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“Street Smart” Walk Score

We’re transparent about how Walk Score works and how it doesn’t work — and you’re vocal about the things you’d like to see us improve!

So we’re excited to share a sneak peek at the work we’re doing to address one of our top customer requests: using walking distances rather than crow-flies distances when calculating a Walk Score.

“Street Smart” Walk Score

Here’s an example of a house located across a freeway from a shopping mall.  Walk Score currently gives this location a higher score than it deserves, because crow-flies distances assume you’ll walk across the freeway.

Walking across the freeway is dangerous.

The new “Street Smart” Walk Score uses walking routes and gives this location a lower score.

Walking routes to amenities.

Here’s another example from Baltimore where Walk Score currently assumes you will swim:

Is this water clean enough for swimming?

Here’s a more accurate picture of what you can walk to — but the score doesn’t change much:

No swimming necessary.

Pedestrian Friendliness

“Street Smart” Walk Score also incorporates a number of metrics that urban planners use to measure pedestrian friendliness:

  • Intersection density measures how many intersections there are in a square mile— more is better.
  • Another metric is something called link/node ratio.  This measures how many roads go into each intersection (e.g. a 4-way intersection is more walkable than a 1-way cul-de-sac).
  • Since shorter length blocks are more pedestrian friendly than long mega-blocks, block length as another proxy for pedestrian friendliness.

Here they are for my house in Seattle:

Pedestrian Friendliness Metrics

We’re currently working with Urban Design 4 Health and our advisory board on these refinements to the Walk Score algorithm.  Stay tuned for more updates.

A big thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for funding this work.

5 Responses to ““Street Smart” Walk Score”

  1. Ron Skelton Says:

    I live in a 2 sq mile city which should be eminently walkable and to an extent it is. Most of my daily living is done on foot. I suggest the emphasis on the label “Walkability” misses an important point with regard to people with disabilities. If I were blind or in a wheel chair I would have a very different score. We know what but as it isn’t a priority a lot is said but not much is done.

    Walkability is but one important component of the social capital and “Quality Of Life” of a community.

  2. Living in a Walker's Paradise? | TheCityFix Says:

    [...] neighborhoods’ walkability on a scale of 0 to 100, based  on a complex, patent-pending, ever improving algorithm that awards points based on the distance from a given address to amenities in a variety [...]

  3. Walk Score Just Keeps Getting Better - Check Out These New Features | EarthTechling Says:

    [...] development, the site is now calculating (in beta) not just raw distance from conveniences, but “Street Smart” distances following actual walking routes.   This is much more accurate in measuring convenience [...]

  4. Street Smarts « Report on Mobility Says:

    [...] than using “as-the-crow-flies” distances.  The discrepancy has been one of the most suggested improvements and issues users find with the current service. The distance simplification currently used by the [...]

  5. Resource: Walkscore Gets Street Smart, Adds a Transit Score, and Calculates Your Commute - Go Green - SustainLane Says:

    [...] home) is to other places worth walking to. They're improving their algorithm, by making it "Street Smart," so that walking routes and scores are no longer defined by as-the-crow-flies proximity [...]

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