Health. Safety. Sustainability. Social equity. Community appeal. Access to nearby amenities. These factors all encompass walkability. Three Seattle-based organizations, Feet First, the International Sustainability Institute and The Alliance for Pioneer Square that work together to improve Pioneer Square streets and public spaces, conducted a walkability audit using Walk Score’s new iPhone app.
“For over ten years, Feet First, the only pedestrian advocacy organization in Washington, has worked to ensure that there are walkable communities throughout the state,” said Feet First’s Lisa Quinn. “The new Walk Score app is a wonderful complement to Feet First’s walking audit reporting system. This innovative technology increases the number of ‘eyes on the street’ that can capture information in real time. With limited budgets, this app is a valuable resource for advocacy organizations and government agencies that are looking to invest their time and money into projects that will provide safe, easy and accessible ways for people to choose to walk.”
Explore Pioneer Square’s parks, alleys, shortcuts, and more
Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, Pioneer Square, (Walk Score = 86, Transit Score = 100) is home to professional soccer, baseball and football games for sports fans; train, ferry and bus hubs for commuters and visitors; buildings for businesses, retailers and residents with plenty of boutiques, eateries and Puget Sound views.
Who knew Seattle has a proper national park? This neighborhood gem and national historical park is part of America’s western frontier Klondike Gold Rush history. Entrance is free. Did you know about this shortcut between Pioneer Square and Chinatown/International District? How about this alley that has been transformed with flower boxes? Or an alley with a bike shop and public events that range from movies to circus acts? Nice spots to explore.
Identifying walkability problem spots
Poor ADA access on certain sidewalks causes issues for wheelchair-enabled fellow citizens and stroller-pushing people who need curb ramps. This problem spot is highlighted on the walk audit as an opportunity for improvement after the steel plate is removed for construction. These areas will become particularly key to give people with disabilities access to a new streetcar being built down Jackson Street. Other walkability barriers and problem spots are a transit plaza that could use more vendor activity to encourage walk appeal, and cars parked on a pedestrian-friendly zone that discourages walkers and community gatherings.
Valuable tools for advocacy organizations
“The International Sustainability Institute used the new Walk Score app to highlight a walkability audit of Pioneer Square conducted earlier this year,” said Liz Stenning, the institute’s project manager. “Adding pictures and comments really helps bring these places to life. The Walk Score app could be a potential tool for policy change. If problem spots receive numerous comments and ideas for infrastructure change, they could be shared with policy makers. Just as important, sharing the gems and unique places of a neighborhoods is a way to promote businesses, off-the-beaten path spots and neighborhoods in general.”
Why are walkable (and bike-friendly) neighborhoods important?
- Community: For every 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10% (Sightline Institute).
- Health: Health care costs attributed to a lack of physical activity are $76 billion annually (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- Environment: Carbon emissions from vehicles will be 41% above today’s levels by 2030 if people don’t drive less (Urban Land Institute).
- Economic: Boosting all US trips by bike from 1% to 1.5% would save more than 460 million (expensive) gallons of gas per year (Walkable and Livable Communities Institute).
Do a walkability audit of your neighborhood
- Download the app from the Apple Store
- Take a walk around your neighborhood and add photos of local gems and problems spots
- Share with friends. Encourage them to “like” or comment on your favorite gems. And see if they agree about problem spots that need to be fixed. NOTE: Any gems or problem spots added via the app can also be found, commented on, liked, etc. on WalkScore.com.