I had a chance to sit down with the folks at Walk Score last week, and if you haven't heard of Walk Score yet, you probably will soon. The Seattle-based company has developed a system for scoring the walkability of cities and neighborhoods around the country. The basic concept is that if you have good transit, accessible streets for walking, and close-in amenities such as shops and restaurants, your neighborhood is "walkable" and receives a high score (on a scale of 1-100).
I've compared 20 of Seattle's waterfront neighborhoods, and gotten a wide range of walkability results. For example, South Lake Union received a stellar 91, while Windermere received one of the lowest scores at 37. That being said, walkability is clearly not everyone's goal in buying a home in a waterfront community. It could be said that residents of exclusive neighborhoods like Windermere would rather have less foot traffic, less commercial space, and a more private community in general. Those in SLU are clearly more inclined to take transit and walk to their local grocery store.
As you look over the numbers, you're probably also surprised by a few: Magnolia is more walkable than Alki? The system isn't perfect, but one thing to keep in mind, is that a community like Magnolia, though somewhat isolated, is a good "walking community" if you're near the small business core. You could eat, shop, and work within a few blocks of home.
If you happen to live on the West end of Magnolia, however, it's a different story. It's a totally residential area with very few businesses within walking distance, and should clearly have a different score. This is the limitation of searching by the neighborhood center (you can easily punch in an exact address for more refined results).
"Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address based on the distance from your house to nearby amenities. Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle--not how pretty the area is for walking. "
Alki has some of the best walking views in Seattle, and is one of the busiest walking avenues during the summer. It is a beautiful stroll, but grocery stores, hardware stores, places of employment (besides restaurants) are all a drive up the hill. It's more of a "drive-in" recreational area than a full-time walking neighborhood, and its score reflects this.
Walk Score gives an innovative new approach to viewing our priorities in choosing a neighborhood. Walkability isn't a top priority for all buyers, but saving on transportation costs and the possibility of improving one's lifestyle will definitely draw more consumers to this new metric. New transit data is coming on line soon, and I imagine the scope of Walk Score's influence will be expanding quite a bit in the near future.
Sam DeBord and Brian Wiegand
SeattleHome.com - Washington State Realty - (206) 658-3225
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