All posts in “walkability”

5 Most Walkable Canadian Cities of 2020

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Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto are the most walkable cities in Canada in 2020.

That’s according to rankings from Walk Score®, a Redfin company that rates the walkability of cities, neighborhoods and addresses. Cities where daily errands do not require a car score 90 points and above, a score of 70 to 89 points means most errands can be accomplished on foot and a score of 50 to 69 indicates that some errands can be completed on foot.

Here’s a look at our debut ranking of the top five Canadian cities (with populations of more than 200,000) for walking:

Rank City Walk Score
1 Vancouver 79.8
2 Montréal 65.4
3 Toronto 61.0
4 Burnaby 60.1
5 Longueuil 54.4

In Vancouver, well-built properties in walkable areas often sell for a premium, according to Redfin Vancouver market manager Brooks Findlay.

“Over the past 10 years, Vancouver has placed a strong emphasis on development that supports walkability. Many of the new developments are focused on areas that are close to transit—specifically our monorail system,” Findlay said. “The city itself has also been very focused on building new walking and bike paths, allowing for a green commute and discouraging single-driver vehicles. Many young professionals in Vancouver don’t even consider owning a car. Developers have created mini villages in high-traffic areas, meaning you don’t have to travel more than five or six blocks to get anything you need.”

Toronto, with a Walk Score of 61, also made it into the top three.

“A lot of Toronto is connected underground, so when it gets cold in the winter, there are still ways to get around. Then there’s the boardwalk, which allows people to walk across much of the city right on the waterfront,” Redfin Toronto market manager Blair Anderson said. “One thing people don’t always realize about Toronto is that there are lots of nature walks and trails right in the city. If it was just a concrete jungle, people wouldn’t be so inclined to walk places, but since it’s so beautiful, walking is appealing. Plus, city traffic is less than desirable these days, so being able to get around on foot is very advantageous.”

Walk Score is available for any address in the U.S. and Canada. We rate 2,800 cities and more than 10,000 neighborhoods. Go to Walk Score’s website to see the rankings. If you’re interested in a specific region, use the following URL structure with your province abbreviation: https://www.walkscore.com/CA-BC/

Check out the most walkable U.S. cities of 2020.

Redfin Unveils the Most Walkable U.S. Cities of 2020

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New YorkSan Francisco and Boston are the most walkable cities in the U.S. in 2020.

Those three cities, along with PhiladelphiaMiamiChicagoWashington, D.C.Seattle and Oakland, have reigned as the nine most walkable in the U.S. for the last five years. Long Beach, CA has been number 10 since it overtook Baltimore in 2016.

That’s according to rankings from Walk Score®, a Redfin company that rates the walkability of cities, neighborhoods and addresses. Cities where daily errands do not require a car score 90 points and above, a score of 70 to 89 points means most errands can be accomplished on foot and a score of 50 to 69 indicates that some errands can be completed on foot.

Here’s a look at our latest ranking of the top 10 U.S. cities (with populations of more than 300,000) for walking:

Rank City Walk Score Change in Walk Score from 2017
1 New York, NY 88.3 -0.9
2 San Francisco, CA 87.4 1.3
3 Boston, MA 82 1
4 Philadelphia, PA 78.8 -0.2
5 Miami, FL 77.6 -1.6
6 Chicago, IL 77.4 -0.4
7 Washington, D.C.  75.9 -1.5
8 Seattle, WA 74 0.9
9 Oakland, CA 73.8 1.7
10 Long Beach, CA 72.4 2.5

Clocking in at 87.4 this year, San Francisco has reached its highest Walk Score ever.

“The sheer number of people moving into San Francisco for jobs and the creation of infrastructure to accommodate them has created a ripple effect for walkability,” said local Redfin agent Chris Dawe. “I’ve lived here my entire life and I’ve seen the makeup of the city change from pockets of walkable neighborhoods joined by cars and public transit to one interconnected area. As housing prices have gone up and the more far-flung neighborhoods have become more popular, the city adds infrastructure, businesses move in and they become more walkable and more connected to other areas.”

“For example, Noe Valley became popular and more walkable about 10 years ago, but then the desirability of the neighborhood started pricing people out. Homebuyers began moving to Dolores Street, then the Mission, and the city responded by adding infrastructure that makes those places more walkable and interconnected,” Dawe continued. “Almost every homebuyer mentions walkability as a priority. They want to walk to the grocery store, to coffee shops or to the park. And now that’s possible in almost every neighborhood inside the city.”

Biggest Walk Score changes

Since we last published Walk Score rankings in 2017, Miami and Washington, D.C. each lost about 1.5 points, and New York lost almost one, but each retained its place in the rankings.

Oakland; Long Beach, CA; Portland, OR and Omaha, which each picked up around two points, had the biggest Walk Score increases since 2017.

“A lot of my homebuying clients seek out walkable neighborhoods in Long Beach because it’s a way to get a small-town feeling in a big city. In certain neighborhoods, people run into each other all the time because they’re out running errands, walking the dog or keeping an eye on neighborhood kids playing outside,” said local Redfin agent Costanza Genoese-Zerbi. “Second Street, Belmont ShoreBelmont HeightsNaplesAlamitos Heights and Belmont Park, all of which are within walking distance of schools, stores, restaurants and parks, have become more and more popular over the last few years.”

Baltimore, which lost four points to hit 65, saw the biggest Walk Score decline of any U.S. city. It’s followed by Bakersfield, CA and San Antonio, which each dropped three points to 34 and 35, respectively.

Walk Score is available for any address in the U.S. and Canada. We also have rankings for more than 2,800 cities and over 25,000 neighborhoods.

Go to Walk Score’s website to see the Walk Score rankings for U.S. and Canadian cities. If you’re interested in a specific city or state, use the following URL structure with your state abbreviation: https://www.walkscore.com/WA/

Check out the most walkable Canadian cities of 2020.

How Much Does Walkability Increase the Value of a Home?

Homebuyers pay nearly a quarter more for walkable homes, but that’s less than in the past.

In U.S. cities, homes within walking distance of schools, shopping, parks and other urban amenities sell for an average of 23.5%, or $77,668, more than comparable properties that are car dependent.

To determine how much walkability is worth when buying or selling a house, we looked at sale prices and Walk Score® rankings for nearly 1 million homes sold last year across 16 major U.S. metropolitan areas and two Canadian cities.

Walkable Premiums by Region

Here are the 2019 price premiums for walkable homes, broken down by region:

Location Premium for Walkable Homes (%) Premium for Walkable Homes ($) Change in Walkable Premium (2016-2019) Walk Score Percentage of Homes Deemed Walkable
National – USA 0.235 77668 -0.023 N/A 0.25
Atlanta, GA 0.302 74741 -0.079 48 0.11
Boston, MA 0.29 140724 0.029 82 0.37
Chicago, IL 0.085 21716 -0.026 77 0.46
Dallas, TX 0.069 19309 0.011 46 0.18
Denver, CO 0.074 30790 -0.02 61 0.28
Houston, TX 0.169 39703 0.023 48 0.17
Los Angeles, CA 0.058 34583 0.007 68 0.52
Minneapolis, MN 0.048 13257 -0.004 70 0.2
Oakland, CA -0.013 -9477 0.01 74 0.37
Phoenix, AZ 0.032 9067 -0.007 41 0.17
Riverside, CA 0.03 11387 -0.006 42 0.12
San Diego, CA 0.105 60225 -0.003 51 0.29
Seattle, WA 0.157 86331 -0.001 74 0.32
St. Louis, MO 0.092 17196 -0.018 65 0.21
Tampa, FL 0.181 41604 0.063 49 0.2
Toronto* 0.158 98631 0.002 71 0.89
Washington, D.C. 0.249 102166 0.003 76 0.31
Vancouver* 0.295 265421 N/A 78 0.96

*Canadian dollars

Walkable homes are a hot commodity. About a quarter of active listings are considered walkable, or have a Walk Score ranking of 50 to 100, although only about 4% are a walker’s paradise, or have a Walk Score of 90 or above. While house hunters are willing to spend more for walkability, the premium they’ve paid for properties in this category has slipped 2.3% from 2016, when such homes in the U.S. sold for 25.8% more than car-dependent ones.*Canadian dollars

“The premium drop is tied to affordability. Properties that are more affordable are seeing the most demand and price growth right now, and homes in less walkable neighborhoods often fall into this category,” Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather said. “There just aren’t as many people who can afford walkable neighborhoods. Many house hunters are also willing to move to less walkable neighborhoods in order to get single-family homes.”

Home-sale prices have been rising faster in car-dependent areas than in walkable places since September 2018, according to a 2019 Redfin report. Prices in car-dependent neighborhoods climbed 4.3% year over year in July to a median of $312,100, compared with a 2.3% annual increase in walkable locations, the data showed.

