Just Three of the Cities that Top the Ranks for Walkability, Bikeability, and Transit and Park Access Also Have Home Prices Below the National Median
There are many ways that all of us as individuals can do our part for the environment. Limiting use of single-use plastics, recycling, and being mindful of things like energy efficiency. But one of the biggest environmental choices we make is where we live. The closer you are to your daily activities like work, restaurants, shopping, and recreation, the less of an impact you have on the environment getting to those things, and the less of your own time and energy you lose to moving from point A to point B.
To help quantify some of the benefits of being close to amenities, we combined four measures of sustainability for residents of a city—walkability, bikeability, and access to public transit and parks—for the 50 most populous U.S. cities, which we ranked according to a metric we’re calling the “Sustainability Score.”
For these measures we used data from our own Walk Score® (Walk Score, Transit Score® and Bike Score®) and ParkScore® rankings from The Trust for Public Land. Each of the four components is measured on a scale of one to 100, where 100 best rating and one is the worst. The overall Sustainability Score is an average of the four components.
Below we rank the 50 largest cities for which we have park data, according to their Sustainability Score:
|Rank||City||Sustainability Score||Median Home Price (March 2019)||ParkScore®||Walk Score||Transit Score||Bike Score|
|1||San Francisco, CA||79.2||$1,407,500||80||86||80||71|
|2||New York, NY||79.0||$605,000||75||89||84||68|
|12||Long Beach, CA||61.8||$571,000||64||70||52||61|
|15||New Orleans, LA||57.1||$265,000||63||58||44||64|
|17||Los Angeles, CA||54.5||$720,000||43||67||53||55|
|18||San Jose, CA||53.1||$1,020,000||62||51||41||59|
|21||San Diego, CA||48.5||$612,000||67||51||37||39|
|27||Las Vegas, NV||44.4||$275,000||59||41||34||44|
|34||San Antonio, TX||39.3||$210,000||42||38||36||42|
|35||Virginia Beach, VA||39.1||$252,750||62||33||21||41|
|37||Kansas City, MO||38.6||$185,000||59||34||29||32|
|40||El Paso, TX||37.1||$158,225||37||41||31||39|
|41||Colorado Springs, CO||36.5||$295,000||50||36||19||42|
|43||Wichita, KS||34.2||[no data]||39||35||20||43|
|46||Oklahoma City, OK||31.3||$183,000||36||33||16||40|
|50||Fort Worth, TX||25.3||$230,000||9*||34||21||36|
*Boston and Fort Worth do not have ParkScore® data, so for these cities we scored them based on the number of parks per square mile relative to the 100 most populous cities in the nation.
For the most part, the more sustainable a city is, the more expensive it is to live there, as six out of the top 10 most sustainable cities have median home prices above $500,000. There are a few notable exceptions, though. Minneapolis (73.1), Chicago (72.7) and Philadelphia (67.9) all ranked in the top 10 cities for sustainability, but have median home prices lower than the national median price of $295,100.
“I often meet transplants from more expensive coastal cities like New York and D.C.,” said Redfin Chicago transaction coordinator Jon Fox. “They want to live somewhere where homeownership is attainable without sacrificing the amenity-rich lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to. A lot of people may not think of Chicago when it comes to environmental sustainability, but they should! Between public transit, ridesharing, and bike sharing, having a car in Chicago is unnecessary, and in 2018, Chicago became one of only seven cities in the world to receive the highest level of LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.”
Paying more won’t always get you access to high sustainability, though. Home prices in San Diego are nearly double the national median at $612,000, but the city’s Sustainability Score is only 48.5, placing it 21st among the 50 largest cities.
“It’s not a coincidence that the most sustainable cities are also the ones with the most expensive homes,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Many people are willing to pay a premium for the ability to live a green lifestyle that involves walking and biking and avoids driving. But there are a few places where it’s still affordable to live a sustainable lifestyle. Philadelphia for example, has plenty of affordable housing near its city center with walkable access to shops, parks and jobs.”
As you can see in the map below, nearly every part of the country has at least one city with a high Sustainability Score.