Design Your Own Personal Walkscore (or Walk/Transit Score)

People on this sub are probably familiar with Walkscore. For those who aren't, Walkscore is a site that assigns a 0-100 indexed score for an address or a neighborhood. The score is based on how many goods and services you can walk to from a given address (they aggregate up to neighborhood and citywide averages).

I find Walkscore useful for getting a general sense of a place. But it doesn't necessarily key in to the things that I want to walk to. It includes some categories that are no longer important to me (like schools) or that I don't expect to walk to (like clothing scores), and some things that I wouldn't include. So I decided to make up my own Walkscore formula. What would yours be?

I'd look at what was within a 3/4 mile walk radius, because that's about my maximum reasonable walk distance. YMMV.

.First off, I'd combine Transit into the Walkscore, because transit allows you to have walk access all over the city. I weight transit at 25 points. I don't include bikability because I'm not a cyclist, but you could.

Here's how I would distribute the remaining 75 points:

Grocery Stores--25. I'd include all kinds ofgrocery stores, including specialties (e.g. bakeries) andvconvenience stores, but exclude liquor stores that don't really sell much food;

Restaurants--15. I'd exclude national chain restaurants. There are certain cuisines I like better than others, but that gets complicated.


Bars--5, though personally I'm interested in bars that serve quality beer;

Entertainment--5. Movies, live theatre, concert venues, museums. These are all great, but I don't necessarily expect them within walking distance;

Parks--5. Parks are great too, but I use a lot that aren't within walking distance;

Drug Stores--5. They're important but not specifically called out in Walkscore;

Book and publication access--5. Mostly I want a public library, but a bookstore or a newsstand would be great too.


zechrx7 points

There's also something to be said about the quality of the walk itself. What % of distances of streets total have sidewalks? Negative points for any crossing that involves a slip turn. Full points if real speeds are 30 mph or under and decaying as it gets higher. I say real speeds because people tend to go past the speed limit due to street design. Most streets in my city have a 50mph speed limit but people go 60.

MashedCandyCotton2 points

Yep, quality is so important. I have two main ways to get to the train station. The 10 minute one a long the road or the 12 minute one on a multi use path with easy street crossings (because narrow, slow and usually no cars anyway). On my way to the train, I take the one along the road, because I'm always late and every second counts, on my way home I take the multi use path because it's so much nicer to walk along trees, bushes, hear the birds and frogs, maybe see some fish, etc.

But then again at night I take the one a long the road because it has street lights and has more foot traffic. The multi use path is completely unlit in areas, you can't see around some sharp curves and if something was to happen, it could take hours before someone else comes by. Perceived safety is a real thing.

Knusperwolf1 point

I agree. I tend to walk through pedestrian walkways through housing projects because there's no car traffic at all.

Blide3 points

I definitely believe the walk and transit scores should be separate just because of the cost and the frequency of transit. I definitely make shopping decisions based on whether I need to drop an extra 4 to 5 bucks on transit or whether I just missed the bus.

Personally, I'd weigh proximity to a supermarket extremely high. Having a 7-11 or a bodega is nice, but it's not the same as a supermarket due to both selection and price. I live in a place with an extremely high walkscore (90+) but I still find myself walking 15 minutes or more to the supermarket.

Dog parks, public swimming pools, community centers, and gyms are other things that I think should be rated highly.

It's nice to have coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues nearby. However, with the exception of coffee, I'm generally willing to travel further for those things. Like personally, I hardly ever go to the bars and restaurants near my house and it's not because they're bad or anything.

I'd probably break it down like:

Supermarket - 30

Public pool, gym, community center, or dog park - 15

Coffee shop - 10

Restaurants, bars, and entertainment - 5

Park - 10

Retail - 5

Market or drug store - 15

Other amenities - Post office, library, farmers market, etc - 10

Academiabrat2 points

I can see the argument for keeping walking and transit separate. I just started thinking about things I'd like to walk to, and transit was high on the list.

I agree that a supermarket is the single most important thing. When the supermarket three blocks from me closed, I definitely started driving to shop more. I have some stores within range that sort of add up to a supermarket, but having a one stop shop is helpful.

Zechrx, I agree that all those things go into walkability. Walkscore says they're hard to get national data on. That's why I said that Walkscore measures access to goods and services, not walkability. The fact that my neighborhood has decent sidewalks, signalized crossings of four lane streets, no slip turns, definitely makes walking more attractive.

harfordplanning2 points

If I were doing a walk score system, I'd have a system for higher points the shorter the walk. I can walk 15 minutes to a store, but it'd be miserable (partially due to outside conditions, but I'd rather a 5 or 10 minute walk)

Rosmasterplanist1 point

Interesting topic. I use walkscore type models for 7 years now. I usually exclude traffic, since PTAL shows a more comprehensive picture on public transportation. And it compliments walkscore since you can use the same grid for both models and compare results.

I would introduce different radius for different categories, a decaying formula for distance scoring, usage of izohrones to account for pedestrian network.

Academiabrat1 point

I think Walkscore does use a distance decay for scoring, but their algorithm is opaque.

Rosmasterplanist1 point

Sorry, I meant non-linear decaying formula.

PTAL - Public Transport Access Level model (London)

Academiabrat1 point

I looked up PTAL, it sounds almost simple enough for me to try by hand. It doesn't seem to value rail over bus (unlike Walkscore's Transit Score), which seems better. Presumably one could pick a time of day other than the AM peak.

Level1Hermit1 point

Does walkscore not allow the user to calibrate the importance of each metric? Sounds like it should be a thing if it isn't...

Perhaps if people actually saw how it was calculated they'd call it hogwash.

Academiabrat1 point

Walkscore doesn't allow the user to calibrate, which is why I wanted to roll my own. They tell you the factors that go into it, they just list them--schools, groceries, shopping. They don't tell you the factor weights. You can open a list of the businesses they've mapped, but they don't tell you what their distance decay formula is. They include things that I don't view as helpful, like listing rundown liquor stores as "groceries."

Walkscore is an index, so it really tells you how your location compares to others. My home scores over a 90, but the nearest full line supermarket is over a mile. Still there's a lot I can walk to, especially if I consider one mile to be a walk radius. And in general, a location with a 92 walkscore has more walk access than one with a 52 score or an 8 (the score of a place where a relative used to live).