ATLANTIC CITY — Dayshawn Reynolds doesn’t own a car.

He doesn’t need one in this resort town.

The 24-year-old, like countless other Atlantic City residents, navigates the city on his feet.

“I walk everywhere I go in Atlantic City,” Reynolds said. “It’s crazy. You can walk to your jobs. You can walk to and from school. You can walk back home. Everything is right there.”

The state’s transition report on Atlantic City, co-authored by Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy, cites an Urban Land Institute note that says demographic trends for bringing the population back to Atlantic City are more favorable now than at any time in the past 50 years.

A big reason for that is because many millennials and baby boomers want to live in a neighborhood where they can walk to buy a cup of coffee or a gallon of milk, among other things. Many studies say millennials in particular favor the economic opportunity and diversity cities provide.

With its 48 blocks and four miles of boardwalk, Atlantic City is by many statistical measures a walkable city, and that’s a positive in a city where access to vehicles is limited for many reasons, including cost. According to a 2017 study, the average Atlantic City household owns one car, compared with an average of two cars per household in Atlantic County, the study said.

Atlantic City 3rd Ward Councilman Kaleem Shabazz has never had a driver’s license. He walks just about everywhere in the city, often interacting with his constituents.

“It’s part of the Atlantic City culture to be able to walk or take public transportation,” Shabazz said. “Atlantic City is walkable in terms of distance. It is walkable in my mind in terms of safety.”

Reynolds is a former Atlantic City High School basketball and football standout. He now helps coach the Atlantic City Dolphins youth football team.

His travels around the city are typical of many residents. Reynolds works two jobs. He is an assistant preschool teacher at Atlantic City Day Nursery and a sports and recreation assistant at the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.

Most days after he finishes at the preschool in the late afternoon or early evening, he walks two miles across the heart of Atlantic City to the Boys and Girls Club.

“Walking throughout the city, I always encounter some of my players,” he said. “It’s a great thing. They get to see their coach right in the neighborhood and the community they’re growing up in.”

Reynolds’ usual route takes him along Arctic Avenue past the renowned White House Sub Shop and Barbera Seafood Market.

He cuts across Tanger Outlets The Walk, where on this early June sunny day people sip coffee outside Starbucks. Reynolds passes historical plaques on street corners that commemorate notable Atlantic City residents, such as Charles A. Mills, the city’s first black architect.

Reynolds says hello to family and friends as he walks through Stanley Holmes Village, where he grew up.

A few blocks from the Boys and Girls Club, a couple of teenagers walk up to him and challenge him to a basketball game.

Reynolds laughs and asks when he and the teen are going to play one on one.

“I get that all the time,” Reynolds said.

The website gives Atlantic City an overall 71 rating on a scale of 0-100, meaning it is “very walkable.”

“We know that residents (who live in walkable areas) tend to be healthier,” said Aleisha Jacobson, senior business manager for Walkscore. “They tend to weigh less by six to 10 pounds. We know that cars are expensive. Walkability is also associated with higher levels of engagement in your community.”

Several Atlantic City neighborhoods rate higher than the city’s overall score of 71. Ducktown has a walkable rating of 89, and Chelsea is an 86. Some neighborhoods are much lower. Venice Park is a 28.

Like many cities, Atlantic City must confront questions about safety when it comes to how walkable it is.

Data show total crime in the resort is a third of what it was in 2013. But when it comes to safety, a person’s perception is their reality.

Sharon Aloi is in her 60s and has lived in Lower Chelsea for 11 years. She walks just about everywhere she goes in Atlantic City. Her car is 5½ years old but has less than 28,000 miles on it.

Aloi feels safe walking the city’s main streets and Boardwalk. At night, she’s careful. Sometimes, she avoids deserted sections of the Boardwalk, such as the stretch in front of the closed Atlantic Club Casino Hotel.

“It’s easy to walk on the street, the Boardwalk or the beach,” she said. “If it’s too late, you find a jitney or a cab to come home. I’m definitely into the walkability (of Atlantic City) for exercise, health and enjoyment.”

Shabazz said the city is proactive when it comes to safety. He cited the Police Department’s new Neighborhood Coordination Officers program, which has put veteran police officers in the city’s neighborhoods and Tourism District, as well as plans to improve street lighting and add cameras around the city.

“Police presence, cameras, all that helps to bring about a feeling of safety,” Shabazz said, “and with the feeling of safety comes the reality of safety.”

Shabazz agreed Atlantic City needs to do a better job of publicizing just how walkable most sections of the city are.

The biggest advertisement for Atlantic City’s walkability is one of its signature features, the Boardwalk.

Carolyn Pendleton, a lifelong city resident, has walked the Boardwalk almost daily for years. She goes in the morning or evening. Pendleton loves to breathe in the salt air and sometimes does some deep thinking as she watches the waves crash against the beach.

“Walking the Boardwalk is my main way for exercise,” she said. “If I skip a day, my body lets me know. You kind of slow down a little bit, but then you get back into the (walking) groove and you feel rejuvenated again. Just watching that water, there’s a peacefulness.”

People are talking about how to reinvent Atlantic City. Join the conversation here.

Contact: 609-272-7209 Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

Staff Writer

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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