If you’ve never been to WalkScore.com, it’s a pretty cool site that allows you to input an address and get a walkability score out of 100. The score is based on proximity to destinations such as stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc… Distances are calculated as the crow flies, so actual walks will be longer, perhaps much longer if your origin is near a freeway or a body of water and the destination is on the other side. The walk score does not take into account the quality or safety of the walking environment, and does not include public transit as a destination.
The site recently came out with rankings for 2,508 neighborhoods in America’s 40 largest cities. The most walkable city was San Francisco, followed by NYC, Boston, Chicago, and Philly in the top 5. Jacksonville was last at #40, with Nashville, Charlotte, Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City rounding out the bottom five. Columbus was #27, right between Houston and Phoenix, ugh. The only other Ohio city ranked was Cleveland, at an impressive #14. Cincinnati doesn’t seem to have been evaluated, although I thought it had a population greater than Cleveland now. You can see the full list of cities here.
The walkability map for Columbus is shown below. Weinland Park and Victorian Village received the highest neighborhood scores, at 89 out of 100. Downtown, the Brewery District, and Italian Village scored 86. German Village, John McCain’s hang-out, was mis-labeled as “Southside” and received a score of 82. Harrison West and the University District were the last two of eight neighborhoods scoring above 70, or “Very Walkable.” Columbus didn’t have any locations score above 90, which is labeled a “Walker’s Paradise,” although not necessarily “Walker Evans’ Paradise.” Click on the map to go to the interactive version at the WalkScore website.
You can see how the most walkable places are along High Street, which makes another good argument for the streetcar to go there. There’s a little patch of green out at Easton, and another at Polaris. Polaris? I suppose once you’re inside the mall, it’s very walkable. But I already told you the caveats about the algorithm. It doesn’t consider quality of the walking environment, safety, accessibility, or street connectivity. It really seems to be more a measure of economic activity. But if you are visiting a city and want to see where the cool neighborhoods are, check out the walkability map, but do a reality check with satellite images or Google Streetview to make sure it’s not sprawl.
By the way, my neighborhood, where I take transit to work every day, walk and bike to most destinations within a few miles, and live easily as a one-car family only scored a 68. So don’t feel too bad if you’re not labeled as “Very Walkable.”