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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?

By Marc Fisher |  July 21, 2008; 8:35 AM ET
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Comments

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I doubt Fairlington in Alexandria/Arlington will hit the survey, but it's a great area. Walking distance to the Bradlee center, a nice walk to restaurants in Shirlington, several parks and a direct bus line to the Pentagon. We moved there 3+ years ago and like it more than we thought possible.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | July 21, 2008 8:54 AM

Hmm... I guess it uses Google maps. The neighborhood picked up a 78 (very walkable).

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | July 21, 2008 8:56 AM

Clarendon got a nice score of 97.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | July 21, 2008 9:10 AM

My location in Northwest Washington (which I myself consider very walkable) scored 95/100: a walker's paradise. But there were some interesting establishments that the website used as the basis for this score.

My location in Northwest Washington (which I myself consider very walkable) scored 95/100: a walker's paradise. But there were some interesting nearby establishments that the website used as the basis for this score.

Movie theaters: AOL Moviefone
Libraries: American Petrolium Institute Library (even though the main DC public library branch is only 5 blocks away)
Bookstores: AME Church Bookstore (think they carry the latest spy thriller or romance novel?)
Fitness: Izalco Restaurant
Clothing & Music: Unique Gems

The problem is probably on Google Maps' end, which makes me wonder how effective Google Maps is as a replacement for the yellow pages.

Posted by: Moon Dog | July 21, 2008 9:14 AM

If you are thinking about using this survey to assess home purchases, think again. Many of the eateries that driveup the scores for neighborhoods in the city center are not open for dinner or the weekends. Plus, it appears that liquor stores/corner delis qualify as grocery stores. My home in Delray scores a very respectable 78, but my office on K street scores a 96. By this approach, every financial or business district would qualify as the most walkable neighborhood.

The site is a neat way to see how far your home is from everything, but the site is not complete enough to compare a city neighborhood to more residential areas.

Posted by: shredsmaster | July 21, 2008 9:31 AM

Gaithersburg blows. I can walk to a bar, but not to a grocery store.

Posted by: Angry Suburbanite | July 21, 2008 10:06 AM

Not bad: "51 out of 100 -- Somewhat Walkable" for my Arlington neighborhood, I thought I was going to get more points.

It takes me 10-12 minutes to walk to Clarendon metro station if I need to, but most importantly, we go outside and walk/run/jog, sidewalks are abundant around this place.

Posted by: eaglestrk | July 21, 2008 10:06 AM

I grew up in DC went to Ballou High School in SE - that area got a 48, now live in Cedar Rapids Iowa my neighborhood got a 17. Some restaurants and two coffee shops-Panara Bread and Donutland were omitted in the results (others places also) so the results are not to accurate. Also if a few other measurements were taken into account I'm sure the #'s would change. It is fine to see some articlules not so serious in nature from most of what I read of OLD DC but I'd rather take a walk in my current neighborhood than my old one near Ballou in spite of the score difference. I still love DC......

Posted by: ballou1962 | July 21, 2008 10:09 AM

It only takes distance as the crow flies into account. I pulled up my old home and it listed some places that weren't to far until you realized that unless you walked about a mile out of your way the street you would have to cross was Interstate 66 - not my idea of walkable.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 10:10 AM

Wow, Marc, where do I go to get your life?

Between this and your dispicably arrogant comments on the 'On Parenting' blog, you make me sick.

You live in a nce walkable neighborhood and clearly your employers pay you well enough to live in nice fance DC neighborhoods and send your kids to psh private schools and never have to worry about 'employees' taking care of your kids.

Meanwhile, my wife and I are struggling to make ends meet and we can't afford to be a one income family, and so we both ahve to work and put our kids in daycare. When the time arrives, we'll have to move to the 'burbs or roll the dice with DC schools, because we can't afford the $20,000 tuition at GDS.

Like I said, it ust be nice to have your life.

Posted by: ThinMan | July 21, 2008 10:13 AM

My neighborhood of those hated "McMansions" in the depised "sprawl suburbs" has sidewalks on both sides of every street, walking trails, and a retail center.

I would say that qualifies as "walkable" even if the neo-urbanists and smart=growthers don't like it.

Posted by: ceefer66 | July 21, 2008 10:16 AM

Cute, but it factors in things like the Safeway grocery store at 514 Rhode Island Ave NW, which doesn't exist. Cute tool, but an incomplete algorithm working with faulty data.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 10:18 AM

My neighborhood got a dismal 6 -- car dependent. It's 4.5 miles to the nearest quick-stop that sells coffee, beef jerky, bait, and chewing tobacco.

I wouldn't move back into DC for all the tea in china. No, thank you. No, sir, not on your life.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 10:28 AM

I like Annandale. It's safe. DC isn't safe. Marc likes his neighborhood, but there isn't a neighborhood in DC that is safe. My car got stolen on Van Dorn st, in NW DC two years ago. VA is safe, and you can send your kids to public school and they are safe. Course, Marc sends his kids to private school, so that doesn't matter to him. But maybe DC will be safer now that the citizens can arm themselves again.

Posted by: Annandale, VA | July 21, 2008 10:30 AM

I like Annandale. It's safe. DC isn't safe. Marc likes his neighborhood, but there isn't a neighborhood in DC that is safe. My car got stolen on Van Dorn st, in NW DC two years ago. VA is safe, and you can send your kids to public school and they are safe. Course, Marc sends his kids to private school, so that doesn't matter to him. But maybe DC will be safer now that the citizens can arm themselves again.

Posted by: Annandale, VA | July 21, 2008 10:32 AM

My old address in DC got a better score (72 -- "very walkable") than my current address in northern VA (63 -- "somewhat walkable"). Right result for wrong reasons -- the grocery, restaurant and service choices in my current neighborhood are perhaps equal in number but far superior in quality (e.g., Whole Foods vs. corner store, bicycle shop vs. nail salon). However, I had a metro station two blocks away when I lived in DC, and now live 1.5 miles from the nearest metrorail station.

Still, I would consider my current neighborhood more than somewhat walkable, as I can and do many errands on foot. Despite its limitations, this was an interesting tool Marc -- thanks!

Posted by: Northern VA | July 21, 2008 10:38 AM

I think my neighborhood would get a negative score nearest 7-11 or Wawa is 12 miles away but what the heck I live on 1001 acres just NW of Upperville. Do I care
no? I am typing this from my tractor yeah just like in that video second hay cutting
and in my AC'd cab offsetting all the carbon you urban dwellers whine about like drag queens ripping his $50 a pair pantyhose. wait you might be that drag gueen in Admas Morgan. No sidewalks and public transportation. Middleburg is kind of walkable. White Post almost. Old town Winchester kind of. Why would I care how close the nearest restaurant is? That is what M6 is for. And my home is heated and cooled by geothermal, I have solar panels for electricity and to heat water both at the house, barn and office but my CO footprint on a working farm is incredible.
And I use wind power to power the irrigation pumps for the crops and stock
Can you hear my livestock fart just listen. Lovely methane gas. And the farm is organic BTW! Al Gore needs to find a new drug. Global warming is a crock! My carbon footprint is bigger than yours. Thank the Lord! Working hard to offset everything you do to safe the environment! Grilling burgers for lunch on the Weber. Organic prime local grass fed beef!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 10:41 AM

ThinMan, enough with the class warfare. There's no cause for hating Marc Fisher just because he has a better job than you do. (If for some reason you must hate him, I recommend his stance on the baseball stadium. It wasn't enough to make me hate him myself, but YMMV.)

Posted by: cminus | July 21, 2008 10:51 AM

I agree that it is essentially just a calculation of density, with no quantitative analysis of the data behind it. Useful for comparing one neighborhood to another in a very coarse way for convenience to shopping but that's about it.

