ChoiceMaps: A New Way to Measure Neighborhoods

It’s great to see more cities adopting plans with goals around access to neighborhood amenities.  For example, Washington DC’s new sustainability plan has a goal of having 75% of residents within a 5 minute walk of healthy food.  But access is only part of the story, depth of choice matters too.

In the travel industry, we’re seeing innovative companies like Airbnb providing more neighborhood information to help people decide where to stay.  For example, if you love eating, you might want to stay in a neighborhood with a lot of restaurant choices.

Real estate analysts want to track how places are changing over time.  For example, whether a neighborhood is economically vibrant (more businesses are opening) or whether a neighborhood is on the decline (more businesses closing).

We’re excited to announce ChoiceMapsTM, a new way to measure access and choice in neighborhoods.

You can explore live ChoiceMaps for New York, Washington DC, Chicago, and Seattle.

Restaurant Choices in New York City

Restaurant Choices in New York City

In New York, the average person can walk to 12 restaurants in 5 minutes (remember New York includes Staten Island).  To perform this analysis, we’re using our new Travel Time API to compute 32,000,000 walking times for 8.2 million people to over 21,000 restaurants.  And we’re doing this in real-time (try moving the time slider on one of the live maps).

Measuring Neighborhood Choice

Let’s look at depth of choice in Midtown Manhattan vs. my home town of Topeka, Kansas.  The average Midtown resident can walk to a staggering 1,251 restaurants in 20 minutes, but in Topeka you can only walk to an average of 7 restaurants in 20 minutes.  Midtown offers 179 times the number of choices!

You can walk to a staggering 1,251 restaurants in Midtown, Manhattan.

In 20 minutes, you can walk to a staggering 1,251 restaurants in Midtown, Manhattan.

Tracking Neighborhoods Trends

Walk Score data subscribers now have access to historical and trend data for cities and neighborhoods.  Cities can use Walk Score to track the percentage of residents who can access various amenities — and how this changes over time.  Real estate analysts can track whether a neighborhood is becoming more or less walkable or how public transit service is increasing or decreasing.

For example, returning to DC’s sustainability plan, here’s a map of people who can walk to fresh food in 5 minutes.  Cities can use this type of historical and trend analysis to track their progress against their goals. Contact us to learn more about ChoiceMaps for your city.

Map of Food Access in Washington DC

Map of Food Access in Washington DC

And a hat tip to all of the planners attending the American Planning Association National Conference in Chicago who are hard at work to create more walkable cities.  Thank you!


  1. Matt Lerner

    Here’s a great report on the value of choices in cities by Joe Cortright:

  2. Randi Thornton

    This is exciting. We use walk score maps on our real estate websites and I will be anxious to learn when more cities are added to choicemaps.

  3. Randi – ChoiceMaps are available for all cities. Contact us to purchase data.

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