Cool New Thing: What’s Your Walk Score?


As if USA Today featuring the "Complete Streets" movement on its front page weren’t enough to make one realize that walking is the biggest new way to earn your "green" points, a cool web site, Walk Score, rates the walkability of any location in the United States on a 0-100 scale. Based on the number of retail businesses and amenities near an address, this site analyzes how frequently one is likely to need to drive in the daily course of life. The closer things are to the places you’re likely to need, the better your score. Finally, a site that attempts to quantify the economic, environmental and social benefits of living in a city.

Above is the walk score for the Rocky Mountain Institute, the environmental think tank with the slogan "Abundance by Design." Given their score, 6 out of 100, one can see why they are focused on creating super-efficient vehicles that run on food but are silent, as far as I can tell, about the benefits of driving less, walking more, and interacting more with ones neighbors.

By its own admission, Walk Score has its flaws. Most glaringly, it does not include the proximity to transit stops. Also, it measures distance to a destination as the crow flies instead of as the cul-de-sac bends or halts one’s journey. But after plugging in a bunch of addresses, it seems remarkably accurate. Take for example, what has got to be the most walkable neighborhood in the country, planned, according to legend, by 17th century Dutch cows. When I lived there, I could go to my office, the subway, multiple restaurants, the pharmacy, and a bar without crossing the street, and the supermarket, the bank, more restaurants and bars and the bookstore were all just a minute or two away on foot. Walk Score, I think, rated it correctly: