A report commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce finds that "walkable environments should be viewed as economic infrastructure that attract employment and should be invested in accordingly."
By Adrian Duyzer
Published May 16, 2012
The report analyzes walkability and transit accessibility as they relate to the location and growth of creative industries in Hamilton. It contains fascinating insights and should serve as a clear wake-up call to Hamilton's urban planners.
Creative industries are one of six sectors central to Hamilton's economic strategy. There are six sub-sectors contained within this sector, namely design and digital media; film, video and broadcasting; music; visual arts; performing arts; and festivals and events.
The sector is economically significant, both provincially and locally. According to the government of Ontario creative industries are responsible for $12.2 billion of Ontario's GDP annually, which is "now larger than Ontario's energy industry, is approaching 70% of the auto manufacturing sector and surpasses those of agriculture, forestry and mining sectors combined."
Locally, the study points out that creative industries are responsible for the largest job growth of any sector in downtown Hamilton. In 2010, there were 1,685 jobs in creative industries downtown; in 2011 this had grown to 2,005 - a growth of 320 jobs.
To put this into perspective, the total job growth downtown for this period was 330 jobs. Creative industries account for more jobs downtown than non-profits and NGOs (1,160), education (1,050), and manufacturing (530), and for the same number of jobs as healthcare and social services (2,005).
In other words, "creative industries are a significant and rapidly growing economic sector."
So what does Hamilton need to do to in order to see continued, robust economic growth in creative industries?
We need to build neighbourhoods with two key characteristics.
Those two key characteristics are walkability and a high level of public transit service.
The report uses data from Walk Score to assess the walkability of Hamilton's neighbourhoods. Walk Score's methodology:
Walk Score uses a patent-pending system to measure the walkability of an address. The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on the distance to amenities in each category. Amenities within .25 miles [0.4 km - Ed] receive maximum points and no points are awarded for amenities further than one mile [1.6 km - Ed].
Walk Score uses a variety of data sources including Google, Education.com, Open Street Map, and Localeze.
The report assembles walk scores for each of Hamilton's neighbourhood planning units (NPUs) by measuring the walk score for the location at the center of each NPU. Using these walk scores, the NPUs are categorized according to Walk Score's four classifications: a score of 90 to 100 is a "Walker's Paradise" where "daily errands do not need a car", 70 to 89 is "Very Walkable", where "most errands can be accomplished on foot", 50 to 69 is "Somewhat Walkable", where there are "some amenities within walking distance", and 0 to 49 is "Car-Dependent".
These NPUs are displayed on a map, and creative businesses are plotted on top.
Creative Industries and Walk Score. Source: Walkabililty and Economic Development (2012)
Click for a larger image.
As you can see, the correlation is unmistakeable: creative industries overwhelmingly favour walkable neighbourhoods.
The report also shows the importance of transit to creative industries. Using similar methodology to walkability, the report overlays creative industries on a map displaying the city's NPUs, classified according to how well they are served by public transit.
Creative Industries and Transit. Source: Walkabililty and Economic Development (2012)
Click for a larger image.
Again, the correlation is obvious: creative businesses locate themselves where they are well served by transit.
Creative industries are the downtown's fastest growing economic sector. Between 2010 and 2011 these industries created 320 jobs, almost double the number of jobs as the next fastest-growing sector, education (165 jobs).
In the same period, downtown Hamilton saw a decline in the number of jobs in government, retail & entertainment, finance/insurance/real estate, and manufacturing. In fact, were it not for the 320 jobs the core gained as a result of creative industries, it would have gained only 10 jobs!
The report puts it simply: "walkable environments should be viewed as economic infrastructure that attract employment and should be invested in accordingly."
This means that just as investments are made to ensure suburban business parks have the required infrastructure to make them centres of private investment, walkable environments need to be created, enhanced, and maintained in order to attract jobs for other sectors. Practically speaking this points to a whole host of planning issues ranging from pedestrian friendly urban design to intensification. The same can be said for transit accessible environments and this links directly with efforts at establishing Light-Rail Transit (LRT) across the lower city of Hamilton.
Now let's flip this around and ask a crucial question from a different angle: how much is it costing Hamilton - in terms of fewer jobs, more unemployed people, and a diminished tax base - to retain its walkability-destroying system of one-way, urban thoroughfares?