Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Richardson's Walkability

Patrick Kennedy, on his blog WalkableDFW, has championed walkability as a necessary component of a city's livability. In a recent blog entry, he reports on an academic finding that intersection density is the number one predictor of walkability. He says:

"Intuitively this makes sense in that the smaller the blocks, the greater number of intersections, the more storefronts, the more choice of route, etc. We have also known that intersection density is an indicator of traffic safety."
Kennedy goes on to present a detailed analysis of the intersection density of downtown Dallas compared with Portland, Oregon. Read his blog to learn which city comes out ahead.

After the jump, what another walkability measure says about Richardson.

Kennedy presented (and dismissed) a different measure for walkability, something called Walk Score. This is a walkability score based on the distance from a given address to a variety of likely destinations -- public transit, grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries, stores, etc. It then rates the location with a score from 0 ("Car-Dependent") to 100 ("Walkers' Paradise"). Kennedy points out the limitations of this scoring system:
"So what is the problem now with walkscore? Well, for one it doesn't calculate variety. Since I might be .2 miles from a McDonald's, I'm within walking distance of food. But, what if I want to eat something else? Shouldn't they also factor in distance to a variety of cuisines or a variety of clothing stores, etc?
That limitation leads Kennedy to look in more detail at intersection density. Even if intersection density turns out to be more useful in urban downtowns like Dallas, I think the Walk Score, while not the last word in walkability, might still be a more useful metric for suburbs like Richardson. The street grids of older suburbs might score very high in intersection density, but have nothing but houses within walking distance. A high Walk Score, on the other hand, does tell us that there's at least a McDonald's within walking distance. A location with a perfect score of 100 might not be the "Walkers' Paradise" that Walk Score suggests it is, but it's safe to say that a location with a low score is not going to be a walkers' paradise.

How does Richardson rate? Below is the calculation for the police and fire department in downtown Richardson. Its Walk Score is a respectable 78 77. That's not as good as downtown Dallas or downtown Portland (both of which score perfect 100s), but it's described as "Very walkable." Supposedly, only 8% of Richardson residents have a higher Walk Score.

Downtown Richardson's score is, not surprisingly to me, much better than my own neighborhood, which rates a Walk Score of 38 ("Car-Dependent") and is judged to be less walkable than 85% of the rest of Richardson. I won't dispute the numbers. Although I have to admit that my wife and I chose our current neighborhood in part because it had a bit of a buffer from traffic, I also have to admit that I miss not being able to walk to everything. Maybe I need a website that calculates a "Having my cake and eating it too" score.

How does your own neighborhood rate? Can you beat downtown Richardson's Walk Score of 78? Are you more isolated than my own home's Walk Score of 38?

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