24 March 2009

walk score -- measuring pedestrian friendlyness

As I've mentioned before, I don't have a car, don't want one, and don't think that people should have an unquestioned right to drive a car. I'm an urbanist, and I believe that people should be able to walk to all of their life's necessities, or in the worst case, ride a bike or public transportation. Since I've moved to Princeton, one of my major complaints has been how inconvenient it is for someone without a car.

Today, I discovered WalkScore (via the Freakonomics Blog). It is a google maps mash-up which tries to quantify how walkable an area is according to distance from common necessities, such as grocery stores and bars. Very clever. And for comparison:

  1. My old neighborhood in Charlottesville: 85/100 - very walkable
  2. My old neighborhood in Brooklyn: 88/100 - very walkable
  3. My current neighborhood in Princeton: 29/100 - car-dependant
  4. Washington Square Park, NYC: 100/100 - walker's paradise.
It's nice to have some external validation on my opinion of Princeton ;)

In all fairness to Princeton, if I were to live on Witherspoon at Spring St, I'd live in Walker's Paradise 95/100, but what grad student can afford that?


Tim Lee said...

That's awesome. My old neighborhood in St. Louis got a surprisingly high 89. My old DC neighborhood was 95, which seems about right. My parents house in the suburbs is in the 40s.

Anonymous said...

Distance is a poor approximation of "friendlyness". If you don't take into account noise or road safety, then you're either slow-dead or fast-dead. Neither is what many people would consider particularly "friendly".

I used to walk up to 55 miles per week for much of my commute. My neighborhood has become so "unfriendly" the seven years since then that I now walk about 1% of that.

What you're measuring seems to almost totally discount quality of life/experience. I'd take a 5x longer walk over the typical American urban sewer-run that many of us have to tolerate now.

Nick Johnson said...

Tim, I'm glad to see it isn't just me who noticed this.

Anonymous - without knowing anything about your neighborhood, I can't say much. You may be talking about quiet suburban streets, or you may be talking about Manhattan.

I can say what I think is friendly: wide sidewalks, people who shovel their sidewalks in snow, street lights, close proximity to things I need to get to, cross walks (and drivers who respect them, even when they're turning). These are all things that I see in urban environments, and not things that I see in suburban or rural environments. I don't think a lack of auto-traffic is necessary for any of these things.

So, I am curious, what has changed to make your neighborhood so "unfriendly"?

Dennis Ferron said...

Hahaha the small town my parents live in (Dill City, OK), where I grew up, gets a walk score of 0, yes zero. That's about f'ing right. Oklahoma is the reddest of the Republican red states - I think they equate public transportation with Communism. While I can sympathize with your reasons for your views about cars, Nick, fact is in Oklahoma if you don't have a car, you're dead. Might as well be on the Moon without a return flight.

Anonymous said...

> So, I am curious, what has changed to make your neighborhood so "unfriendly"?

Inattentive drivers, obscenely loud vehicle mods (Harleys, Hondas and hicks), and meth.

Welcome to America, where "it's all about me, all the time".