Walk Score ®
Walk Score is a website that takes a physical address—enter yours here—and computes, using proprietary algorithms and various data streams, a measure of its walkability. More recently it’s started tracking how transit-friendly neighborhoods are too. What drives the score is choice and proximity—the more amenities (restaurants, movie theaters, schools) you have around you, and the closer they are, the higher your Walk Score. I live in a “Walker’s Paradise” neighborhood in Brooklyn, one that earns a perfect 100. (The three-doors-down grocery store is so close I’ve left food cooking while I ran to replenish a missing ingredient.) George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch rates a 0 (“car dependent”).
Launched in 2007 as part of a series of “civic software” initiatives, Walk Score instantly went viral, and quickly become an institution, particularly in the world of real estate. Walk Score numbers are found on every Zillow listing and on more than 10,000 realtor websites nationwide. Some agencies even allow customers to search for properties by Walk Score. “Even if it’s not the highest Walk Score, people want to know what their neighborhood is going to be like,” says Lerner, as we sit watching a live stream of real-time Walk Score inquiries on a large screen, a flickering array of dots from Los Angeles to Capetown. “They might want the closest grocery store to be two blocks away, but even if it isn’t, they want to know how far it is. What’s the closest place to get coffee? Are there parks and schools nearby?”
Walk Score has also been embraced by the planning community, not simply for its ease of use, but because the single number it provides is easy to communicate. In Phoenix, the city used Walk Score, along with housing and employment data, to help plan proposed light rail stations. Harriet Tregoning, Director of the Office of Planning in Washington, D.C., says Walk Score provides a handy metric that is otherwise often missing from many discussions. “We’re a jurisdiction where 50 percent of our trips are taken by something other than auto.” Retailers, she says, traditionally use car counts to measure the vitality and economic potential of an area. “They’re missing half the traffic,” she says. “I’ve sat across from developers who wanted to do a project and they were able to tell me the car counts at different times of the day, and I said, ‘What about the bus counts?’ They were like, ‘What?’ ” People on foot can be a more elusive quarry—a study of the Fulton Mall in Fresno, Calif., found the amount of pedestrian traffic people perceived was half the actual amount.