The issue of neighborhood walkability has been growing recently by leaps & bounds. It’s actually an important over-all cultural topic that will lend fodder to many future articles. But, in order to introduce the idea of walkability, let’s focus on a growing trend in the real estate world: the website called WalkScore.com. Many readers may recognize Walk Score by its trademark, a numeric score given to a specific property, zip code, neighborhood or city. It has become very popular in recent years to include a Walk Score number in the marketing remarks of a property that is for sale. But what does that Walk Score actually represent? And what else does Walk Score have to offer? Walk Score’s mission is “to promote walkable neighborhoods” as they believe that “walkable neighborhoods are one of the simplest and best solutions for the environment, out health, and our economy.” A Walk Score is a numerical rating of the walkability of a city, neighborhood, or address based on specific criteria including:
- A central, mixed use area including amenities that can be accessed by many
- Walkable access to parks & public spaces
- Availability of public transportation
- Schools and jobs within walking distance
- Complete streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians & transit
When you enter the location into Walk Score you are given a specific numerical number which can be rated as follows:
- 90-100: A Walker’s Paradise (daily errands do not require a car)
- 70-89: Very Walkable (most errands can be accomplished on foot)
- 50-69: Somewhat Walkable (some errands can be accomplished on foot)
- 25-49: Car Dependent (most errands require a car)
- 0-24: Very Car Dependent (all errands require a car)
In addition to giving a Walk Score, WalkScore.com will tell you about the location (including nearby parks, schools, coffee shops, and restaurants), the overall city area, provide a walkability/travel time map and show listings of local rentals. They also offer a separate transit score and bike score.
All major US cities are also ranked by their walkability on WalkScore.com. Seattle currently ranks #8 with an overall Walk Score of 70.8 (top Walk Scores go to New York (87.6), San Francisco (83.9) and Boston (79.5)). Seattle neighborhoods are then further ranked with neighborhoods nearer to the city core being given the highest accolades. This is actually where I wonder a bit about the rating system: sure, larger cities are a natural for walkability. But we are all very different in our needs and desires regarding the neighborhood in which we live in, and not everyone is suited to live in the core of a busy city. I believe that the idea of walkability can exist in all kinds of environments and I intend to explore this idea in future articles including a designated series called “Walkability That’s Working” which will include walkable situations in all kinds of settings in the greater Seattle and King County areas. Stay tuned for more on the important topic of walkability and how it is changing the way we live.