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Report: Does Detroit have 20-minute neighborhoods?

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Not really

Michelle & Chris Gerard

Since last spring, we’ve talked a lot about the idea of 20-minute neighborhoods, and the mayor’s initiatives underway to create more in Detroit. The idea is that you’d only have to walk within a 20 minute radius of your home to get essentials: groceries, pharmacy items, clothing. Anyone who lives in the city can tell you that those areas in Detroit are scarce. The JP Morgan Chase Institute looked at data in Detroit and New York and found that largely, residents are travelling outside their neighborhoods to obtain their basic needs.

Disclaimer: For this study, Chase looked at debit and credit card transactions of consumers in Detroit and New York. They measured the median distance between the zip codes of the residents and the zip codes of the merchants they choose to patronize. Then they grouped transactions into seven product types (clothing, entertainment, fuel, grocery, nondurable, pharmacy, and restaurant) to understand which types of retail are most and least accessible. The full report can be found here.

The study found that in 2016, residents of Detroit and New York made 71.6 percent and 56.8 percent of transactions, respectively, outside of their 20-minute neighborhood. For Detroit, this meant that residents had to travel at least 2.1 miles away from their home to make their purchases. But the report also finds that this distance has decreased slightly in the last few years.

Courtesy of the JP Morgan Chase Institute

Who does this impact the most? The study finds that low-income residents have the longest distance to travel (15.4 percent longer) than the distance for high income residents. That would make sense for Detroit, since the cost of living is typically higher downtown, which has more density and shopping available for its residents.

The study found that access to retail in Detroit improved most rapidly for middle-income residents between 2013 and 2016.

While the study isn’t perfect, many who live here would agree that we should have better access to the goods we need. This idea for Detroit has taken off this past year, with specific planning efforts going into West Village, Southwest, and Live6 in order to make these neighborhoods more walkable. These efforts include improving housing, renovating storefronts for added retail, and making more greenways/walkways through the neighborhoods.