All posts in “Local Living”

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The Nation’s Most-Walkable Cities Got Even More Walkable in 2016

Reposted from Redfin.com.

New York remains the nation’s most walkable city in the latest ranking by Walk Score®, a Redfin company. Walk Score ranked the most walkable U.S. cities with populations of more than 300,000.

Rank City Walk Score Change from 2015
1 New York, NY 88.9 +1.3
2 San Francisco, CA 85.7 +1.7
3 Boston, MA 80.1 +1.2
4 Philadelphia, PA 78.3 +1.7
5 Miami, FL 78.2 +2.6
6 Chicago, IL 77.5 +2.7
7 Washington, D.C. 77.0 +2.9
8 Seattle, WA 72.9 +2.1
9 Oakland, CA 71.5 +3
10 Long Beach, CA 69.0 +3.2

Long Beach edged out Baltimore (68.7) to bring some SoCal spirit to this year’s ranking. The Southern California region was unrepresented on the top 10 list each of the past two years. Long Beach also had the largest yearly increase of all 10 cities, up 3.2 points, helping it rank among the most walkable cities in the nation.

“Recognizing Long Beach as the most walkable city in Southern California, and one of the most walkable in the entire country, is a testament to the hard work we’ve been doing to improve and expand pedestrian infrastructure and support safe and convenient travel for everyone,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. “We intend to continue making Long Beach a great place to walk and to live, work and visit.”

“A renaissance has been happening in Downtown Long Beach, which now has a Walk Score of 92,” said Redfin agent Michelle Zabukovec. “In addition to some brand new buildings, developers are rehabilitating structures that were already in place. The city has even created an incentive program for rehabilitation projects, and has also focused on improving walkability by adding more pedestrian lighting to create safer sidewalks. One example of this is the Pine Avenue Improvement Project. And of course everyone loves First Fridays on Atlantic Ave. and 2nd Street in Belmont Shore.”

All of the top 10 cities saw an increase in their respective Walk Score ratings, indicating that the nation’s most walkable cities are becoming even more walkable. Of the top 50 most walkable cities, only two, Honolulu and Columbus, improved by less than a point.

“Improving a city’s Walk Score takes work. In these communities, construction crews have built an invitation for walking,” said Eric Scharnhorst, livability analyst at Redfin. “Safer sidewalks are now connected to a greater variety of everyday amenities. This creates opportunities for both local businesses and families.“

Omaha, which ranked 32nd, had the largest year-over-year Walk Score increase of the 50 most walkable cities, with an improvement of 4.3 points. With a Walk Score of 45.4, the city is still considered “car dependent,” but many neighborhoods saw big gains in their ratings.

“This improvement in Omaha’s Walk Score is likely thanks to revitalization projects underway in neighborhoods across the city,” said Redfin real estate agent Travis Thomas. “Notable areas of development include Downtown, Blackstone and Aksarben Village where developers have been creating a mix of residential and commercial real estate and rehabilitating older buildings.This efficient use of space and resources means that people can live, work and shop on the same block.”

Six additional cities that ranked among the top 50 most walkable cities saw notable increases in their scores from last year. St. Louis, Missouri, Denver, Colorado, Aurora, Colorado, Santa Ana, California, as well as Austin and Houston in Texas, all saw a Walk Score increase of four points or more.

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The 10 Most Walkable Neighborhoods in Texas

Reposted from Redfin.com. 

Texas may not have a reputation for walkability, with its wide open spaces and 800 miles of land between its northern and southern borders, but there are actually many densely populated, highly walkable neighborhoods throughout the state. But which city has the most walkable neighborhoods? Is it Austin, with its burgeoning Millennial cohort, densely populated Dallas or the expansive city of Houston?

According to our calculations based on Walk Score data, Dallas is the big winner when it comes to walkability. Not only did Downtown Dallas nab our number one spot for the most walkable neighborhood in the state with an 89 out of 100 Walk Score, but Dallas also tied for the most neighborhoods to make the top 10 list, with a total of three neighborhoods. Austin came in a close second place to Dallas, with three neighborhoods in the top 10 list, including the number two and three slots.

Which cities didn’t fare so well? Houston, San Antonio and El Paso, which made the bottom slots of our list, and Fort Worth, which didn’t make an appearance at all.

To see the full list and how the neighborhoods shake out, take a look at our findings below, which rank neighborhoods based on their Walk Score ratings and our own agents’ local insights. Do the winners surprise you? Leave a comment! And to see how your hometown or neighborhood stacks up, head over to WalkScore.com.

