When it comes to walkable cities, Texas tends to get a failing grade. It’s well-deserved: compared with cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia, we don’t offer walkers much. It’s not strictly a coastal thing either—Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis fare much better than we do too. And WalkScore.com, a project of real estate website RedFin, puts a number value on how walkable a city is or isn’t.
Their top ten list is only mildly interesting if you’re a Texan—none of our cities are on it—and, indeed, you have to go all the way to #42 on the national list to find your first Texas city. But if you zoom in on the list to include only Texas, you’ll find Houston in the top spot, followed closely by Laredo and Dallas, with Irving not far behind. No Texas city has a “walkability index” score higher than 45 (New York scores highest, at 87.6), but there are a few interesting things to learn from the list.
The methodology for the list is complicated, which tends to result in more accurate rankings than simple, clickbaity lists. The factors that go into determining the score include walking routes, or how long it takes to get from one desirable location to another on foot; depth of choice, or how much stuff there is that you’d want to walk to within a given area; pedestrian-friendliness, which is fairly self-explanatory (sidewalks help—sorry, Austin); mixed-use vs. single-use, or are neighborhoods full of nothing but houses?; and block-by-block ranking.
TX 44.2 2,099,451 TX 43.8 236,091 TX 43.6 1,197,816 TX 42.0 216,290 TX 38.7 649,121 TX 36.4 226,876 TX 36.4 259,841 TX 35.7 305,215 TX 35.4 790,390 TX 34.8 229,573 TX 34.6 365,438 TX 33.7 1,327,407 TX 31.6 741,206
From a big-picture perspective, there are certainly things here to argue with. Dallas is walkable if you’re in certain parts of town, but if you need to get to another part of the Metroplex, you’re out of luck. Similarly, Houston’s walkability is undeniable in a neighborhood like Montrose, but you could fit a whole lot of other walkable cities inside Houston’s loop. Austin, meanwhile, is geographically small compared to some other Texas cities and has walkable neighborhoods near downtown—but otherwise-walkable neighborhoods often lack adequate sidewalks.
Ultimately, of course, every Texas city ranked here—from Houston all the way down to Fort Worth—gets a failing grade compared with cities that were built with pedestrians in mind. But even in a state built for cars, there are places it’s easier to walk around than others.