The United States’ infrastructure has remained virtually unchanged for decades. Across the nation, people face issues such as a lack of public transportation as well as increasingly long travel distances to their place of employment. According to the White House, we rank 13th overall in quality of infrastructure. Many Americans believe walkable communities are the solution we are looking for, but what does that entail?
The term “walkable community” is self-explanatory — it describes a community where most everything is within walking distance for those living within it. For a large part of history, cities were like this. If you needed to buy groceries there was a market serving your area within a short walking distance. Since the invention of cars, cities have been expanding and essential businesses have been pushed out. This produced consequences for American communities.
With these major expansions of our roads fueled by the automotive industry, our necessities began moving further and further away. One of the closest grocery stores to UTSA’s Main Campus, H-E-B, is around an eight-minute drive. While it may seem like the H-E-B is incredibly close, when you take the approximate 53-minute walking time from campus to get there you truly realize how far it is.
Our country was not always built like this. Before the automobile industry skyrocketed, our neighborhoods were much more tight-knit and easy to traverse. As a result, fast local transportation became much easier and more reliable for the average American. Our communities began to grow, but they also began to spread out. Why is it necessary to have grocery stores a five-minute walk from your home if they can serve more communities if you drive there instead?
With a lack of public transportation infrastructure, many people have no reliable transportation to their nearest grocery store. With the ever-increasing urban sprawl, food deserts are common in many communities. A food desert is an area where there is limited access to reliable and nutritious foods. Many within these communities are forced to shop for groceries at corner stores or eat excessive amounts of fast food due to having no way to get real groceries.
Approximately 23 million Americans live in food deserts across the country, many of which are within urban areas. The United States needs to begin rebuilding its communities to become walkable for those living within them. With this goal in mind, it would allow us to target and fight issues such as food insecurity and food deserts throughout our communities. Overall, this would make vital resources and businesses more accessible to Americans.
Food insecurity is not the only problem our current infrastructure has brought. Daily driving is a major contributor to air pollution. If our communities were walkable, our weekly driving could become a fraction of what it is currently, lowering our carbon footprint and gas prices as well as leaving our cities with much cleaner air.
American communities became unwalkable because of the profits of our automotive industry and the failure of the federal government’s infrastructure planning. For a happier, healthier and better future, we need to bring back the walkable community.