Survival in Los Angeles has long hinged on owning a car and enduring its punishing traffic, but a new report suggests the sprawling city has potential to become America’s next walkable urban area.
As we reported earlier this week, coalition of real estate developers and investors partnered with SmartGrowth America (a non-profit that focuses on developing and sustaining great urban neighborhoods) and the George Washington University School of Business to analyze the number of walkable neighborhoods in the country’s 30 largest urban areas and look at the potential for growth.
Though L.A. came in at 18th (just below Columbus, Ohio and Kansas City), researchers suggest its future could move it toward the top of the list.
How’s that possible, you might be asking?
Currently, the report finds that only about 16 percent of L.A.’s office and retail space is walkable, compared to three times that amount in Washington, D.C. But 35 percent of that pedestrian-friendly space exists in the city’s suburbs, which means L.A. and its surrounding communities are ripe for growth.
These walkable areas are in-demand for office and retail development, which is driving up rent costs, according to Chris Leinberger, a real-estate professor at George Washington who led the study.

“This is a pretty significant change in how we invest, how we build the country,” Leinberger said. “There will be demand for tens of millions of square feet of additional walkable urban development.”

Additionally, the city has invested more than $40 billion in developing public transit over the next decade — more than any other city across the nation — with eight new commuter, light and heavy rail lines already open. The city has also begun construction on five new rail lines while suburban cities like Pasadena and Santa Monica continue to develop plans for a more public transit-friendly community, Fast Company adds.
“That future—of a walkable, transit-friendly Los Angeles—is being built right now,” the report said. “It will allow people to drive everywhere they want, assuming they can put up with the traffic, and provide the option of walkable urbanism for those who want it.”
Despite the investment, L.A. still must clear the hurdles of circumventing zoning and regulatory policies in some of these communities, as well as find tenants who can afford the soaring costs of rent.
Challenges aside, as the report points out, achieving the futuristic transit system depicted in last year’s movie “Her” is not too far from reality.
MORE: How Can Two Cities Develop the Area Between Them?