The results for this report differed by metro area. In Boston, walkability increased the value of a home by 29%, or $140,724, the highest premium in dollar terms of all of the U.S. regions we analyzed.

“Boston is very flat, and one of the most walkable cities around. Parking can be difficult, so people often prefer to live near public transportation. We’ve had parking spots sell for six figures in some neighborhoods,” said Redfin Boston team manager April Itano. “Our public transportation is great compared to other cities, and it’s pretty easy to get by without a vehicle if you live downtown. We also have a relatively high percentage of residents who prefer to work and live in the city over the suburbs.”

In Oakland, however, walkable homes sold for 1.3% less, or $9,477, than car-dependent homes.

The benefits of walkability have also changed over time. In 2016, Atlanta garnered the highest walkability premium—38.1%—of any metro area. In 2019, it boasted a 30.2% premium. That’s still the highest of all areas we analyzed in percentage terms, but it also marks the largest premium drop. Meanwhile, Tampa saw the biggest boost, with an increase of 6.3% since 2016.

Methodology

These estimates compare homes by controlling for differences in property and neighborhood characteristics, including property size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, type of property (single-family, condo or townhouse), age of the building, days on market, zip code housing density and the month the home sold in.

This report is based on data from Walk Score, a Redfin company that measures the walkability of addresses. “Walkable” means some or most errands can be accomplished on foot, while “car-dependent” means most errands require a car. For the purposes of this report, we combined three categories—somewhat walkable (ranking of 50-69; some errands can be accomplished on foot), very walkable (ranking of 70-89; most errands can be accomplished on foot) and walker’s paradise (ranking of 90-100; daily errands do not require a car)—into the “walkable” category. We combined the two categories that ranked below 50, meaning most errands require a car, into the “car-dependent” category.

Home Prices Now Rising Faster in Car-Dependent Neighborhoods Than in Walkable Places as Buyers Chase Affordability

Market trends suggest that many homebuyers are prioritizing affordability above walkability. 

Home-sale prices in walkable neighborhoods across the country increased 2.3 percent year over year to a median $343,900 in July, compared to 4.3 percent annual growth to a median $312,100 for homes in car-dependent areas.

That’s according to data from Walk Score®, a Redfin company that rates the walkability of neighborhoods, cities and addresses. A place is deemed “walkable” if some or most errands can be accomplished on foot, while “car dependent” means most errands require a car.

Prices have been rising faster in car-dependent neighborhoods than in walkable neighborhoods since September 2018, around the time the overall market began to cool. For at least the four years prior, home prices generally increased faster in walkable neighborhoods than in car-dependent ones. The trend reversal likely reflects that many homebuyers, chasing affordability, have been priced out of the most walkable neighborhoods. As a result, demand has grown stronger in car-dependent neighborhoods.

“In the second half of 2018, homes in the hottest coastal markets became so expensive that most homebuyers became priced out of walkable neighborhoods, where homes tend to sell at a premium,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “It’s not that people value walkability any less than they used to. Many homebuyers are simply relegated by their budgets to live in car-dependent areas, which have since seen demand and home prices grow at a faster rate. The trend also has implications for society, with families becoming further segregated by class and race, as well as for the environment, as more demand in car-dependent areas means more carbon emissions. Growing cities can combat these issues by adopting policies that encourage building more dense, affordable housing in walkable areas.”

 

YoY change in nationwide median sale price for homes in car-dependent and walkable neighborhoods

Home sales were down in both walkable and car-dependent areas in July, but the decline was bigger in walkable areas, which posted a 7.1 percent annual drop nationwide. That’s compared to a more modest 3.3 percent decline in home sales in car-dependent neighborhoods. And while supply of homes in walkable areas was down 7.4 percent year over year, it declined more—10.6 percent—in car-dependent neighborhoods.

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San Jose (-7.2%) and Seattle (-6.5%) led the way for price drops in walkable areas in July. Though that mirrors the continued softening trends in the San Jose housing market, prices for homes in car-dependent neighborhoods rose 1.9 percent. In Seattle, homes in car-dependent areas posted a 1.5 percent year-over-year price increase.Two expensive West Coast metros—San Jose and Seattle—had the biggest price drops for walkable neighborhoods

In total, six U.S. metros saw year-over-year drops in home-sale prices in walkable neighborhoods in July. San Jose and Seattle are followed by Pittsburgh (-5.6%), Oakland (-2.1%), San Diego (-1.9%) and Houston (-0.2%).

