If you're moving to another neighborhood, city or town, it's a good idea to thoroughly research the new area to decide which community might be right for you and your family. This online tool from Walk Score helps you do just that by rating neighborhoods based on their accessibility to city infrastructure, businesses, schools and public transport.
Why is Walkability Important?
Before we even begin the review, it's important to highlight how a walkable community can enrich your life and the life of your family.
Most of us are aware that obesity rates are on the rise, which leads to an increase in chronic disease rates, including heart disease and Type II diabetes (adult-onset). Exercise is the key to reducing your risk and with many of us leading a more sedentary lifestyle, having a walkable community creates greater opportunity for physical activity and incorporating exercise into our daily routines. Walking or biking to work, walking to the grocery store or restaurants or the local cafe, all contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
Reducing the need for cars also contributes to a decline in pollution rates, personal costs (i.e., gas, vehicle costs, parking rates) and by far, a more pleasant commute.
A walkable community also creates a neighborhood where people interact, and public spaces are shared, adding to the desirability of the area, which may in turn increase the property values and demand.
So, to help you find the best walkable community, here are the pros of this online tool.
Ease of use
One of the best features of this site is its ease of use. Simply type in your current or future address to obtain your score. Scores are then categorized into 5 groups with scores of 0-24 being car-dependent up to scores of 90-100 being a walker's paradise.
If you're only interested in certain amenities, you can select and deselect items accordingly.
For example, I'm not interested in child care facilities, but am interested in cafes. I can add cafes to my list and remove child care. This allows you to customize features that are important to you.
Quickly see which amenities are in the neighborhood
Using the map, you can quickly see which amenities are in the area and just how far you'll need to walk (or drive) to access them. With icons marking each location, you can quickly scan the neighborhood to see what kind of businesses, recreational opportunities or community features are available.
Walk Score provides a list of communities with high scores. This is a valuable tool should you be expanding your home search across several cities.
Commuting times and options
Type in where you work or go to school and find out just how far your home is from that location. It also gives you the time it takes to complete your commute by walking, by car, by biking and by transit.
The site also provides a transit score.
While your walkability score shows amenities, your transit score reveals how accessible local transit is to your home. This is a great feature for those individuals who cannot live close to where they work.
Cons of the Walk Score Website
I have to warn you, I don't have too many criticisms - actually, just one. And according to the Walk Score team, this problem can be rectified if you contact the company.
Not all amenities are listed. When I tested the site and put in my own home address, I received a walkability score of 62, which is considered, somewhat walkable. Now, I have to agree. The neighborhood we currently live in isn't as walkable as other communities we've belonged to and I often complain about the lack of accessibility. I also find myself having to use public transportation more than I like and often resort to driving, especially when needing groceries.
However, I also found that some amenities, which I appreciate about my community, are missing from the scoring. Take the local community park that offers over 90-hectares of forest, walking and running trails and boasts a large lake that provides habitat to local ducks and geese. It's walkable from my house and is a place where I take my daily run and, in the winter, should we be blessed with snow, a tiny bit of wilderness space where I can cross-country ski among the Douglas firs. The park also has a large outdoor public pool and ten tennis courts that we use several times a week during the summer months.
It's impossible to keep up with changes to a community, so this particular con can be easily dismissed. It's a great site that I highly recommend to anyone who's planning a move.
This is a fantastic tool that will become my guide to choosing a neighborhood the next time we move. It allows the user to customize their interests and enables one to quickly see the features, both benefits and disadvantages, of a community without too much effort. If you're unsure of where to move to next, check out this site as both a starting point and for a more thorough search.