News Brief

Walkscore.com

by Front Seat Management

www.walkscore.com

With the first three rules of real estate (location, location, location) in mind, Mike Mathieu, CEO and founder of Front Seat Management and former general manager of MSN.com, created Walkscore.com, which uses Google Maps and business listings to calculate the “walkability” of a given location. Using a street address, the system calculates distances to grocery stores, schools, parks, restaurants, and other services and scores the location on a 100-point scale. The tool is designed to help real-estate professionals demonstrate their properties’ proximity to services and to get the public talking about walkable neighborhoods.

The technology has some limitations, as the website acknowledges in a section called “How It Doesn’t Work.” For instance, Google Maps calculates distances as the crow flies, so if a nearby park is across a lake, the system assumes you will walk on water. Similarly, the listed distances do not consider topography, so a school only a quarter of a mile away maybe up a steep hill—both ways, if you believe the old folks in the neighborhood. But the biggest limitation is the website’s inability to account for public transit, which has a big impact on pedestrian mobility.

As with any tool, Walkscore.com should be used with an eye to real-world conditions such as the safety of the neighborhood, the weather, and changing fates of local shops. Designers pursuing LEED certification may find this tool useful in documenting Sustainable Sites credit two, which requires that buildings be located within a half-mile of basic services.

Published March 1, 2008

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