YoY change in median sale price for homes in walkable neighborhoods

 

Other metrics suggest that demand for homes in car-dependent neighborhoods is rising faster than walkable ones in San Jose and Seattle. In San Jose, supply of homes in car-dependent areas rose 5.5 percent annually in July, but supply in walkable areas increased 22.5 percent. Supply was up 13 percent in walkable parts of Seattle, but down 17.2 percent in car-dependent places.

Philadelphia and Cleveland saw the biggest increases in home prices for car-dependent neighborhoods

In all but four metros in the U.S., home prices in car-dependent neighborhoods increased year over year in July. Philadelphia, with a 17.9 percent annual increase, led the pack, followed by Cleveland (10.6%), Fort Lauderdale (9.1%), Pittsburgh (8.5%) and Miami (8%). In all those places except Pittsburgh, home prices also rose in walkable neighborhoods.

Walkable parts of Columbus, Kansas City and Detroit had the biggest price increases in walkable neighborhoods

Twenty metros buck the national trend, with median home-sale prices increasing more for homes in walkable areas than car-dependent areas. That’s particularly true in the Midwest, where homes tend to be less expensive than they are on the coasts and buyers may be able to afford homes in more central areas.

In Columbus, Ohio, home prices for walkable areas rose 16.3 percent year over year in July versus 5.9 percent for places more dependent on cars. That’s more than any other metro in the U.S. It’s followed by Kansas City, Missouri (11.7% rise for walkable; 6.1% for car-dependent) and Detroit (11.1% rise for walkable; 0.1% for car-dependent

Methodology

This report is based on data from Walk Score®, a Redfin company that measures the walkability of addresses. For the purposes of this report, we combined three categories–Somewhat Walkable (ranking of 50-69; some errands can be accomplished on foot), Very Walkable (ranking of 70-89; most errands can be accomplished on foot) and Walker’s Paradise (ranking of 90-100; daily errands do not require a car)—into the “Walkable” category. We combined the two car-dependent categories—(ranking of 0-49; most errands require a car)—into the “car-dependent” category. “Walkable” means some or most errands can be accomplished on foot, while “car dependent” means most errands require a car.

Only metros where at least 1,000 homes in walkable neighborhoods sold in July were included in this report.

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The 10 Most Walkable Neighborhoods in Mid-Size Bay Area Cities

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Most people aren’t surprised when they hear that San Francisco is one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. With a walk score of 86, the city of S.F. is chock-full of charming neighborhoods, trendy restaurants and loads of amenities, but, with a median sale price of $1.25 million, it also happens to be the most expensive place to live in the nation. So, Redfin set out to see how neighborhoods in other smaller (and often more affordable) Bay Area cities compare when it comes to walkability.

According to our calculations based on Walk Score data, Berkeley is the winner among Bay Area mid-size cities, when it comes to having the most walkable neighborhoods. Not only did downtown Berkeley nail first place, with the high Walk Score of 96, but it also had two additional neighborhoods land in the top 10. After ordering the list of neighborhoods based on their Walk Score ratings, we had our local Redfin agents chime in with insights on what makes these neighborhoods unique. We’ve also included median sale prices, so you can see how the neighborhoods compare when it comes to affordability, too.

Here are the 10 most walkable neighborhoods in the Bay Area:

1.  Downtown, Berkeley: Walk Score of 96

Median Sale Price: $681K

“Downtown Berkeley is a unique area in that it is a fully functioning downtown with a large university just one block off the main strip. Having the University of California, Berkeley so close to downtown offers many amenities for people there such as the UC Botanical Garden, and the UC Berkeley Art Museum. Shattuck Ave. is the main street and houses many loved restaurants and shops such as the top rated New Orleans inspired Cajun Kitchen and Pegasus Bookstore Downtown. This area is especially unique because of the culture, the access to everything within walking distance and the combination of housing offered; from student housing through the university, to apartments, to traditional single family homes,” said Redfin Agent Tom Hendershot.

