Saturday, July 28, 2007

What's Your Neighborhood's Walk Score?

One of my favorite web sites, not martha, had a link to a new gizmo that can indicate the “walkability” of your neighborhood or a location to which you may be considering a move.

The Walk Score site has a giant disclaimer that information is based on Google maps and may not be up to date. As not martha reports, the links don’t tell anything other than the geographical location, so the true nature of a link may not be apparent (such as how scary it may be in real life to go there).

Still, it is fun to put in an address and see what comes up. As I already knew, my location near Park & Seventh has a high walkability score. People living there can get around without owning a car. In my neighborhood, there are bus and rail links that dramatically expand access to shopping and services.

With all this talk of transit villages, a Walk Score is of interest. Currently, the location of the old Grant Avenue train station comes up rather short on walkability and Clinton Avenue is worse, with part of its score depending on proximity to sites in Dunellen.

Also the Walk Score is not based on half- or quarter-mile distances from transportation hubs, a frequently-quoted indicator in transit village talk. The Walk Score assumes one might walk more than a mile to Dunkin Donuts or to a movie theater.

In considering transit village proposals, city planning and zoning board members have wisely suggested that mixed-use development is better than residential alone. Increasing density around transit hubs without providing for shops and services will only drive condo owners into their cars to buy groceries or get a haircut. With transit-oriented development proposed all along the Raritan Valley Line, buyers are likely to choose the most walkable locations over those where amenities are lacking.

--Bernice Paglia


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