home Featured, Housing Development Will the concept of “Walk Score” be entirely successful? Will the homebuyers give importance to the walk score even in this tumbling economy?

Will the concept of “Walk Score” be entirely successful? Will the homebuyers give importance to the walk score even in this tumbling economy?

Walkable neighborhood is the widespread concept in planning that provides benefit to people, environment and the community. Walk Score is an online rating tool for neighborhoods. “Walk Score measures the number of typical consumer destinations within walking distance of a house, with scores ranging from 0 (car dependent) to 100 (most walkable). By the Walk Score measure, walkability is a direct function of how many destinations are located within a short distance (generally between one quarter mile and one mile of a home).” (Cortright Joe, 2009).  In 2009, Joe Cortright, CEOs for Cities published a report exploring the direct relationship between the walkability and home values evaluated by the Walk Score algorithm. The report also reveals that walkability is a compelling factor that is directly related to the higher housing values practically in all metropolitan areas.

Mixed-use, walkable and transit oriented neighborhoods revitalize the urban centers.  Sightline Institute released the walkability ranking for American cities in July 2011. New York, San Francisco and Boston grab the first three spot whereas Oklahoma, Charlotte and Jacksonville rank in the bottom three positions.  Baltimore bears the 14th place with a walk score of 64. 38% of Baltimore residents have obtained a walk score of 70 and above.  Federal Hill, Sharp-Leadenhall, Otterbein are listed as the Biltmore’s most walkable neighborhoods. Purnell, Wakefield, Dickeyville are nominated as least walkable neighborhoods. The research also indicates that 76% have acquired a walk score of at least 50 and 24% live in auto dependent neighborhoods.

Walk Score of Baltimore’s Neighborhoods, 2011

Source: http://www.walkscore.com/MD/Baltimore

Walkability is a major element of New Urbanism, which also focuses on mixed-use and pedestrian friendly development. Research explicates that from 1977 to 1995, there is a decline (40%) of number of adults in the United States who walk every day. The research by Walking Site expounds that people tend to use cars to travel less than one mile. Issues on auto-oriented development, global warming and urban sprawl stirred the interest of walkability in United States. Established in 2007, walk score is available online in many real estate listing services. It measures the distance between the residential address and the nearby destinations like restaurants, grocery stores, shopping areas, schools, library, park, bookstore, fitness, hardware, movie theatres, bar and coffee shop. Walk score uses Google maps for this purpose of calculation.

Walk Scores of Top 10 U.S Cities, 2011

Source: Sightline Daily. “WalkScore’s New Rankings for Cities”

Any destination with in one-quarter mile or less from the residence receives maximum points. Destinations located more than a mile away from the residence receives zero points. The Walking the Walk report also unveiled that, “ In the typical market, an additional one point increase in Walk Score was associated with between a $500 and $3,000 increase in home values.” Walk Score website in recent times also calculates the “Smart Street” following the walking routes. It divulges the problems of poor street connections faced by the pedestrians.

All the studies and research report that walk score has unswerving and direct attachment with housing prices. But will it be considered significant by homebuyers even in this tumbling economy? What is the role of local government and planners in making the walk score more serious? Land use policies have down graded the walkability concept by separating different type of uses. Strict zoning codes and policies have lead to inadequate walk able neighborhoods in United States.



28 thoughts on “Will the concept of “Walk Score” be entirely successful? Will the homebuyers give importance to the walk score even in this tumbling economy?

  1. Only in locations and buyer populations that already have a pattern of walking instead of driving and I suspect a learned action of using mass transit versus individual cars. I suspect this appliies to bicycling based communities as well.

    It will sound good to pitch it during the sale it will not justify any purchaser value reflected in verified sale prices and appraisal analysis.

    It may allow single car garages and no garage units to gain a bit of price as arguments may hold for downsizing to one car or staying carfree in limited special buyer cases.

  2. I would suggest that walkability is even more important in a poor economy that it is an a good ecomony. As disposable incomes become tighter and oil prices increase housing values in areas that allow the possibility of walking are more likely to perform better than housing values in automobile-dependant neighbourhoods. Add to that the fact that more and more home buyers are members of the information generation – data like this could have a big impact on where real estate dollars are spent in the near future.

