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Neighborhood Walkability: Get the Score

Five years ago I learned about the website Walk Score, which utilizes Google Maps to figure out the walkability of a location based on local shops, restaurants, schools, parks and so on. Input an address or a neighborhood, and the Website ends up a Walk Score on a scale of 1 to 100, from “Car-Dependent” into “Walker’s Paradise.”

The scoring and programming are far from ideal. Distances are as the crow flies; the tool doesn’t consider street design and terrain. Climate, safety and neighborhood quality are not considered, either. But the site is still beneficial in determining the ability to do things with no vehicle.

I looked in many different homes on to ascertain their various scores. They all are ones that I could ascertain the exact address or at the block on which they’re situated. Neighborhood scores are potential, but I noticed that scores can vary by plus or minus 10 points inside a neighborhood. So they need to be taken with a grain of salt.

To have the ball rolling, I will offer up the scores for where I grew up and where I live today. I grew up in an old suburb of Chicago using a gridded design in addition to proximity to the commuter trains and “village green.” It scores 69 (Somewhat Walkable), but newer suburbs certainly score lower, as they’re developed based on proximity to freeways, not trains. I live in Astoria, Queens, a 20-minute train ride from midtown Manhattan. My speech scores 88 (Really Walkable), but other areas of the area closer to the shopping roads venture into Walker’s Paradise.

Kendle Design Collaborative

Desert Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona
Walk Rating: 3

Golf course developments are easily the very car-dependent parts of suburbia. This home on a large lot benefits from the controlled scenery of this course, but one must push past the boundaries of the evolution to do anything besides play golf.

Belzberg Architects

Beverly Glen, Los Angeles
Walk rating: 34

It’s not surprising that L.A. is a very car-dependent city, although a lot of people may not understand that its ancient, comprehensive streetcar community enabled the sprawl now served by freeways. These broad rights of way cut up the city, so even short trips need circuitous travel by car. That circumstance is also the end result of the landscape, especially the hills overlooking the city’s sprawl. The allure of this house in the Hollywood Hills is clear, but walks are likely restricted to exercise.

Resolution: 4 Architecture

Throggs Neck, Bronx, New York
Walk rating: 37

It may be a surprise that a home in new york would score just marginally above the previous case. This home, beside the Throggs Neck Bridge from the Bronx, is just about as secluded as you can get in NYC while still being at the city limits. This means you have to drive even to reach public transport, typically the best way of getting about the city.

Kaplan Thompson Architects

Deering Center, Portland, Maine
Walk Score: 52
Somewhat Walkable

With this “in city” home, we venture from the Car-Dependent and into the Somewhat Walkable realm. The architects testify to the proximity of universities, dining and shopping, but the home is tucked near a cemetery and a park, meaning the places to walk are not inside a 360-degree circle of the location.

Make Architecture

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles
Walk rating: 65
Somewhat Walkable

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, nearer into the Pacific, the rating is about twice as Large as at the Hollywood Hills. This home illustrates one attribute (although not a mandatory one) of walkability: density.

Universal Joint Design Associates

Brentwood, Austin, Texas
Walk rating: 65
Somewhat Walkable

When we compare this home in Austin into the previous one in L.A., the simple fact that they have the identical score may be surprising. One is essentially a rowhouse, and one is a freestanding home on a generous lot. Each owes its relatively high score into a gridded network using a mix of uses within an easy walk. This Austin home, it needs to be pointed out, is located in the midst of a brief block, which could typically be vacant or used for a garage. It is a way of infilling the suburbs to include more density while decreasing sprawl, 1 piece at a time.

Kenny Craft, CNU LEED AP

South Main, Buena Vista, Colorado
Walk rating: 66
Somewhat Walkable

An ideabook centered on walkability needs to incorporate a brand new urbanism development. South Main occupies a 41-acre region between the town of Buena Vista and the Arkansas River. The programmers envisioned a “walkable, pedestrian-friendly community” with “tree-lined roads, mixed-use homes, green construction and also a conscientious land-use layout” The effect clearly has more density compared to a typical suburban area but not enough to reach Very Walkable status.

