Boston’s Walkable Neighborhood Systems: delineation and performance

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The field of Walkable Neighborhood Systems is about neighborhoods as systems of land use, mobility, and transportation pricing, and how they can be understood as dense areas delineated by attractive walking distances. To date, four papers have been published in this field: Neighborhood density and travel mode (Lewis in Int J Sustain Dev World Ecol, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2017.1321052), Walkable Neighborhood Systems (Lewis and Adhikari), San Francisco’s neighborhoods and auto dependency (Lewis and Grande in Cities, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2018.12.017), and the Mismeasurement of Mobility for Walkable Neighborhood Systems (Lewis et al., Mismeasurement of Mobility for Walkable Neighborhood Systems, Mineta Transportation Institute, 2020). This paper summarizes the concepts and definitions of the field and replicates for Boston the methodology used in the San Francisco case study. We found 54 Boston neighborhoods using maps in a GIS and guidelines to determine neighborhood boundaries based on walking distances and land use. We establish much higher accuracy than using census blocks. We analyze neighborhood density as our independent variable and three dependent variables: sustainable modes (mode split), food sources, and walk score. The data is presented in tables, correlations, and choropleth-based graphics. Density correlated strongly with the dependent variables. The paper concludes with ideas about how to improve the performance of Walkable Neighborhood Systems for affordability, sustainability, mobility, health and safety, design, and community.


Auto dependency, Neighborhood delineation, Neighborhood density, Sustainable mobility, Walkability, Walkable Neighborhood Systems