How Walkable Is Your Neighborhood?
Is Dupont Circle really the most walkable neighborhood in the Washington area? Is Logan Circle more walkable than downtown D.C., U Street, or Adams Morgan? And by what methodology does Friendship Heights rank as more walkable than Georgetown?
You can drive yourself batty with such questions--and get a measure of how walkable your neighborhood is--at walkscore.com, a site that blends Google Maps with an algorithm measuring how many basic amenities are within a quarter-mile of a given address. The result is a ranking of more than 2,500 neighborhoods across the country. Basically, you plug in an address and the site delivers a score from 1 to 100 rating your walkability based on how close you are to grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, bars, schools, parks, libraries and so on down the retail and public amenity chain.
There are definitely major flaws in the algorithm, perhaps chief among them that the calculation does not include proximity to public transit--which perhaps explains how Georgetown (#131 in the nation) and Logan Circle (#30 in the nation) could do so well.
At bottom, this is a measure of density more than anything else. That's why seven of the site's ten top most walkable neighborhoods in the nation are in Manhattan, as are 15 of the top 20. (Dupont is the only D.C. location to crack the top 20, at #17.)
Still, it's fun to play with the site, which gives my house in northwest D.C. a score of 77 (very walkable), up from 68 (somewhat walkable) for my former residence in American University Park (just 15 blocks away) and down from 92 (walkers' paradise) for my old apartment in Adams Morgan (even though that location was farther from a Metro station than either of the two other, lower-scoring spots.)
My office at The Post scores a perfect 100 (walker's paradise), obviously because of density of development. But in fact, the paper's 15th Street NW location is not even close to being as convenient or useful for walkers as many far lower-ranked areas of the city: Good luck finding any place in much of downtown Washington where you can buy groceries, clothing, electronics or many other categories of goods.
Even with its flaws, walkscore.com is an interesting tool for comparing suburban locations. Especially in this era of soaring gas prices, it can pay to know that one neighborhood will require far less use of the car for basic errands than another. A friend of mine who lives in North Bethesda makes an effort to do at least some of his shopping by foot--walkscore gives his neighborhood a 45 (car dependent). Meanwhile, a friend in Reston who never leaves her house by any method other than car is rewarded with an 18 score (though walkscore puts that number in the same category--car dependent.)
How did your address fare, and how does your score comport with your real-life ability to do things by foot?
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