Walk the city: Top 3 cities in US

3. Nearly 70 percent of New York City dwellers don't own a car [source: America's Walking]. Not surprising since the city scored 83 out of 100 on Walk Score's recent rankings. How can they so easily go about their lives without the average 2.2 cars in the driveway? A combination of fleet and feet.

New York City has 24-hour public transportation connecting its five boroughs and the largest fleet of subway cars in the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey, more than 55 percent of New York commuters ride buses, trains and light rail [source: Christie].
­The New York metro area actually has the highest number of walkable urban places in the United States, according to a Brookings Institution survey [source: Leinberger]. Let's look at Midtown Manhattan: In that neighborhood alone there are thousands of residences, hotels, cultural establishments and stores, in addition to the more than 300 million square feet (27 million square meters) of office space -- it's the most walkable neighborhood in America [source: Leinberger]

2. When Pierre L'Enfant created the design for Washington, D.C.'s city layout in 1791, it was seen as the model for the development of future American cities. Who would have thought that more than 200 years later Washington, D.C., would still be considered a national model of walkable urban growth? Today D.C. has one walkable place for every 264,000 people -- per capita, that's better than New York City. It also earns a 70 from Walk Score [source: MSNBC and Walk Score].

­As part of L'Enfant's city plan, D.C.'s streets are laid out diagonally across a grid system. This may sound cumbersome, but the result is shorter walking distances between points and potential for green space (in the form of triangular parks) at the street intersections. If the sidewalks can't get you where you want to go, the D.C. metro area also has hundreds of miles of pedestrian and bike paths and a widely used public transportation system -- in fact, at 37.7 percent usage, D.C. is a leader in public transportation, second to New York [source: Christie].

1. San Francisco is a walkers' dream, and­ not just because of the mild weather (forget the hills). Only 1 percent of residents live in car-dependent neighborhoods. And a whopping 99 percent of neighborhoods score at least a 50 out of 100 on Walk Score's rankings -- the city itself ranks 86 out of 100 [source: Walk Score].
­Since the early 1970s San Francisco's urban growth plan has kept the relationship between people and their environment at the forefront. Each neighborhood has a distinct feel and manages to combine people's needs -- everything from housing, educational institutions and green space to retail and industry, all with safety in mind. One key piece to this urban growth plan is the San Francisco Municipal Railway system (Muni). Muni run 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is a combination of historic streetcars, commuter rail, diesel buses, alternative fuel vehicles, electric trolley cars and, of course, the famous cable cars. It's been connecting San Francisco's neighborhoods since 1912, and today stops within 2 blocks of 90 percent of all city residences -- more than 200 million people ride each year [source: SFMTA].

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