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WalkScore

  map of a compact community, walkability within 1 mile, from sightline.org 

map of a compact community, walkability within 1 mile, from sightline.org

In the planning world, one mile is considered walkable and one quarter of a mile is the gold standard. WalkScore.com takes that standard and gives a rating from 1-100 for an address, giving high points for things like stores, libraries, and schools within a quarter mile and diminishing points for up to a mile. The ratings seem fairly accurate, my current address gets an 83, very walkable, while the house where I grew up gets a 27, very unwalkable. That matches with my experience at both places.

WalkScore does acknowledge that they don’t account for hills, aesthetics, public transportation, weather, or safety, causing some problems in the rankings. My old Oakland address rates too high with a 91 in a neighborhood where one of my roommates got jumped on the corner. We had six liquor stores within a three block radius, but everything else was close to a mile away through rather blighted streets, so no one walked. The neighborhood was more of a cyclist’s paradise, than a walker’s. My old Berkeley address rates only a 51, moderately walkable, but it had a great series of paths and staircases connecting the streets, and people would drive to that neighborhood specifically for walking around.

Another problem is in their city rankings: they rate San Francisco as the most walkable city in the country ahead of New York. Now, San Francisco is a nice city for walking, but there’s no way it beats Manhattan. In Manhattan, you don’t even have a choice about walking, you just do it. WalkScore needs to somehow add a reality factor or an it’s-impossible-to-drive factor or something and get New York up to number one in their rankings.

Overall, though, the scores seem pretty accurate, and their website claims that real estate listings are starting to include the ratings. That could really start to make a difference in how communities are planned, if real estate agents and developers start to really value walkability.

map of a suburban community, walkability within 1 mile, from sightline.org

map of a suburban community, walkability within 1 mile, from sightline.org

These maps from Sightline do a great job of illustrating how community planning affects walkability. I sympathize with any poor kid or elderly person stranded on the cul-de-sac in the middle of this suburb.

– Addendum 9/21-11 –

A good article discussing the benefits of the grid at the Atlantic.

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2 Responses to “WalkScore”

  1. February 16th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    bradzio says:

    Interesting. My current address is a 78 and I can walk to several things, though they list an Esperanto league something under bookstores. Not too useful I think. My first house as a kid was a 60, somewhat walkable. Accurate since I could walk to some things, but not a ton. And our second house in a Phoenix subdivision full of loopy streets and cul-de-sacs got a 15, car dependent. And there wasn’t really anything you could walk too. I like this site. Thanks.

  2. February 28th, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    TheGreenElCerrito says:

    Thanks for the heads up on this website…up in El Cerrito I score a 72…

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