The Low Down On Green Living
April 3rd, 2009
One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to drive less, or even better get rid of your car all together. If you live in a city like San Francisco, New York or Chicago, this is a no brainer. In fact, you’re probably better off without the car - no worrying about parking, getting tickets, gas, or insurance, and in reality it’s usually easier and faster to walk or take public transportation. But what if you’re not in one of these cities, what if you’re in Denver, Portland, or even Los Angeles? Can you live without your car, or use it less?
Walk Score combines the power of Google maps with some fancy algorithms and GIS technology to rank the walkability of neighborhoods. They’ve explored 2,508 neighborhoods in the largest 40 US cities to show which are the most walkable neighborhoods. Ranking depends on proximity to amenities like restaurants, services, schools, shops, and markets. Anything within 1 mile of your location is considered walkable and counts towards the score, which goes from 0 to 100, with 100 being a Walker’s Paradise.
For instance, San Francisco as a whole, ranks as the top walkable city in the nation with a score of 86. Within San Francisco, individual neighborhoods are ranked as well, with Chinatown and the Financial District receiving top scores of 99. New York, is the second most walkable city with a score of 83, and it’s top neighborhoods, Tribeca, Little Italy and SOHO, all received scores of 100.
Unfortunately their algorithms don’t yet take into account public transportation, street design, topography, water or crime, but they are working hard to account for these factors. Surprisingly though, those things don’t really seem to matter. When you look at the maps of some of the top cities, the very walkable areas, classified as a Walker’s Paradise seem like they are naturally very friendly to foot travel. Looking at San Diego, there are pockets of walking friendly areas, while the rest of the city relies heavily on car travel.
Older cities, which began their development before the car came along, tend to be denser and more walkable. Newer cities, especially Southern cities have more sprawl and rely heavier on car travel. One of the more surprising results from Walk Score is that Los Angeles is ranked as #9 most walkable city, due to many dense neighborhoods. Take for instance our neighborhood here at LIL - we have a Walk Score of 97 with lots of restaurants and other amenities close by. Even if you don’t live in one of the top walkable cities, you may find that you live in or near a Walking Oasis like San Marco in Jacksonville, FL or Old Westport in Kansas City.
Looking at your specific neighborhood with this sort of spatial information may help you find new stores and amenities you never knew were that close. Check out all the stores within a mile of your house, is there a dry cleaner close by, a book store or a coffee shop you didn’t know about? What about a local restaurant or market? Walking 10 minutes to a small local market to grab milk or eggs rather than drive to your normal grocery store would give you exercise, some more time outdoors and a chance to leave your car behind. How does your neighborhood rank? What new places did you find because of these maps?
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