“Street Smart” Walk Score

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We’re transparent about how Walk Score works and how it doesn’t work — and you’re vocal about the things you’d like to see us improve!

So we’re excited to share a sneak peek at the work we’re doing to address one of our top customer requests: using walking distances rather than crow-flies distances when calculating a Walk Score.

“Street Smart” Walk Score

Here’s an example of a house located across a freeway from a shopping mall.  Walk Score currently gives this location a higher score than it deserves, because crow-flies distances assume you’ll walk across the freeway.

Walking across the freeway is dangerous.

The new “Street Smart” Walk Score uses walking routes and gives this location a lower score.

Walking routes to amenities.


Here’s another example from Baltimore where Walk Score currently assumes you will swim:


Is this water clean enough for swimming?

Here’s a more accurate picture of what you can walk to — but the score doesn’t change much:

No swimming necessary.

Pedestrian Friendliness

“Street Smart” Walk Score also incorporates a number of metrics that urban planners use to measure pedestrian friendliness:

  • Intersection density measures how many intersections there are in a square mile— more is better.
  • Another metric is something called link/node ratio.  This measures how many roads go into each intersection (e.g. a 4-way intersection is more walkable than a 1-way cul-de-sac).
  • Since shorter length blocks are more pedestrian friendly than long mega-blocks, block length as another proxy for pedestrian friendliness.

Here they are for my house in Seattle:

Pedestrian Friendliness Metrics

We’re currently working with Urban Design 4 Health and our advisory board on these refinements to the Walk Score algorithm.  Stay tuned for more updates.

A big thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for funding this work.

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