Sunday, September 14, 2008

Walk Score

Walk Score, which launched last year, allows users to type in an address and get a “walkability score” from 0 (must have car) to 100 (walker’s paradise). Thursday the site released a ranking of the nation’s top 40 cities, ranging from No. 1 San Francisco (86) to No. 40 Jacksonville (36), based on weighted averages of scores throughout the cities. The scores for individual neighborhoods or addresses represent “the potential to live a less car-dependent lifestyle in that area,” Mike Mathieu, the Internet entrepreneur behind the site, told me.

Walk Score’s admirably detailed methodology statements explain how the scores work and how they don’t. Each address gets points for amenities — restaurants, grocery stores, libraries, parks, and more — found by a Google Local search within a mile “as the crow flies.” The closer the amenity, the more it boosts the walkability score.

Google taps into directories and Web results to fill its database of local amenities. Its results are imperfect, and thus so are the Walk Score results. Take my home address in Brooklyn Heights, which scored 98 out of 100, as an example. Walk Score counted as a park a real-estate management company with the word “park” in its name. It also listed Governor’s Island, but walking there would require flotation devices. A defunct grocery store was still listed, alongside a drug store classified as a grocery store. A new bar/restaurant wasn’t to be found, but a restaurant located in a different borough made the cut because it’s on a street that shares a name with a street near me. And the nearest school was a karate training hall (inexplicably accompanied by a photo of a restaurant called Dojo).

The Walk Score site is pretty cool. I like the concept a lot, but I agree with the reviewer that the results are a bit sketchy. For example, 7-11 is considered a grocery store, which is, ahh, a bit of a stretch. The "heat map" of the walkability of cities would be really useful if you are looking to move.

via WSJ

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