2. Downtown, San Rafael: Walk Score of 93

Median Sale Price: $863K

San Rafael is known for being the oldest, largest and most culturally diverse city in Marin County. According to theVisit San Rafael page, the central plaza has become a community gathering place for events such as their Thursday night farmers market. “There are about four blocks wide, and 10 blocks long with all kinds of different amenities in the downtown area. Locals enjoy the Puerto Rican restaurant, Sol Food and going to State Room Bar or the local movie theater for a night out on the town. Downtown San Rafael is centrally located, making it easy for locals to walk to the grocery store, the transit system or anything else they might need,” says Redfin Agent Benjamin Faber.

3. Downtown, San Mateo: Walk Score of 93

Median Sale Price: $974K

“A major perk of this area is that it’s an affordable neighborhood, with great access to the Caltrain station. Transportation is everything here; it is an easy walk to the main station from any point of Downtown San Mateo,” says Redfin Agent Matthew Weller. “People enjoy going to Three Restaurant and Bar for brunch, or dinner and drinks. There are classic old shops that have been here for more than 30 years mixed in with many brand-new places, making it a great place for diverse and unique shopping options. In the midst of change, San Mateo has preserved its old culture and family roots.”

4. Southside, Berkeley: Walk Score of 93

Median Sale Price: $1.02M

“One of the major benefits of Southside Berkeley is the easy access to transportation. There is a BART station centrally located that is close to most houses. This neighborhood has all of the bonuses of being in Berkeley, but still has some affordable options compared to other parts of the city. Southside’s many parks, like Willard Park, make it very enjoyable to walk in on a sunny day. The neighborhood is full of young professionals, and is an up-and-coming place to live,” according to  Redfin Agent Tom Hendershot.

5. Downtown, Burlingame: Walk Score of 90

Median Sale Price: $1.09M

“Burlingame’s main street, Burlingame Ave., offers many options to people looking for shopping, such as J. Crew, Pottery Barn and Lululemon. Plus lots of places to eat like Blue Line Pizza, Peet’s Coffee and more. The area has a rare combination of beautiful large homes, highly ranked schools, a low crime rating and easy walkability to the downtown area,” said Redfin Agent Mia Simon. “The convenience of being able to live in a small city, and walk to a lot of commercial places makes Burlingame a destination for people to live.”

6. North Berkeley, Berkeley: Walk Score of 89

Median Sale Price: $1M

“Northside Berkeley has easy access to The Gourmet Ghetto, which is just along Shattuck Ave. and Vine Street. Here you can find a collection of unique shops, sidewalk cafes, bakeries and popular restaurants like Cheese Board Pizza. The Gourmet Ghetto offers endless options for locals. The convenience factor, classic architecture, parks and highly ranked schools make this a great place to live without having to own a car,” according to Redfin Agent Tom Hendershot.”

7. Staumbaugh-Heller, Redwood City: Walk Score of 89

Median Sale Price: $820K

“Redwood City is known for its great weather, because of its high number of sunny days and for not having the San Francisco fog. The Staumbaugh-Heller neighborhood has recently invested in revitalizing the area and improving the infrastructure. One of the recent changes was to the park, Jarden De Ninos. The park now has a selection of play structures, swings and picnic tables that locals can reserve for parties or events. Just a short walk from the neighborhood is the downtown Redwood City area, where you can find a variety of shops from small antique stores to larger brand-name stores. All the nearby amenities make this a popular place for families,” said Redfin Agent Kalena Masching.

8. Downtown, Concord: Walk Score 89

Median Sale Price: $367K

According to the Downtown Concord website, the city is working to make some changes to the area and make it great place for its residents to live. The Downtown Concord Specific Plan Project is working with long term and short term projects to integrate housing, jobs, retail and transportation into the area to make it a better and thriving downtown.

Redfin Agent Chris Amsden says, “Downtown Concord is in the midst of change, but still retains a lot of history. The homes here have been around for a long time, and show a lot of history because of it. There have been many changes over time and I suspect that we’ll continue to see this neighborhood evolve.”

9.  West Washington, Albany: Walk Score of 88

Median Sale Price: $905K

“This area has a nice price point, potential for great views of the city and highly ranked schools. The transit station is centrally located and is just a short walk from most houses here. West Washington is a very family oriented neighborhood and has great nearby schools, which is a huge draw for this area. Locals can easily walk to a variety of restaurants and grocery stores like Trader Joe’s,” according to Redfin Agent Tom Hendershot.

