Walkscore is a site that uses some simple techniques to figure out how walkable your neighborhood is. They use a few elements like access to amenities and roadway connectivity to tell you how easy it is to live life and still be able to use your legs.
My current neighborhood ranks 82. My old neighborhood in Portland ranks a stunning 95.
Here we see the major elements of Walkscore - the rank, the map, the placement of amenities, and the lists of those amenities (the seconds, e.g. Grocery Stores, unfold to show all of them). The ranking from 0 to 100 shows how pedestrian friendly your neighborhood is. NW Portland is extremely walkable and is loaded with amenities, so I thought it would be a good example.
To contrast, here is my childhood home in Grand Island, Nebraska:
We see here that my place Grand Island ranks a paltry, depressing 17. But wait, let's take something a little different and see how Walkscore settles up.
The map below is of Compton, California. Compton was rated the most dangerous city in America in 2006. It has a fairly impressive walk score of 63.
So, in Grand Island you might need to walk a little further to get something, but your worst outcome might be a mosquito bite. Compton has a much higher walk score, but that doesn't mean you want to walk around there.
Now, further, my neighborhood in Seattle gets an 82. But the streets here go basically straight up. I know if my father were generating a Walkscore out of his own needs, he'd give Grand Island a much higher rating.
I love the academic exercise in Walkscore. I also love the promise of being able to analyze neighborhoods for how inherently livable they are - as opposed to merely how deceivingly cheap the land is.
Walkscore has a ways to go before it's really complete. A complete analysis like this will include things like:
- Average speeds on roadways
- locations of pedestrian crossings
- average daily traffic on the roadways
- existence of on-street parking
- traffic calming measures
- whether the amenities being walked to are on the street or behind a sea of parking
- specific ped-friendly points (benches, coffee shops, places to rest)
- pedestrian barriers (freeways, dangerous places, etc.)
Having said all this, Walkscore is already an excellent tool to demonstrate the hidden costs of living in the suburbs. One is fairly required to drive everywhere. Even in enlightened Washington State, we have our mindless sprawl.
Here we have a confluence of inconvenient living, no transit, streets without connectivity, very steep topography, the streets have average speeds of 40 miles per hour, and no amenity whatsoever within a half mile. And you notice it gets worse as you go west. (If you think I'm being unfair, I could have picked many many cases worse than this.)
Looking at this on a map and seeing the distance one must traverse to get to anything will hopefully help people consider distance when choosing where to live.
So, keep it up Walkscore people! This has some serious promise to save Americans from themselves.