Housing News

“Walkable” isn’t a New Word

Website ranks cities to get you to sweat it out.

Some people have the patience (and dollars!) to test your city’s walkability factor. Say what? Yes, Walk Score, a website dedicated to promote the accessibility of your city’s establishments by foot, lists the country’s most walkable neighborhoods. Really, it’s not something you’d necessarily base your home buying decision on, but this helps those who want to save gas; and, of course, trim that waistline.

The site posts, “… Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. (It) calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. (It) measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle—not how pretty the area is for walking… The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on the distance to the closest amenity in each category. If the closest amenity in a category is within .25 miles (or .4 km), we assign the maximum number of points. The number of points declines as the distance approaches 1 mile (or 1.6 km)—no points are awarded for amenities further than 1 mile. Each category is weighted equally and the points are summed and normalized to yield a score from 0–100. The number of nearby amenities is the leading predictor of whether people walk… We sampled the Walk Score of 1,123,855 locations in the largest 40 U.S. cities to rank 2,508 neighborhoods on walkability.”

Here’s a couple interviewed by the site.

The score ranges from a level of 0-24 for “Car Dependent Only” neighborhoods to 90-100 for “Walker’s Paradise” where there’s no need for transport to get to your errands. In its latest survey, no city scored above 90 points, but 7 areas managed to earn a “Very Walkable” rating. Topping the list is San Francisco (86) followed by New York (83), Boston (79), Chicago (76), Philadelphia (74), Seattle (72) and Washington, D.C. (70).

One thing we observed is that the most walkable cities have higher land values too. For example, The City by the Bay scored points for its China Town, Financial District, and Downtown area having amenities closer to neighborhoods. We surmise that’s because space is expensive – businesses would have to cramp in order to take advantage of the growing market and maximize their rent. Communities would then have to locate themselves near these amenities to take advantage of easy-to-reach stores.

On the other hand, the analysis could go the other way. Since these cities’ populations are growing, businesses have to build their enterprises with more accessibility in order to locate their establishments strategically. That is, through the years, businesses plan their locations to get closer to existing communities.

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