The other thing to consider is that even if a neighborhood is "walkable" (which seems to be weighted by this site as whether you can buy clothes, groceries, coffee, etc. less than a mile from your address), that is, in practice, only convenient for most people for when they are making light errands. In other words, if you're going out to buy clothes, groceries, and housewares in one trip, then you better have a large backpack and very strong arms to lug all that loot home if you don't take your car. So given that most people need to take their vehicle at least once in a while for these kind of trips no matter where they live, it's not very accurate that the site rates my current neighborhood a 46, where I can walk around the bend to the grocery store, a couple of restaurants, and a fantastic hardware store, and only have to drive a couple of miles to larger retail centers, while it rates my old neighborhood Clarendon a 95, with all its obvious amenities. I don't drive any more now than I did in Clarendon, and in fact, I'd say I probably drive a bit less, and definitely spend less without all of of the shopping and eating temptations right outside the front door.

With that in mind, the site is more or less just a measure of how much retail variety one neighborhood has vs another within a certain distance, and not really whether it is "walkable", which is a misleading term. I could never use my car and buy almost everything I need indefintely where I am now between the local grocery, hardware, and drug store just down the road, but unlike in Clarendon, I don't have 3 of every kind of store to choose from. My neighborhood isn't any less "walkable" however as far as not needing to use your car.

Jefferson Davis Hwy by Potomac Yard scores a 77 by comparison, but that's not a stretch of road that I would define as walkable unless you consider crossing 6 lane highways and traversing vast parking lots by foot convenient.

Posted by: Toonces | July 21, 2008 10:51 AM

Scored a 95 out of 100, but many of the amenities the tool listed were no longer living (for instance, it listed Visions as my nearest movie theater).

Agree that it measures density, but the data it is gathering is out of date.

That being said, one of the reasons that I love my neighborhood IS that you can take a short walk and find what you need. Groceries, house goods, books, you name it, it's around.

Posted by: NW DC | July 21, 2008 10:58 AM

80 a couple of blocks north of King Street in Old Town. But proximity to a large body of water definitely makes the score lower than a landlocked location. Going another 3 blocks away from the river yielded a higher score, though I don't think my life would be so much more walkable just by moving 3 blocks away. But on the other hand, I really can't buy wine in the middle of the Potomac.

Posted by: alexandria | July 21, 2008 11:01 AM

To be fair, it's not class warfare, it's being humble in one's success and appreciating the advantages that one has where Marc is deficient and arrogant.

He's just sickenly emblematic of the elitism that pervades upper NW, white Washington.

Posted by: ThinMan | July 21, 2008 11:02 AM

To anonymous at 10:41 - Whether you post your name or use your old handles of Clifton or vaherder, we all know it's you -your ignorant, tired, laughable rants are unmistakeable, and everyone knows that just about everything you say is made up, whether you're posting here, or on Mighty Appetite, or on Ask Tom. If you were a farmer as you claim then you wouldn't have the time day in and day out to troll on the WaPost blogs all morning and afternoon belittling everyone that doesn't agree with you. You're either someone with a huge grudge against the world, or you're a pimply faced idiot in your parent's basement with too much time on your hands and a couple of collies as your only friends. Get over it, and find something useful to do.

Posted by: okl dokl | July 21, 2008 11:20 AM

ThinMan, talking about "advantages" and a lack of humility is a pretty good definition of class warfare. If someone's got a better-paying job than you, they shouldn't have to feel guilty about it or hide the benefits from it or spend their time thinking up excuses for you as to why you're not doing as well as they are.

Posted by: cminus | July 21, 2008 11:33 AM

Spout Run got a 66 "Somewhat walkable", but the results didn't include the Giant right across the street. And most of the results require crossing Lee Highway, which I don't consider all that friendly.

Posted by: Arlington Gay | July 21, 2008 11:35 AM

cminus,

You're so right. How foolish of me to think that humility and tact are still important virutes in the 21st century.

I guess, if you don't think there's anything wrong with displaying the benefits of one's advantages, then you;re a huge Donald Trump fan.