1. Downtown Dallas – Walk Score 89

Downtown Dallas tops our list of the best neighborhoods in Texas for pedestrians with a Walk Score rating of 89. Residents living in the many high-rise condos enjoy easy access to centrally located jobs, cultural opportunities in the museum district and the popular Klyde Warren Park.

“Downtown Dallas is continuing to grow and develop into a top-tier urban destination,” said Redfin agent Bob Plessinger. “Our city has seen incredible growth over the last decade, especially from out-of-state buyers looking to escape sky-high prices in places like San Francisco. Many of these buyers purchase homes downtown because they know they’ll be able to quickly familiarize themselves with the city and all it has to offer, even without a car. They can walk across Klyde Warren Park and tour Oak Lawn/Uptown, or they can walk any other direction and access excellent restaurants and bars.”

2. Downtown Austin – Walk Score 88

Recent efforts by the City of Austin through programs like the Great Streets project have made Downtown Austin one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Texas. Public spaces along the roadways, updated sidewalks, ample lighting for night-time activities and streetside cafes give residents safe, easy access to the heart of the city.

“There has been a huge push to make Downtown a more livable place,” said Lauren Johnson, an agent with Redfin. “Many cities have downtowns that stay busy and vibrant during the day, but once 5 p.m. hits people pack up and go home. Austin’s downtown, however, is full of people through the evening because they have access to a huge variety of interesting places to eat, drink or shop. If you live in one of the many condos downtown, you’ll be in the center of it all.”

3. West Campus, Austin – Walk Score 87

West Campus is aptly named for its location directly west of the University of Texas. Since most of the neighborhood’s 15,000 are college students without cars, the neighborhood is highly walkable. You’ll find many small craftsman bungalows built in the 40s, a swath of decade-old condos and a recent influx of brand new apartment buildings.

“Not surprisingly, this neighborhood is densely populated with students. They really have everything they need within walking distance – they can run or exercise along the Shoal Creek Greenbelt, study for finals at one of the many coffee shops or go out to one of the local bars on a Friday night, and when they land an internship downtown they’re just a short commute away,” said Lauren Johnson.

4. Oak Lawn, Dallas – Walk Score 86

Walk across Klyde Warren Park on the north side of Downtown Dallas and you’ll be in Oak Lawn/Uptown. This neighborhood has a bustling retail corridor and a slew of new restaurants and eateries. It also has all the necessary amenities like grocery stores, gas stations and the like. Residents can easily access downtown jobs, but can remain somewhat separated from the dense urban core.

“There is a huge variety of homes in Oak Lawn — for example, you can get a mid-rise condo with expansive city views, or you could move farther north to Turtle Creek and get a small rambler,” said Bob Plessinger. “Property values in Oak Lawn run the gamut as well, anywhere from $350 per square foot to $1,800 per square foot, so the neighborhood is accessible to all types of homebuyers.”

5. Midtown, Houston – Walk Score 82

Houston dwarfs its fellow Texas cities in size and population, but it’s not known for its walkability. Most Houstonians will tell you that their main method of transportation is a car, but there are certainly pockets within the I-610 Loop where walking is a viable way to get around. Midtown is one of those neighborhoods. It is close enough to downtown that residents can walk to work, yet it is full of its own local hang-outs, restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops and bars.

“Residents living in Midtown can walk to downtown or hop on the rail line and quickly get across the city and catch a sporting event at BBVA Compass Stadium, Minute Maid Park or Toyota Center, but one of the best things about Midtown is that it has its own vibrant scene,” said Redfin agent Irma Jalifi. “Locals really don’t need to leave the area for fun or entertainment – it’s a one-stop-shop with plenty of options within walking distance for nightlife or running quick errands on a weekend.”

6. Knox/Henderson, Dallas – Walk Score 81

Knox/Henderson is farther from Downtown Dallas, but still within a reasonable commute time for residents with inner-city jobs. This area is undergoing stunning growth as residents flood to the area and developers rush to meet their demand.

“Many Dallas neighborhoods have older, classic homes, but Knox/Henderson is seeing an inflow of new, modern townhomes and condos, in styles that typically appeal more to out-of-state buyers,” said Bob Plessinger. “More restaurants and shops are cropping up as new residents arrive in the neighborhood, so I expect that this neighborhood’s walk score will continue to improve over time.”

7. Downtown San Antonio – Walk Score 81

Downtown San Antonio has all of the typical attractions of an urban core — retail shops and businesses, restaurants and cultural happenings — but the River Walk is the real draw for pedestrians. The lined pathway sits one story below street level and stretches from downtown to Mission Espada, with pet-friendly bars and lively restaurants, as well as more tranquil sections without businesses all along the way.

While the river walk is certainly a tourist attraction, local residents make use of it, too. “The river walk is an especially popular destination for local families and their kids,” said Erin Pierce, a real estate agent with Redfin. “The majority of the homes nearby are condos and lofts, and a lot of new developments are coming into the area. The river walk creates a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the downtown streets.”

8. East Austin – Walk Score 81

East Austin has been on the rise in recent years as new developments make their way to the neighborhood. Many developers are replacing older homes with more modern structures, but some residents still favor the 30s and 40s style and opt for heavy renovations that keep the charm and personality of the home in-tact. The variety in home styles, coupled with the neighborhood’s close proximity to downtown (it’s just on the East side of I-35), draw in all types of homebuyers.

“This neighborhood is increasingly popular with my customers,” said Lauren Johnson. “One of the most important things to my buyers is finding a home that fits their unique style, and the variety in structures in East Austin provides that. One of the other important things for my buyers is a high Walk Score, and this neighborhood is full of interesting shops, bars, restaurants, stores and public spaces in close proximity to the quiet residential streets.”

9. Neartown/Montrose, Houston – Walk Score 80

Neartown/Montrose is one of Houston’s older, more colorful neighborhoods. You’ll find a mix of home styles from ultra-modern to 1920s craftsman, and a mix of residents to match. Young professionals working downtown can live in Neartown/Montrose and manage an easy commute, students attending the University of St. Thomas are within striking distance of campus and golfers are a short drive from Hermann Park Golf Course.

“Everything you need is really within walking distance here,” said Irma Jalifi. “There are several parks, including dog parks, all along the Buffalo Bayou Trail, fun restaurants and bars on and just off of Westheimer Road, and a plethora of boutiques, shops and convenience stores scattered throughout. This is also one of Houston’s more laid-back neighborhoods — the quiet streets make it feel very far from the noise and activity of downtown, yet it’s just a short commute away.”

10. Virginia, El Paso – Walk Score 78

The Virginia neighborhood of El Paso isn’t known for its bustling night life or active daytime scene, but it is still a highly walkable neighborhood for its 1,100 residents. Running along the north border of I-10, Virginia is a narrow strip (just two blocks wide) of older homes and the occasional mom-and-pop shop. Locals can get most of their shopping done within walking distance, and are just a short distance from businesses and attractions downtown.

“Residents on the southwestern end of the Virginia neighborhood are just a short walk away from some of downtown’s main attractions, like the convention center, the El Paso Museum of History and the El Paso Museum of Art, while residents on the northeastern side are within walking distance to El Paso High School, Tom Lea Park and the city’s main hospitals,” said Redfin agent Maggie Garcia. “If you want to live in quiet residential neighborhood that also has access to the more lively areas of town, Virginia is a good bet.”

Walk Score Methodology: Walk Score analyzes hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities to determine a neighborhood’s Walk Score, which is a number between 0 and 100.  Points are awarded based on the distance to amenities in each category. Amenities within a 5 minute walk (.25 miles) are given maximum points. A decay function is used to give points to more distant amenities, with no points given after a 30 minute walk. Walk Score also measures pedestrian friendliness by analyzing population density and road metrics such as block length and intersection density.

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Why You Should Buy the Cheapest Home on the Best Block

Reposted from Redfin.com.

I bet you think buying an affordable city home requires a sacrifice: the neighborhood will have a low Walk Score and the highly rated schools will be out of reach.

Not necessarily. Some affordable homes are in city neighborhoods near highly rated schools and within walking distance to everyday amenities. But there’s a catch. To find them, you’ll need to search in neighborhoods that have plenty of expensive homes in them, too.

Here’s why: neighborhoods with a mix of home prices are three times more likely to be walkable and have highly rated schools than are purely affordable neighborhoods.

Even when compared with purely high-end neighborhoods, home to the highest-rated schools, neighborhoods with a mix of home prices are the most likely to have it all: a high Walk Score and schools with above-average ratings.

Median Walk Score, GreatSchools Ranking for Different Types of Neighborhoods

Neighborhood Home Price Mix Median Neighborhood Walk Score Median Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable 54 4.1
Balanced-Mix 70 5.1
High-End 57 6.9

The problem is that areas with a balanced mix of home prices cover just 13 percent of major U.S. cities. We looked at the 20 most populous cities Redfin serves and identified these neighborhoods in the fall because communities with a wide range of incomes, and by association, home prices, give families a better shot at getting ahead.

But are these actually the kinds of places where most people would want to live? After affordability, homebuyers’ top two demands are good schools and walkability. So we ranked the 170 balanced-mix and affordable neighborhoods by their Walk Scores and GreatSchools school ratings and found that only 24, or 14 percent, actually meet those common demands. Here they are:

Top 24 Affordable and Balanced Mix Neighborhoods Ranked by Walk Score and GreatSchools Score

Rank Neighborhood Home Price Mix Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
1 University District, Seattle Balanced 91 7.8
2 West End, Washington, DC Balanced 95 6.5
3 Adams Morgan / Kalorama Heights / Lanier Heights, Washington, DC Balanced 94 6.5
4 Queen Anne, Seattle Balanced 80 7.4
5 Ravenna, Seattle Balanced 74 7.7
6 Rosedale, Austin Balanced 69 8.1
7 International District, Seattle Affordable 97 5.2
8 Columbia Heights, Washington, DC Balanced 93 5.5
9 Fulton River District, Chicago Balanced 92 5.2
10 Hillcrest, San Diego Balanced 80 6.3
11 Banker’s Hill San Diego Balanced 84 5.8
12 Zilker, Austin Balanced 64 7.6
13 Westmoreland / Montrose, Houston Balanced 83 5.6
14 Platt Park, Denver Balanced 75 6.3
15 Eastlake, Seattle Balanced 69 6.8
16 Windsor Square, Phoenix Balanced 74 6.2
17 Victory Heights, Seattle Affordable 64 7.0
18 Rolando / SDSU, San Diego Affordable 74 5.9
19 Columbia City, Seattle Affordable 80 5.2
20 Bouldin Creek, Austin Balanced 75 5.4
21 West Highland, Denver Balanced 74 5.1
22 Highland, Austin Affordable 63 6.1
23 El Cerrito, San Diego Affordable 65 5.8
24 Schorsch Village, Chicago Affordable 68 5.2

Only eight of the original 20 cities from our last report have a neighborhood on the list. Not a single neighborhood in Boston made the cut, even though Boston topped the list in our last report for having the most area covered by a balanced mix of home prices. These neighborhoods are walkable, but the schools have below-average ratings.

So, what’s going on here? There just aren’t enough of these kinds of neighborhoods for everyone who’s looking for an affordable home. It’s one reason we’re asking policymakers to loosen restrictions on building in Seattle and other cities so that more integrated housing can be developed and more people can live in these types of neighborhoods.

Take Los Angeles, for example.

“Homebuyers have to pay a significant premium to live in a neighborhood with highly rated schools and amenities,” said Redfin agent Nikki Kilmer. “Although there are technically some neighborhoods in L.A. that could be considered affordable, there’s not much demand to live in those areas.”

If you are looking for an affordable home, your instinct might be to search in affordable neighborhoods. But if you also want highly rated schools and a high Walk Score, look for the least-expensive home in one of the mixed-priced neighborhoods on this list. This is a lot like grandpa’s strategy to make a safe real estate investment, “buy the cheapest home on the best block.”

Check out the table below to see how the affordable and mixed-price neighborhoods in your city stack up in terms of walkability and school scores. Click here to download a spreadsheet complete with the Walk Score, average GreatSchools rating and median sale price for each neighborhood analyzed in this report series.

The Top Affordable and Balanced Mix Neighborhoods in 20 Cities by Walk Score and GreatSchools Ranking

Austin Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Highland 63 6.1
Balanced Mix Rosedale 69 8.1
Baltimore Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Brewer’s Hill 90 1.8
Balanced Mix Otterbein 90 1.7
Boston Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Jones Hill /
Uphams Corner
85 3.6
Balanced Mix Hyde
Square
88 3.6
Chicago Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Schorsch
Village
68 5.2
Balanced Mix Fulton River District 92 5.5
Columbus Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Misty Meadows 48 7.9
Balanced Mix German Village 86 1.9
Denver Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Score
Affordable Cole 75 3
Balanced Mix Platt Park 75 6.3
Detroit Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Sherwood Forest 68 4.1
Balanced Mix South
University Village
92 4.4
Houston Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood Greatschools Rating
Affordable Sagemont 39 6
Balanced Mix Westmoreland 83 5.6
Indianapolis Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Augusta
Heights
42 4.5
Balanced Mix Downtown Indianapolis 76 4.9
Jacksonville Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Southwood 36 5.2
Balanced Mix Isle of
Palms
17 6.4
Los Angeles Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable South Los Angeles 68 4.1
Balanced Mix
Memphis Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Binghampton-Lester 55 4
Balanced Mix Central
Gardens
60 4
Philadelphia Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Castor Gardens 77 3.7
Balanced Mix Olde City 97 4.6
Phoenix Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Estrella Northwest 42 6
Balanced Mix Kierland 52 9.1
San Antonio Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Timber Ridge 39 5.4
Balanced Mix Alamo Plaza 79 4.7
San Diego Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Rolando 74 5.9
Balanced Mix Hillcrest 80 6.3
San Francisco Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Hunters Point 43 5.4
Balanced Mix Visitacion
Valley
62 5.2
San Jose Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Downtown 82 4.2
Balanced Mix
Seattle Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable International District 97 5.2
Balanced Mix University District 91 7.8
Washington, D.C. Neighborhood Walk Score Neighborhood GreatSchools Rating
Affordable Lamond-Riggs 70 4.4
Balanced Mix West End 95 6.5

Method and Data
We used home sale price data from Redfin from July 2013 through June 2015. City-specific median family income came from the 2014 one-year American Community Survey.

To define affordability in each city, we kept it simple: A home was considered affordable if 28 percent of the local median family income could cover the monthly mortgage and principal payment, assuming the buyer put 20 percent down and took out a 30-year loan with a four percent interest rate. Homes with sale prices 20 percent above that threshold were considered expensive.

To get the price mix of different areas, we summarized the price of recently sold homes in a 500-meter grid. Affordable areas had at least three affordable homes for every expensive home. Areas with a balanced mix of home prices had a ratio of affordable to expensive homes between 0.33 and 3.0. High-end areas had at least three expensive homes for every affordable home.

We considered a neighborhood “walkable” if it had a Walk Score of 60 or higher. Read more about the Walk Score methodology here. An above average GreatSchools score meant 5 or above. Read more about the GreatSchools methodology here.

 

New York Ranks Best City for Public Transit in 2016

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Transit Score Now Available for 350 U.S. Cities and More Than 10,000 Neighborhoods Across the Country

New York is the best city for public transit in the U.S., according to the 2016 Transit Score ranking. New York’s Transit Score increased 2.9 points to 84.1 from 81.2 in the last published ranking in 2014. We describe an address, neighborhood or city with a Transit Score of between 70 and 89 as having excellent transit, and a place scoring between 90 and 100 as a “rider’s paradise.”

In September, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) celebrated the first addition to New York City’s subway system in 26 years with the extension of the 7 line to the new 34th St.-Hudson Yards Station, connecting riders to the Javits Center, the High Line, the Hudson River Park and surrounding commercial and residential developments.

Below is a ranking of the top 10 U.S. cities (with populations of more than 300,000) for public transit.

Rank City Transit Score
1 New York, NY 84.1
2 San Francisco, CA 80.4
3 Boston, MA 74.4
4 Washington, DC 70.6
5 Philadelphia, PA 66.8
6 Chicago, IL 64.7
7 Miami, FL 59.4
8 Baltimore, MD 57.8
9 Minneapolis, MN 57.5
10 Seattle, WA 57.0

“Urban dwellers today want convenience,” said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson. “Particularly in congested urban areas, a car may be the slowest way to get around the city. Homes near bus and subway lines tend to have higher values that hold up even during housing downturns. The fact that many cities are also investing in alternative forms of transit, like bike share, indicates how highly prized access to transit is by their residents.”

With the addition of 130 new U.S. cities and more than 3,000 new neighborhoods, Transit Score ratings are now available for 350 cities and more than 10,000  neighborhoods. Among the newly added cities are big ones like Phoenix (32.2) and Detroit (37.9), as well as smaller cities with big Transit Score ratings like Union City, NJ (80.2) and State College, PA (63.7). For a full ranking of U.S. cities by Transit Score, click here.

“After schools, access to public transportation is what New Jersey homebuyers ask about most frequently,” said Nick Boniakowski, Redfin market manager. “We spend a lot of time with our clients researching nearby bus and rail routes and stops, so being able to easily see that Union City, for example, has a higher Transit Score than pricier Jersey City (70) gives buyers another easy way to compare and evaluate homes, neighborhoods and cities.”

None of the cities on the list score in the rider’s paradise range, from 90 to 100. However, individual neighborhoods in many cities are riders’ paradises, like Boston’s Bay Village (100), Philadelphia’s Logan Square (100), The Loop (99.1) in Chicago and Belltown (98.1) in Seattle. Some cities that didn’t make the top 10 list are home to riders’ paradises, including downtown Pittsburgh (97.1), Old Town Chinatown (92.2) in Portland, OR and downtown Houston (92.8).

Old Town Chinatown has basically every kind of public transportation imaginable, including a streetcar that zips around town (and is free of charge), the MAX light rail, a high-speed train that connects to a variety of suburbs and the airport, as well as a new Greyhound bus line and the Amtrak station,” said Redfin agent Megan Ronning. “Homebuyers in the greater Portland area are very drawn to the accessibility of its downtown neighborhoods and even the surrounding suburbs.”

To see how your home, neighborhood or city stacks up, search walkscore.com or Redfin.com.

Methodology
The Transit Score algorithm calculates a score by summing the relative usefulness of public transit (bus, subway, light rail, ferry, etc.) routes near a given location. Usefulness is defined as the distance to the nearest stop on the route, the frequency of the route, and type of route (with twice as much weight given to heavy/light rail than to bus service). Transit Score is based on data published in General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format by transit agencies across the country. For a more details on the Transit Score methodology, click here.

Know the Neighborhood

Adding to our recent release of 10,000 new city and neighborhood pages, we’re excited to announce two new pieces of local insight: Social Neighborhood Tags and Crime Reports.

Social Neighborhood Tags

For over 3,000 neighborhoods in almost 200 cities we’ve analyzed millions of tweets to let you know what people are talking about and what makes a place unique.

For example, people in Bellevue, Washington are talking about delicious Din Tai Fung dumplings:

Social Neighborhood Tags

Social Neighborhood Tags for Bellevue, WA

People in the North End of Boston are talking about the Bruins (and oysters)!

Social Neighborhood Tags for the North End, Boston

Social Neighborhood Tags for the North End, Boston

Crime Reports and Maps

Today we’re also launching Crime Reports in Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago with more cities on the way soon.

Crime is complex.  Other real estate sites have crime maps that look like population maps.  They simply show you that more crimes are reported where there are more people. This can be misleading since it doesn’t tell you anything about your odds of being a victim of a crime — and this can makes cities, especially downtowns, look less safe than they really are.

Today we’re launching the first crime statistics that let you accurately compare crime at the neighborhood level.  Our crime data comes directly from police departments that release geotagged reports for every crime in a city.

In order to provide apples-to-apples comparisons between neighborhoods, we normalize our crime statistics by how many people live and work in the neighborhood and weight crimes according to severity.  This allows you to assess your individual crime risk.  For example, a downtown may have a lot of reported crime, but if it has a large number of residents and workers, your individual risk may still be low.

Crime Reports for Fremont, Seattle

Crime Reports for Fremont, Seattle

Boost Your Child’s Education: Walk or Bike to School

Guest post by Anne Taylor Hartzell, Hip Travel Mama blogger

Families bikingEveryone knows the benefits of exercise–but did you know that your child’s exercise regimen actually impacts how well they perform in class? In a recent study by Professor Niels Egelund of Aarhus University in Denmark, it was discovered that children who walk or bike to school concentrate far better and longer than their carpooling counterparts.

The study of 19,527 school children ages 5-19 found that there is a strong connection between diet and exercise and a child’s ability to concentrate. It also showed that children who exercise more than two hours a week outside of school have an advantage over other students during the school day.

That advantage has garnered the attention of parents all over the United States, and in response, several different programs are now being implemented in communities across the nation, hoping to inspire young children to ditch the daily car commute to the classroom.

One program, Safe Routes to School, contributes to this cause nationally. They help communities build safe routes to schools so that parents and their children can feel comfortable heading to school on bikes or on foot. Safe Routes also provides school and community groups with funding for training, awareness, and strategies to encourage children to walk and bike to school.

Inspired to get your kid on the road to better health and a better education? Here are a few tips to get moving:

  • Find Your Walk Score: First, do a search to get your Walk Score and map out your neighborhood’s walk/bike to school routes.
  • Form a Community Walk Group: Safe Routes suggests forming a community group with families in your neighborhood and working together to begin the process of making transportation without a car a great option.
  • Engage Your School: Speak with your child’s school about the possibility of joining a program like Safe Routes to make sure that all aspects of your child’s life support trying a new commute—and reaping the rewards.
  • Join International Walk to School Month in October and commit to walk/bike with your child to school throughout the month.

What are ways you are making walking or biking to school a priority? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: Wisconsin Bike Fed

National Walking Day and Walk to Work Day

American Heart Association hosts National Walking Day April 3, 2013 to get people moving.

American Heart Association’s National Walking Day April 3, 2013 and National Walk to Work Day April 5, 2013 aim to get people moving.

Walk. Stroll. Gallup. The US Department of Health and Human Services has designated the first Friday of April as National Walk to Work Day. American Heart Association and many other national organizations embrace the cause as well, and the American Heart Association created National Walking Day (first Wednesday each April). We at Walk Score whole-heartedly support these efforts. No surprise. Walking is one of the easiest ways to boost your health and prevent physical and mental illness. It’s free and with spring in the air and winter waning, now is the time to walk more. Suggestions for how to easily participate in National Walking Day or National Walk to Work Day:

  1. Walk to and/or from work.
  2. Walk to a public transit stop that’s a little further than your normal stop.
  3. Walk during lunch. Take a picnic and eat at a park. Vitamin D will drown any sorrows and new scenery will refresh your mind.
  4. Hold a walking meeting instead of conference room gatherings.
  5. Walk with a friend after work.
  6. Stand more often while working. Make any phone calls while standing.

