%
This table shows the estimated portion of roadway expenditures devoted to walking. Federal
Bike/Ped projects total $423 million. Assuming half is devoted to walking, this represents 0.6%.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


This discrepancy between the portion of travel by walking and the portion of resources
devoted to walking becomes far larger when other public resources devoted to transport
are included, such as expenditures on parking facilities and traffic services, and the
opportunity cost of public lands devoted to roadways.

There are many reasons to criticize the assumption that each mode should receive its
proportional share of transport resources. It is backward looking, reflecting the
transportation patterns resulting from past decision, rather than forward looking,
reflecting the transportation system society wants in the future. Some modes provide
special social benefits, bear special costs, or reduce externalities. There are several
reasons that walkability improvements might deserve more than a proportional share of
transportation resources:

• As described earlier, walking provides basic mobility and serves trips with high social

• Walking is particularly important for people who are transportation disadvantaged.
Walkability improvements provide equity benefits, and bear special costs associated
with serving people with disabilities.

• Some walking facility improvements can be included in other transport budgets (e.g.,
transit facilities, airports, parking facilities, ferry terminals, etc.) because they serve
these modes.

• Walking provides both transportation and recreation benefits. It therefore deserves
funding from both transportation and recreation budgets. For example, it may be
appropriate to devote 10% of a jurisdiction’s transportation budget and 20% of its
recreation budget to pedestrian facilities.

If we apply the principle that each mode should receive its proportional share of
transportation resources, this suggests that walking should receive 10-20% of total
transportation resources (not just municipal transport agency funds), five to ten times
what is currently devoted to walking facilities and services, in addition to a significant
share of recreational funding.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Cost Allocation
Transportation cost allocation evaluates to what degree each user group pays its share of
transportation facilities and services through special user charges such as road tolls, fuel
taxes and vehicle registration fees (FHWA 1997; Litman 2009). This reflects the
principles of horizontal equity (consumers should pay for what they get and get what they
pay for unless a subsidy is specifically justified), and economic efficiency (prices should
equal marginal costs) (“Market Principles,” VTPI 2008).

Many people assume that because motorists pay fuel taxes and other roadway fees,
nonmotorized modes underpay their fair share of transportation costs. This is not
necessarily true. Although vehicle use fees fund major highways, local roads are funded
through general taxes that residents pay regardless of how they travel, and motor vehicles
impose other public costs besides roadway expenditures. An average household pays
several hundred dollars annually in general taxes for local roads and traffic services, and
pays hundreds of dollars in parking subsidies. When all impacts are considered, motorists
generally underpay their share of costs, while walking receives less than its fair share of
resources (Litman 2005; Litman 2009). The example below illustrates this point.

Two neighbors each pay $300 annually in local taxes that fund transport facilities and
services. Mike drives 10,000 miles annually on local roads, while Frances walks 3,000
miles. The table below compares their tax payments and transportation costs.

Table 12 Local Transportation Payments and Costs
Mike Frances

A. Annual local mileage 10,000 3,000
B. Household’s general taxes used for road related services. $300 $300
C. Motorist user fees spent on local road (0.2¢ per mile). $24 $0
D. Total road system contribution (B + C) $324 $300
E. Tax payment per mile of travel (B/A). 3.2¢ 10¢
F. Roadway costs (cars = 5¢/ml, walking = 0.2¢/ml) $500 $48
Net (D – F) Underpays $176 Overpays $252
Non-drivers pay almost as much as motorists for local transportation facilities and services, but
impose lower costs. As a result, they tend to overpay their fair share.

Although an average household pays its share of transport taxes, those who drive less
than average subsidize their neighbors who drive more than average. These subsidies can
be significant, totaling hundreds of dollars annually for somebody who relies primarily
on nonmotorized transport. These cross subsidies are far greater when other external
motor vehicle costs are also considered, such as public resources devoted to parking
facilities, uncompensated crash damages, and environmental damages (Litman, 2009).

This suggests that applying cost allocation principles, motorists should pay significantly
more than they currently do in user fees, and more resources should be devoted to
nonmotorized transport facilities or nondrivers should receive tax discounts (“Market
Reforms,” VTPI 2008).

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Benefit-Cost Analysis
A third approach to evaluating transportation policies and programs, and the approach
that is considered best for maximizing efficiency, is benefit-cost analysis (Litman 2001b).
This compares the incremental costs and benefits of a policy or project.

