Thursday, August 09, 2007

Global Warming Thursday: These boots were made for walking

I obviously knew that yesterday was Wednesday--I used the day of the week in my title. But for whatever reason, something didn't click, and I forgot to write a "Global Warming Wednesday" post, despite the fact that I have several ideas lined up.

I have discovered a fun and interesting time-suck tool that is available online. I came across it a couple weeks ago, but was reminded of it again in the past couple days. (Bad academic that I am, I can't find either of the original references and am hanging my head in shame that I can't give appropriate credit.)

When you have some time, head on over to walkscore.com. Type in an address and it will give you that location's walkability score. Using Google Directory information, it determines how many grocery stores, restaurants, schools, etc are in walking distance. By means of some behind-the-scenes algorithm, it assigns the address a score. The creators of the site give general guidelines for interpreting the score:
  • 90 - 100 = Walkers' Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
  • 70 - 90 = Very Walkable: It's possible to get by without owning a car.
  • 50 - 70 = Some Walkable Locations: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
  • 25 - 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.
  • 0 - 25 = Driving Only: Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!
There are, of course, limitations, but these are acknowledged upfront and you can keep them in mind when looking at the map that's created around your address. One definite limitation for me is that the site sets 1 mile as a walkable distance, and I know that we have frequently set as "everyday walkable" places that are over a mile away. It also measures "as the crow flies," so it doesn't account for twists and turns.

The green part of all of this should be pretty obvious: the more walkable a neighborhood, the more one can rely on walking rather than cars or even public transportation, the less pollution created. Add in health benefits and an increased sense of one's community--it's wonderful.

Now for the fun part. I have been plugging in all sorts of addresses and seeing how they stack up.
  • My mom's house (and the house where I grew up): 54. A number of these places are new from when I was a child. But I would still place it as borderline "very walkable." We could walk to school through junior high and had a couple grocery stores and several restaurants within a few blocks. Work for both of my parents was outside of the mile limit, but both of them walked on occasion, sometimes created the family schedule with walking in mind. We were a one-car family my entire childhood and it was usually not a problem.
  • The first house Trillian and I rented: 63. Funny thing, we drove a lot more than I did living at my parents' house. The immediate neighborhood was nice at our little house and we would walk our dog, but the stores around us were very downscale and not necessarily safe at night. So I would rate this neighborhood lower on walkability.
  • An apartment I had while in my first PhD program: 75. Not in a city that's very pedestrian-friendly. I actually had people yell "Get a car" at me when I would cross the street (with the light, even). But I did walk a lot, other than when I had to go to class--no public transit to get there.
  • Our house in the States: 63. Same score as the first house we rented--and we walked all the time. I notice that that Whole Foods we shopped at almost daily doesn't show up, even though another store right next door to it does. With public transportation to get to work, we really could manage walking everywhere else.
  • My school in the States: 78. Not a surprise. It's in the middle of a major city. Trillian and I once thought about getting a condo in the city and getting rid of our car. Of course, finding anything bigger than a small one-bedroom in our price range and in a good area would have been a shock. There's also the fact that we've realized we're not really city people.
  • Our current place: 73. I would probably place it even higher. We really could manage without a car and have gone weeks at a time without using it. Our favorite grocery stores are not walkable, but we're able to do a lot of day-to-day shopping close to home and make one trip every week or two to the bigger ones.
  • My current favorite house in Springfield: 45. Kind of what I expected, probably higher than I expected. It's a small town with concentrated retail and twisting roads. The school district we like best is not the closest to this area. The roads are very twisty, due primarily to topography. So this is a trade off. On the other hand, there are a bunch of trails running all over the town and I've read and heard that it's an active community. So I'm hopeful we'll jump right in and figure out those trails so we can walk and bike all over the place.
Now have at it. See how your neighborhoods, past and present, stack up.

6 comments:

Voth said...

The house I grew up in scores a zero.

Cool site, thanks for the link. Now to waste more time on it...

kittenpie said...

that IS interesting! I am a bit baffled, though, by the fact that while the map is correct, I am listed as being 4.5 km away from LONDON public library... WTF? Anyhow, my house is a 67 and the house I grew up in a 68, and our old house an 82. Oddly, though, I found our old house much less convenient than where we are now. I am also snidely snickering at the 37 my Misterpie's suburban upbringing garnered. hee hee.

cinnamon gurl said...

Thanks for the link!! That will be fabulous when I get a chance to pore over the mls again... right now we're dealing with a family member's mental health/housing crisis so no mls for a while for me.

My house is a 65 but I expected it to score a 85 or 90... we don't have a good grocery store in walking distance though.

metro mama said...

Very cool! Mine scored 67.

Lisa b said...

77 Baby woohoo!
That is so cool.

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

Great site - I linked to you, and did it myself! I've also put this site on the web for my grade 10 students to try, when we discuss ecological footprints this fall.

Thanks!