Kudos to the US Department of Health and Human Services for creating such a simple and good day in which everyone of any age and ability can participate. The American Heart Association recommends you “ditch your desk” in April to take a 30-minute walk around your office or office neighborhood. Watch that hot NBA game from your mobile device instead!

See Walk Score’s top 10 health benefits of walking. Walk Score gives more reasons to embrace walkability and drive less and live more.

Photo: American Heart Association

Seniors: Walkability Benefits for an Aging Public

Baby boomers are retiring in droves in an unprecedented American demographic shift. The last Baby Boomer turns 65 in 2030, so we still have two decades of an aging chunk of the public. A growing body of research points to the importance of designing or retrofitting communities for walkability to accommodate senior citizens and allow them to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle upon retirement. Walkable neighborhoods help seniors remain active, healthy, social and free to move around. How?

1. Quality of Life While Aging in Place

Many retirees choose to age in place—to avoid moving and remain in their homes as long as possible. But since baby boomers were the generation that built suburbia, many will want to maintain a quality of life in unwalkable neighborhoods.

Older adults socialize more when living in walkable neighborhoods. According to the EPA, in an age-friendly walkable neighborhood or town, regular social interaction is possible, convenient and more frequent. The American Journal of Public Health published a study published a study that reveals older people living in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods have higher levels of social interaction compared with those residing in car-dependent burbs. Living in walkable neighborhoods means you are more likely to know your neighbors, participate in politics, engage socially and even trust people.

2. Transportation + Mobility to Leave the House

Independence builds self-worth and being able to move around your neighborhood is freeing. “More than 20 percent of Americans age 65 or older do not drive. Of those, more than half — about 3.6 million people — stay home on any given day because they have no transportation, AARP says,” from a Washington Post article. Men outlive their “drive-ability” by 7 years, women by 10 years. Public transit becomes key for allowing seniors to remain independent. “A 2002 study by the National Institute on Aging found that about 600,000 people who are 70 or older stop driving every year and become dependent on other forms of transportation.”

A 2003 Brookings Institution study found that 79% of seniors age 65 and older live in car-dependent suburban and rural communities. But older adults increased their use of public transit by 40% between 2001 and 2009. About 15% of those over age 65 use public transit at least once time per month and more than half of them need specialized transportation, according to Placemaking article.

AARP’s report Advancing Mobility Options states, “One of the keys to economic and health security for adults age 50+ is their continued access to a range of viable mobility options within the community. Lack of such options can have a profound impact on how ‘livable’ communities are and have a negative impact on the quality of life enjoyed by older adults in those communities.” Public transportation boosts mobility of seniors. The Street used Walk Score to determine 10 cities where you can retire without having to use a car—around the country from Seattle to Miami.

3. Control Your Own Schedule

Being able to create your own schedule and meet people to socialize, shop when you want or get out of the house means living a life you want in retirement. The less one has to depend on others, the more freedom you can enjoy. The EPA’s Growing Smarter report highlights, “Having the choice to get to downtown shopping or cultural events on our own terms and schedule, rather than waiting for a friend or an on-call van can ensure independent living for much longer.”

Don’t think you have to worry about this? Imagine one day getting a call from your mom who says, “My doctor doesn’t think I should drive.” Fast forward a couple decades later and imagine your own eyesight gets worse, coordination and reflexes stall and you, too, need to find an alternate to a car. All of us will someday find we should no longer be driving and rely on public transportation. Let’s plan for it now for all ages of people.

4. New Trend – Active Seniors Stay Active Longer / Renewed Sense of Purpose

Don Dillon of Pennsylvania, now age 75, picked up the hobby of disk golf six years ago and slowly integrated himself into the sport. His hobby turned into a life goal as he eventually worked to win a Professional Disc Golfing Association world champion title for his age range. Aside from the active nature of the sport, Dillon found a new challenge in life that kept him going, “…a reason to get up in the morning.” He founded and chairs the association’s senior committee to get more retirees into the sport.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that only 32.5 percent of Americans over the age of 65 don’t have regular physical activity. That means more seniors than ever desire an active lifestyle and seek opportunities to stay active. Living in a walkable neighborhood gives options for walking right out your front door.

5. Adopt a Walkable, Healthy Lifestyle and Live Longer

People living to 100 years of age are increasing in the US. There were 96,548 centenarians in 2009, up from 38,300 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau. A Swedish study of identical twins separated at birth who grew up apart concluded only about 20 to 30 percent of longevity is determined by genes. Lifestyle is a more dominant ingredient.