  3. Walk Score is becoming more widely recognized around the country. However, as it stands now, Walk Score has a major limitation. It does not know what infrastructure is available to the pedestrian. As a result, it is evaluating such things as land use and proximity and may give a high walk score to an area that is intensely auto dominated and dangerous for the pedestrian. Regardless, Walk Score has done a lot to help people recognize the value of walkability. Perhaps in the near future, Walk Score will have the ability and database to include the actual pedestrian infrastructure- so that the Walk Score is more reflective of the actual pedestrian environment.

    1. When I first learnt of Walk Score, I also came to the same realisation that while an area may appear to be walkable based on surrounding land uses it didn’t take into consideration the surrounding environment. In response to this, a colleague and I developed a walkability tool based on a GIS platform that analysed other environmental and contextual factors that impact the walkability of an area including climatic factors, topography, shade analysis, vehicle pedestrian/cycle crash data to name a few. Audit and socio demographic information can also be used to further supplement the data. The tool analyses an area based on these factors and provides a walkability level of service.

    2. Walk Score provides an effective tool for a high level assessment of walkability within an area. To provide a much more robust analysis of the walking environment a colleague and I developed a walkability tool based on a GIS platform that assessed the walkability of an area based on a range of parameters. These parameters specifically looked at environmental and contextual factors that would affect the walkability of an area such as climatic factors, topography, shade analysis, pedestrian and cycle crash data, vehicle speeds and vehicle counts, crossing points etc. The tool can also be supplemented through audit information and demographic data. The tool then analyses the catchment area and provides a walking level of service.

    1. The Walk Score website indicate that it “is officially supported in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. We’ve heard from our users that the data we rely on is less accurate outside of the United States.” Yes it is used for Canadian cities too.

  4. Yes. A substantial element in housing location choice by both Boomers and Millennials is a walkable community. As these together form the bulk of those looking for homes, this aspect will continue to be an important element of the housing market.

  5. This is just anecdotal, but I am seeing an increasing number of Real Estate fliers that include the walk score of the house being touted. I am sure that for many the trade-off between the square-footage and modern amenities versus having to get in the car to do anything is more and more a factor. And as the price of gas continues to climb, it will be the McMansions on the fringe that will more likely be in foreclosure and empty than similarly priced craftsman houses located in a Sam Bass Warner “streetcar suburb”.

  6. I beleive the answer is yes for the audience that cares about walkability. It has always been a factor for those interested in urban living and in certain suburban communities. However, remember not everyone does care about walkability.

  7. In a contracting economy having the ability to be less dependent on your car to access many of the necessities of living will become MORE important. One of the largest changes we can expect to see as our economy continues to shrink is the relocalization of many aspects of life. As sustainability professionals we have the responsibility as well as the opportunity to help lead this shift.

  8. We know that trails, and walkability/biking/outdoor activity, represent one of the most desired amenities for communities and homebuyers. We have found a $15K – $20K premium for lot and unit sales where there are planned and designed trail systems out-the-door. I like the Walkscore approach, though it should be buttressed with a Bikescore, XC Skiingscore, Runscore, and other activities that are clearly items many people want (especially aging baby boomers).

  9. it probably will although i live in Africa but also considering issues of health, climate change due to carbon gass emissions globally, i think the concept of Walk a score may become popular again. Also with increases in fuel prices, although again some people really would not be bothered as long as they can use their car. in my country i think it would realy sell

  10. I think the impact of the WalkScore will likely be correlated to the accessibility of the information. The recently released WalkScore Apartment search pulls listings from rental websites (like Craigslist) and maps them. The user is able to input their work address and find rentals that meet their desired commute. I imagine that something like this could be also made for real estate. Tools like this that make the information easily accessible could definitely heighten the impact.

    Check out the tool at http://www.walkscore.com/apartments

  11. I think the impact of the WalkScore will likely be correlated to the accessibility of the information. The recently released WalkScore Apartment search pulls listings from rental websites (like Craigslist) and maps them. The user is able to input their work address and find rentals that meet their desired commute. I imagine that something like this could be also made for real estate. Tools like this that make the information easily accessible could definitely heighten the impact.