Posted by: ThinMan | July 21, 2008 12:45 PM

My neghborhood in Lakeridge scored 68. This seems a little high. I can go several months in the winter and never use the car on a weekend but generally I head over to Potomac Mills for something at least once a month in the summer.

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | July 21, 2008 12:53 PM

Our neighborhood of Bucknell (south of Old Town, north of Mt Vernon and dead center between Rt 1 and the GW Parkway) only scored a 48 out of 100 in spite of the abundance of public transport options (both Metro and Fairfax connector, which BOTH go right to the Huntington metro). What I was hoping to find was a higher rating based on our area being fairly SAFE to walk in the evenings, the fact that children can ride bikes, and pets can escape from the yard without being run over or pet-napped by neighbors. With the many wooded areas, tons of little trails, proximity to nature preserves (the Potomac shore and Huntley Meadows), clearly walking is an option and probably the best time to see your neighbors is while THEY are ALSO out walking around the neighborhood. So I am left rather unimpressed with the site.

Posted by: Tunatofu | July 21, 2008 1:02 PM

I entered my address and got a 42 (car-dependent) even though every single amenity listed in the left-nav was < 1 mile - the list included grocery store, drugstore, bar, movie theatre & multiple places to eat. Does walkalble mean less then 1/4 mile?

Posted by: Herndon, VA | July 21, 2008 1:14 PM

Jeepers, Thin Man, the man just wrote a short little piece saying, "Here's a site that offers rankings for walkability. What do you think?"

I'm just a dumb ol' college drop-out from Georgia, but somehow I'm not seeing the arrogance and condescension that you've discovered.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 21, 2008 1:26 PM

Well, my G'burg neighborhood scored a 74, but it lists a chiropractor's office as Fitness and Public Storage as Clothing and Music. It also couldn't find the two Starbux within a mile of me, nor the two elementary schools. Lastly, it says there is a movie theater half a mile away, but I've lived in this apartment complex since 2002, and the closest one of which I'm aware is 5 miles away!

Posted by: ESR | July 21, 2008 1:30 PM

My neighborhood, Eastern Market area on Capitol Hill is highly walkable. I can walk to a grocery store, Starbucks, Blockbuster, hardware store, restaurants, park, dry cleaners and two metro stops (Eastern Market and Potomac Avenue). I love also like the fact that I don't need a car for my daily errands.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 2:43 PM

okl dokl, vaherder/clifton/whatever he wants to call himself makes up stories as he goes. One of Marc's previous articles about guns you should have seen the comments from this loser. At that time, "vaherder" worked in an office and bragged about running over to a target shooting facility somewhere in Gaithersburg during lunch break. This idiot then referenced an eatery on Shady Groce Road and challenged someone to meet him there at lunchtime. This guy has more sh*t to him than a Virginia pig farm.

Posted by: G'burger | July 21, 2008 3:35 PM

My inner Silver Spring home is "car dependent" with a 45. Nothing is closer than .3 mile away.

I consider it walkable, but you have to be ready to walk at least 15 minutes to get to a bus stop or grocery.

It's certainly bike-able but you have to have time.

One big issue I have is that there aren't sidewalks anywhere. When fall comes I get my flashing light out for the walk (1.5 m) home from the subway. Otherwise I'll be mush on the street.

Posted by: RoseG | July 21, 2008 3:46 PM

ThinMan, people like Donald Trump are the price we as a society pay for a capitalist system. If you'd like a system where anyone with more money than the neighbors is obliged to hide it, I understand Cuba is looking for some immigrants.

Posted by: cminus | July 21, 2008 4:34 PM

The algorithm seems to ignore the condition and nature of sidewalk paving. Perfectly good, eighty-year-old cement sidewalks are being destroyed and replaced with anachronistic red brick because it looks good to passing drivers -- potential homebuyers -- and federal grants will pay for it.