Dean Nota Architect

Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles
Walk Rating: 71
Really Walkable

Near Manhattan Beach sits Hermosa Beach, a compact community that includes a “boardwalk” (The Strand, really paved and not made of wood planks) on the Pacific. Here we enter the next kingdom, Very Walkable. This home benefits from proximity to Pier A Avenue, which runs perpendicular to The Strand and that is where most of the community’s commercial offerings are located.

Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects

Windsor Road, Austin, Texas
Walk Rating: 72
Really Walkable

This multifamily project is located near the University of Texas in Austin and, more immediately, near a boulevard with a Great Deal of commercial amenities. This means the project is still somewhat suburban, with a lot of trees on a large lot, but I can’t help but wonder how walkable the boulevard is, or whether it’s geared more to cars than pedestrians.

Nic Darling

Kensington, Philadelphia
Walk Rating: 74
Really Walkable

This LEED Platinum project lies north of Philadelphia’s Center City district, however is only a few blocks from a subway line that connects the residents to a lot of this city. Walk Score does offer a Transit Score as well, but it’s limited to cities whose information is open source, if they have public transit to start with. This usually means that Transit Scores are not available the majority of the time. Regardless, proximity to buses and trains is equally as crucial as walkability for anyone seeking to live someplace with little to no car usage.

John Maniscalco Architecture

Cole Valley, San Francisco
Walk Score: 74
Really Walkable

San Francisco is a hilly but still very walkable town, particularly taking public transport into account. This home is located near Golden Gate Park, one of the city’s best amenities.

Kaplan Thompson Architects

Westover Village, Arlington, Virginia
Walk Score: 75
Very Walkable

Created by the exact same architect as the Portland, Maine, home revealed previously, this “subway green” house is west of downtown Arlington. The home is very close to the core of Westover, which is home to lots of commercial amenities.

Searl Lamaster Howe Architects

Lincoln Park, Chicago
Walk Score: 80
Really Walkable

Having lived in Lincoln Park (carless, as is still the case at Astoria) for a number of years, I can attest to the area’s walkability. This home is located a little bit farther from commercial strips compared to other parts of Lincoln Park, but it’s nearer to the elevated train that connects the area into the Loop and different areas of the city.


Sawtelle, Los Angeles
Walk rating: 89
Really Walkable

So where must one go in L.A. to reach Very Walkable standing? In this case, it’s West Los Angeles, which is between Beverly Hills on the east and Santa Monica around the west coast. It is a somewhat compact and built-up area with a number of commercial strips.

Schwartz and Architecture

Potrero Hill, San Francisco
Walk Rating: 89
Really Walkable

Launched in San Francisco, we see a higher number resulting from more density and an immediate mix of applications — a little grocery store is next door to this home.

John Hill

Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York
Walk Score: 98
Walker’s Paradise

This Upper West Side town house designed by workshop/apd eventually gets us into the Walker’s Paradise. It’s not surprising that Manhattan is where it happens. This residence is located less than a block from Broadway and its own commercial amenities. It’s also about halfway between Riverside Park and Central Park, making it an perfect location for walking as well as other diversion.

John Hill

Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York
Walk rating: 98
Walker’s Paradise

But other boroughs score just as high, most notably Brooklyn. Fort Greene is just one of several neighborhoods in the borough that has been gentrified into a greater or lesser degree in recent decades. This home is a little bit of a trek from Prospect Park (Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, also designed by Frederick Law Olmsted), but it’s very close to the neighborhood’s own Fort Greene Park.

John Hill

West Village, Manhattan, New York
Walk Score: 100
Walker’s Paradise

The ideal Walk Score appears back in Manhattan, at the West Village and neighboring Greenwich Village. Individuals who have visited the region definitely understand that its walkability is the end result of greater than proximity to shops, restaurants and so on. It is also because the area is a beautiful urban place, using a mix of short blocks at bizarre angles, a small scale and older trees. The area was home to author Jane Jacobs and motivated her influential Death and Life of Great American Cities. The social diversity has changed in the 50 years since she published it, but the physical personality has been staunchly preserved, making the area a delight to walk in and, for people who can afford it, to live in.

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