  12. Walk Score is subject to the rule that governs the accuracy of all data-based information services: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). While the Walk Score for some addresses may be a true reflection of reality, it does not work everywhere. After seeing the laughably inaccurate the Walk Score for my (adjacent to) downtown Detroit neighborhood, I realized that relying on Walk Score for any type of decision making would be a big mistake. The number of amenities missing from my area on Walk Score’s map was staggering. Simply put, their data was complete garbage. I contacted Walk Score to let them know about the inaccuracies, but the map (and score) hasn’t been fixed. Walk Score is useful for nothing but playing around because you’ll never know if it’s accurate or not if you don’t already know the neighborhood. It does not serve as a replacement for going and checking a neighborhood out yourself and seeing if it’s walkable by actually walking around. And if that’s the case, then Walk Score isn’t much of a help.

  13. I am a personal advocate of urban planning that makes cities walkable as a primary means to get around. I think the walk score is important. The real estate search site Zillow uses a walk score as part of rating the property. My blog about development addresses this issue frequently.

  14. Just as the cost of the house is important to a buyer, the cost of driving is also significant. I’m not sure if the Walk Score will awaken a hunger for communities that prioritize walkabilty, regardless of home prices, but it is certainly another tool to raise awareness on the issue and hopefully encourage more buyers to contemplate the benefits.

  15. Land is static but population keeps on increasing. Lets borrow a leaf from Germany where railway lines are designed to pass on top of buildings to decongest the walking space. I was amazed at how German Engineers designed both traffic,pedestrian lanes and traffic lanes when i visited that country.

  16. From the European point of view, walkability is still a major factor when choosing a new neighborhood to live in. Even when the “American way of life” of spread houses has made a lot of damage on compact, busy and walkable towns, many people prefer to have the usual services -schools, shops, medical centers- at a reduced distance from their home.

  17. McFadden’s Treatise about Transportation Behavioral Analysis describes very well through calculus how any population will decide what is their preference. Freedom is disregarded, when you wake up in the morning your day is either a 1 or a 0. 1 I need to go to work.

    If we look at India, you may see that some solutions that work perfectly well in Europe will not be even feasible. To move 1.2 billion people in the 21st century is quite a statement about the keystone of every civilization.

    1. Allen, I agree with you that transportation involves more factors than pedestrian radius, because complementary activities distribute at a regional scale (also in Europe), and always another type of transportation is needed. The challenge is to find an efficient collective transport to move all the people where they need when they need at an acceptable cost.

      I think when Josephine suggested this topic, was not thinking about replacing ALL transportation with pedestrian transportation, of course this is not possible anywhere in the world. Its about nothing less and nothing more than an opportunity of making cities more livable by the mixture of uses, the improving of social relations and the reduction of the use of cars in neighbourhoods.

  18. Manuel,

    I am prepared to be be extremely forthcoming with the systems architecture for [Modular Community Transit systems] which we have begun branding as “Blooms” (The general average walking distance to a transport egress point is called the catchment area.) In the US, we are quite stupid, insecure and fat to be bothered with even thinking about sitting in a vehicle full of strangers let alone walking 50 yards but in countries like India a 5 mile walk would be considered standard. I am offering these “Blooms” 8 weeks ARO as complete systems that talk very easily to other localized community owned “Blooms” there are no consultant studies required and they can operate in

    1. all 4 seasons,

    1. for the rich,

    1. for the poor,

    * for serious security requirements

    + 5. for collectives like {islands of gated communities.}

    The “Blooms” that I am presenting a community owned, do not require government subsidy anywhere and are capable of offering the full variety of transport echelons from First Class 15 passenger Cruisers to in India locally manufactured Jugaads which have the cargo capacity of 6,000 lbs. and cost around $1800 to build from local parts. A logical primer is hard to come by because for many years I have found that there is a standing platform of issues for so many vested interest groups. I have put together many other arrays of empirical information that is helpful for many in areas like Urban Planning, vehicle design, terminal design, telecommunications, transaction GUI interfaces etc…

    I would like to put together a comic book describing the operations of these “Blooms” but here is an opportunity page on my web site which is primarily focused on raising funds to invest in scholarship and commercialization of these “Blooms”


    everyone wants more pictures, what I need is a budget and used technical equipment inventory so that I could openly barter for professional services.

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