10. Centennial, Redwood City: Walk Score of 88

Median Sale Price: $950K

“The Redwood City Centennial neighborhood shares the same great weather, and same downtown area as the Staumbaugh-Heller neighborhood. In addition to a plethora of sunny days, locals can access all the downtown amenities within a five minute walk. The Centennial neighborhood itself has a good mix of housing options, from bungalow-style homes to  contemporary condo developments. The neighborhood also has some nearby schools including a high school and a Marin Day school. With the Stanford Medical Campus being in Redwood City and an abundance of government jobs being added to this area, more people are starting to consider Centennial as a possible place to live,” says Redfin Agent Kalena Masching.

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. For this particular list, Walk Score analyzed the most highly ranked neighborhoods in cities in the Bay Area with populations under 300,000.

Walk Score Ranks Australia’s Most Walkable Cities

With a Walk Score of 63, Sydney tops our first ranking of Most Walkable Australian Cities and Suburbs. To arrive at this ranking, we rated the walkablity of more than 100 Australian cities and 3,000 suburbs.  Read the official press release and our ranking methodology.

Walk Score for Sydney Australia

Australia’s 10 Most Walkable Large Cities

Sydney Australia

  1. Sydney (Walk Score: 63)
  2. Melbourne (Walk Score: 57)
  3. Adelaide (Walk Score: 54)
  4. Brisbane (Walk Score: 51)
  5. Perth (Walk Score: 50)
  6. Newcastle (Walk Score: 49)
  7. Wollongong (Walk Score: 48)
  8. Gold Coast (Walk Score: 48)
  9. Central Coast (Walk Score: 41)
  10. Canberra (Walk Score: 40)

Australians can also look up the Walk Score of their individual addresses and find Walk Score ratings on Harcourts.com.au, Homehound.com.au, WestRealEstate.com.au and other leading Australian real estate sites.

“Adding Walk Score to our real estate research products resulted in a significant uplift in our site usage,” said Tom White, CEO of PriceFinder.com.au. “The thirst for relevant and useful local information, from buyers, sellers and agents alike, cannot be overlooked and Walk Score provides this in spades. We especially appreciate the insights Walk Score brings to consumers looking to lower the cost of their transportation by selecting locations that suit their preferred transport options.”

Walkability Boosts Health and Real Estate Value

Walkable neighbourhoods offer a number of health and economic benefits. For example, a 10-year long study of Australians by the University of Melbourne found that walkable neighbourhoods with proximity to shops, parks and public transit improve people’s health and wellbeing. And, over the past decade, home values in Sydney’s walkable neighbourhoods have outperformed the rest of the city and can attract a 20% premium.

Apartment & Rental Search in Australia

Today, we’re also excited to launch our unique apartment and rental search for Australia. Search rental listings in major cities across the country by Walk Score and commute time and mode preference (foot, bike, transit, car) on the web and with our updated iPhone app.

Australian Real Estate Opportunity

Australian real estate professionals can now use Walk Score to their advantage. Showcase your properties and market yourself as a local expert. Boost your home listings with neighbourhood information including nearby amenities and commute times.

Learn more about Walk Score for real estate professionals.

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!

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

Sweethearts: Factor Travel Time into Your Love Life

Valentine’s Day is just as swell a time for couples as it is for those who celebrate their singledom by having anti-Valentine group gatherings. I’ve enjoyed February 14 both ways over the years.

Love in two cappuccino cups. Photo via Jocelyn Milici Ceder.

The past several decades saw a big spike in single households and adults delaying marriage until later in life, which means more people live alone (or with roommates) and date from a distance.

“In 1960, married couples comprised a full 75 percent of total American households. By last year, that number had fallen precipitously to 48 percent, or less than half. The decrease corresponds to a similar rise in non-family households: single people, roommates and unmarried, co-habitating couples.” Source: CBS News

We at Walk Score wonder—what’s the ideal distance to live from your lover? Is there an optimal amount of space to maintain your independence and keep romance alive?

45-Minute Commutes Kill Romance
Research at Sweden’s Umea University shows couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40% more likely to divorce. Yikes. Keep your commutes to less than 45 minutes, mates. It could make or break your relationship.

Do you agree a 45-minute commute is a breaking point for relationship harmony? What about the time traveled to or from your partner’s place?

Pick a Travel Time to/from Your Partner
Believe it or not, Walk Score has tools to factor travel time into your love life. At least tools to find any apartment, condo or house distance you prefer. Better to reside one or two neighborhoods away from your partner? Or rent within a few blocks to minimize travel time and gain cuddle time?

Search for apartments by travel time. Or find locations in which to live by travel time.

Additional resources for buying a home: