Thursday, August 2, 2007

Walkability Index

Run, don't walk, to Walk Scorecard, a new site that allows you to calculate how walkable your neighborhood is. NS&S headquarters on Daniel Street gets a 55 out of 100. Friend of NS&S Joe lives just behind Beacon Street in Brookline. He gets an 89.

According to the site, the measure of walkability is proximity to "stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc." As discussed on the site (and on Streetsblog -- read the comments), the algorithm doesn't consider the physical aspects of walkability -- sidewalks, traffic, hills, highways, rivers, etc.

Given the gargantuan effort that would be required to measure, store, and consider the physical factors, I'm not inclined to quibble. Whether a location is walkable starts with nearby amenities. So, an index based on amenities makes sense.

An index that doesn't take physical factors into consideration is best thought of as a potential walkability index. The first order of business is to make more of Newton walkable according to this potential index. There are limits because there's only so many opportunities to add new amenities into our neighborhoods. The second order of business is to make sure that the actual walkability accords with the potential index. There's a lot of opportunity there.

NS&S HQ gets points, apparently, because we're near enough to the AMC theater on Route 9 and Charley's Eating & Drinking Saloon in the Mall at Chestnut Hill. But, to neither is it really feasible to walk. There's no safe and pleasant route.

This isn't a problem of the tool. It's a problem of the built environment. I'd rather fix the latter than the former.


margaretalexander said...

sent this out to all of my family to check their scores. interestingly my sister-in-law, who lives in bishop, california, scored higher than we did in newton center. she would be totallyl isolated without a car, but the amenities they listed were in general close by her house (except for the fact that the nearest movie theatre was 35 miles away). i was surprised we scored as low as we did. maybe we don't mind walking further. also our view may be contaminated by proximity to mass transit. that expands the range of ability to get around tremendously. my sister-in-law who lives in NYC scored 100. she's not going to let us forget that.

Knew Sean when he used to Rock 'n roll said...

OMG! You folks need to get a life! "Yuppie" doesn't even begin to describe it. You want to run up the score for your sidewalks so that you can beat out other upscale yuppie neighborhoods!?!? Why not just gate your streets and be done w/ it?

Mike said...

Saw this a couple weeks ago on the Boston blog scene. I scored a 75 up here in Nonantum. The Watertown bus terminal's a mile away though and the express bus outside only runs every 30 min, grrr.