Health benefits abound for those who walk, especially for people older than 50. Physical activity may actually add years to your life. Elderly adults who walk are less likely to suffer mental deterioration or dementia, based on a Pittsburgh University study. Walk Score’s Top 10 Health Benefits of Walking are especially valuable to seniors.

6. Urban Planners: Walkable Cities for Seniors = Walkable Cities for All

Cities leading the way in planning for universal walkability for “lifelong communities” and our aging population include New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Portland. Most cities are built for the young and other cities will need to play catch-up. “It’s shocking how far behind we are, especially when you think about this fact – that if you make something age-friendly, that means it is going to be friendly for people of all ages, not just older adults,” said Margaret Neal of Portland State University’s Institute on Aging.

A 2002 survey by AARP Public Policy Institute found that people over age 50 listed lack of walkability part of barriers to walking. “Older adults perceive poor sidewalks, the absence of resting places and dangerous intersections as barriers to walking.” Likewise, a 2007 study in the American Journal of Public Health found areas with higher walkability scores were linked with older residents doing more walking for exercise.

Allen Glicksman, director of research and evaluation at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, says government programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, “largely ignore one big part of the health equation: neighborhood.” A walkable environment benefits seniors, keeping mind and body healthy through their surroundings and neighborhood.

7. Economic Impact of Seniors Living in Walkable Places

Auto insurance. Car payments. Mechanics and maintenance. Gas that guzzles your money. Retirement means living on a fixed income for the vast majority of seniors and car-related expenses take a bigger chunk of retirees’ money than for working adults. A car can end up being a large drain on finances.

Living on a fixed income makes owning an automobile challenging and increases the need for affordable alternatives. AAA reports in “Your Driving Costs 2011” that the average annual cost of owning an automobile and driving between 10,000 and 15,000 miles ranges from $7,600 to $8,700. These estimates were based on an average fuel cost of only $2.88 per gallon. Imagine what those costs are today and how they will spiral. See Transportation for America’s report Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boomer Generation for more information.

Now what? Prepare for life ahead. What to do when grandma, dad, your sibling or yourself want independence after retirement so you can age in a home comfortably? Choose a walkable neighborhood or city using Walk Score. Find the Transit Score or transportation alternatives (car shares, publis bus, train) near any address.

Check out Assisted Living Source’s Top 100 Walkable Communities where assisted living facilities are listed by their Walk Score.

Photo: EPA

Walkability Humor: Pedestrian Penalty Cards

Pedestrian and walkability fails exist far too often. Clueless saunterers weave slowly along a sidewalk blocking path of more purposeful power-walkers. Umbrellas stretch the length of the sidewalk, threatening to take out an eye unless one uses a stealthy walking defense. Tourist groups clumped together studying maps or gazing around block locals en route to work or appointments.

Rest assured. You are no longer powerless. Now you can hand out pedestrian penalty cards to these sidewalk offenders. Writer and artist team Cory and Andy paired up to sell packs of cards for $1. But careful with your karma. Be judicious with your new policing power. Someday you might find yourself on the receiving end of a walking penalty.

Three of my favorite cards… escalator offender, clue-free umbrella walker, sidewalk bicyclist.

Cards: © Cory and Andy of Pedestrian Penalty Cards

Find Hotels Near Destinations, Meetings, Amenities

By popular demand, we’ve extended our unique commute time apartment search features to travel planning. Skip opening multiple browsers to research hotels in close proximity to business meetings or vacation attractions. With our new Hotel Search Demo you can now find hotels by travel times (by car, bus, bike or foot) to the people and places you’re visiting.

Location matters when deciding where to stay. Enter up to four places (e.g., business meetings, events, friends’ homes, attractions) and we’ll sort hotels by travel time. For each hotel you can also see nearby amenities (restaurants, coffee shops, etc.), public transit and car shares.

Example #1: Find hotels by travel times to/from the attractions you will be visiting. Here’s a sample hotel search by travel time to and from popular Manhattan art museums.


Example #2:
Find accommodations by proximity to meetings. For example, if you have business meetings in Seattle at Walk Score, Amazon, Starbucks and Zillow headquarters, you can find a hotel that minimizes commute time to each location.

 

Example #3: If you’re planning an event or group trip and have side trips planned to Universal Studios, the zoo and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, for instance, find hotels near those key attractions.

 

Example #4: Explore the amenities, transit stops and car shares nearby hotels you’re considering. Plan your ground transportation options, save money by eliminating the need for a rental car, and optimize your hotel stay based on nearby amenities.

 

This hotel search demo is just a first step. We look forward to your feedback. And, if you’re interested in adding travel times to your website or mobile app, check out our new Travel Time API.