Brick public sidewalks are never maintained, cannot be cleaned of snow and ice, heave at the first frost, and are responsible for thousands of broken hips and other "stump-and-fall" -derived injuries. Public health officials do not capture the data, but the red brick paving boom has resulted in a growth sub-specialty among personal injury lawyers.

Posted by: Mike Licht | July 21, 2008 5:28 PM

I've used that site before, and I have to agree that its walkability scores are bunk. They don't take into account the many complex factors that go into determining how walkable a community is, such as:

a) Sidewalk quality and width
b) Sidewalk separation from the road (e.g., trees, parked cars)
c) Transit services (e.g., rail, bus, car share)
d) Curb radius and crosswalk design (think D.C. or Arlington vs. Tysons here)
e) Pedestrian aids (e.g., neighborhood maps, kiosks)
f) Mixed use development

The list could go on and on. But I don't see how it would be possible to quantify many of these (easily) to have some computers churn out a magical number.

I think using things like Google Maps (and especially Street View) are a good way to get a sense of whether a place is walkable or not, but to really know you'd have to go check it out for yourself (or talk to others who have been there).

Posted by: skijmpr | July 21, 2008 6:04 PM

Any list that doesn't have Shirlington at the top is completely bogus. What other areas have parks (including a dog park) a grocery store, a public library, professional live theaters, an art movie house and dozens of restaurants within a couple of minutes walking? Oh, and did I mention several bike and walking trails, to include the WO&D Trail?

Posted by: Googla Monster | July 21, 2008 7:11 PM

AhHA! 17th Street/Dupont scores a perfect 100 out of 100!

Now, if only there were as few cars on the street each and every day as there are the day after we get 2 feet of snow!

Posted by: Mark | July 22, 2008 7:40 PM

Marc, Georgetown and Logan Circle DO have transit. It's called the bus, and thousands of people in these neighborhoods use it every day. No, it's not as sexy as rail, but it helps get people where they need to go in walkable neighborhoods.

Posted by: Matt | July 23, 2008 1:00 AM

One problem with walkability is that it's expensive, and it's gotten a lot more expensive in the past decade. My condo in downtown Bethesda gets a 94-- it wasn't bizarrely expensive when I bought it in 1998, but it is now. Might be interesting to look at historical correlation between walk score and average income...

Posted by: MattF | July 23, 2008 9:32 AM

My Dupont address received a 98/100--a walker's paradise. I completely agree. The metro is two blocks away, a grocery store, a CVS, a yoga studio, a wine store, a liquor store, and a hardware store are within three or four blocks. There are lots of coffee shops and restaurants within walking distance, as well as a Washington Sports Club. I can basically live my life without a car, unless I need to transport something large or make a trip out to the VA/MD burbs for Costco or something. I think "walkability" refers to whether or not you need a car, not whether or not there are sidewalks/trails.

Posted by: Katya | July 23, 2008 12:32 PM

Oh, and Marc, one could live on 17th for literally months without venturing more than a half-mile in any direction. Walk to work, several groceries, theaters/performance houses, clubs, pharmacies, hardware stores, parks, schools, bookstores, museums, etc.
Why pay for a car?
Katya has it right.
And AAA (before gas prices soared) put the 2008 average cost per mile for car ownership at 71 cents. And, of course, DC is a more expensive place to own a car for gas, insurance, parking, inevitable damage, etc reasons. So, the "average" DC city person who owns a car might expect to pay 10K/year for that luxury.
With the current housing market, it's likely more people will move downtown, ditch the car, and apply the 10K/year post-tax savings to mortgage/rent/school for the kids.

Posted by: Mark | July 23, 2008 8:16 PM

walkscore.com is a pretty silly site (though it's a good idea in principle). I used to live in a spot that was incredibly walkable. I essentially never needed me car. I now live in a place that isn't walkable at all. Both places got the same score. The problem is that walkscore can't see the difference between living in a town with sidewalks and a fully functioning downtown and living near the entrance ramp to a highway that has strip malls at a nearby exit.

Posted by: John Evans | August 8, 2008 4:34 PM

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