Benefit-cost analysis is applied to individual policies and projects, so it is difficult to
make broad conclusions as to what effect its application would have on transport decision
making. However, for reasons described below, it is likely that more rigorous application
of benefit-cost analysis would tend to increase the resources devoted to walking.

• As described earlier, current transportation planning practices tend to undercount
walking. Better counting of walking trips will tend to recognize more demand, and
therefore greater potential benefits from walkability improvements.

• Few economic analyses account for the full range of benefits from improved walkability
and increased walking described in this paper. More comprehensive analysis is likely to
identify greater benefits and so justify greater investments.

• Only recently have nonmotorized evaluation tools been developed, such as pedestrian
level-of-service rating. Applying such tools can improve our ability to predict how a
particular policy or project will affect nonmotorized travel, which can justify greater
investments in walkability.

• There is increasing recognition of the diminishing economic benefits from increased
highway investments (Boarnet and Haughwout, 2000; “TDM and Economic
Development,” VTPI 2008), the significant social costs of automobile dependency, and
the large potential social benefits of a more diverse transportation system (Litman,

• There is increasing recognition of the value of smart growth land use management to
achieve social objectives (“Smart Growth,” VTPI 2008). These strategies place a high
value on walkability.

• Current transportation funding is biased against nonmotorized modes. Only a small
portion of total transport funds may be used for nonmotorized facilities, and financial
match requirements are sometimes higher. More neutral investment policies would
increase the amount of money available for walking.

More comprehensive benefit-cost analysis requires better techniques to measure and
predict travel impacts of improved walkability, and to evaluate the full economic impacts
that result, including indirect and nonmarket impacts that are not usually quantified in
transport planning such as environmental, economic development and equity impacts.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


The study, Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities, by
Joseph Cortright (2009) found that improved walkability tends to increase home values.
It analyzed 94,000 residential real estate transactions in 15 major U.S. markets to
evaluate how various factors affect sale values, including conventional factors such as
size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, age, neighborhood income, distance from
Central Business District, and access to jobs, plus Walk Score (,
which calculates proximity to amenities (restaurants, coffee shops, schools, parks, stores,
libraries, etc.) and assigns a rating from 0 (least walkable) to 100 (most walkable). Walk
Scores of 70+ indicate neighborhoods where it’s possible to get by without a car.

The study found that a one-point Walk Score increase is typically associated with an
increase of $700 to $3,000 in house values, depending on the market. Shifting from
average to above-average Walk Scores typically increased a home’s value by $4,000 to
$34,000, depending on the metro area. The gains were larger in denser, urban areas like
Chicago and San Francisco and smaller in less dense markets like Tucson and Fresno.

For example, in Charlotte, NC, houses in the Ashley Park neighborhood, with Walk
Score values averaging 54 have median prices of$280,000, while an otherwise similar
home in the Wilmore neighborhood, which has Walk Scores averaging 71, would be
valued at $314,000. Controlling for all other factors including size, number of bedrooms
and bathrooms, age, neighborhood income levels, distance from the Central Business
District and access to jobs, shifting a house from Ashley Park to more walkable Wilmore
would increase its value by $34,000 or 12%.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Conventional transportation planning practices treat walking as a minor transport mode
and recognize only modest benefits from improved walkability and increased walking
activity. This results from evaluation practices that undercount nonmotorized travel and
undervalue walking benefits.

From other perspectives it is clear that walking is a critical component of the transport
system, and that improved walkability and increased walking can provide significant
benefits to society. Improved walkability increases accessibility, provides consumer and
public cost savings, increases community livability, improves public health and supports
strategic economic development, land use and equity objectives. A variety of methods
can be used to evaluate these impacts.

Conventional planning practices may conclude that walking currently receives a fair and
efficient share of transportation resources. However, this reflects an undercounting of
walking trips, an undervaluation of walking benefits, and undervaluation of motor vehicle
costs. More comprehensive evaluation indicates that walking receives less than its
appropriate share of transportation resources, and that walkability improvements can
provide a high economic return on investment.

Greater appreciation of the full benefits of walking could change planning priorities. It
would justify devoting more government funding to walking facilities and programs,
shifting road space from traffic and parking lanes to sidewalks and paths, policies to
create more walkable land use patterns, and greater efforts to manage motor vehicle
traffic to improve walking safety and comfort. These shifts support and are supported by
other transport and land use management reforms that improve transportation options,
reduce automobile dependency and create more accessible land use.

Economic Value of Walkability
Victoria Transport Policy Institute



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Economic Value of Walkability
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Victoria Transport Policy Institute


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Microsoft Word - Walkability