Walk Score Goes Multimodal With the Addition of Transit Score

TransitScore.pngLike much of Manhattan, Streetsblog HQ nets a "Rider’s Paradise" rating from Transit Score.

One of the simplest and best tools for promoting walkable development has branched out into the full range of car-free transportation. Walk Score, the website which measures how many neighborhood amenities are within walking distance of a given location, has added a wealth of information about other forms of travel, including transit and cycling. The improved Walk Score provides a more complete sense of what is accessible from your apartment or workplace. 

Like the original Walk Score tool, the Transit Score feature computes a rating based on a 100-point scale. It’s available for locations in the more than 30 cities that have released their transit data for the program. A location gets points for being closer to transit stops. More frequent service counts more in the algorithm, as does rail service compared to bus transit.

A second tool allows you to enter two locations and see what your commute would look like across all modes. The data is the same as you’d find on Google Maps, but displayed in a side-by-side comparison that makes it easier to see the differences between modes. One bonus feature: a graph showing the change in elevation along your route in each mode, allowing you to see the hills you’d negotiate while walking or biking.

According to Walk Score’s Chief Technology Officer Matt Lerner, those two tools will help users learn something fundamental about their prospective neighborhood: how they’re likely to get around. It helps people answer the question, "If I move to this house, will I start driving everywhere, or will I get transit as an option?" he said.

Unfortunately, the transit option isn’t fully integrated into the commute comparison tool. The site tells you which transit stops are close to your home or office, but not how long it’ll take to travel between them.

Walk Score is also making use of the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, which helps show where you can really afford to live by taking into account transportation costs. CNT released its own web tool to show the data, Abogo, last week. Noting that many Walk Score visitors use the site to make real estate decisions, Lerner explained that the affordability index could push some people into less auto-dependent neighborhoods. "The suburban house that might have looked cheap doesn’t look as cheap if you look at transportation costs," he said.

"Almost everybody knows how much it costs for their mortgage or their rent, but transportation costs are more complex and unbundled," added CNT research director Linda Young. The affordability index gives users at least a sense of the neighborhood’s average spending on housing and transportation, all in one number. 

Also in the works is a long-overdue fix to one problem with WalkScore’s walkability measurements. Starting soon, WalkScore will measure distances by using real walking routes, not as-the-crow-flies distances. That means that something on the other side of a freeway won’t be ranked as just next-door anymore, making the measurements much more accurate. Other measures of walkability, such as intersection density, will also be included. 

  • 98 + 98. Luck had nothing to do with it — my current apartment was the culmination of a two-year search. I knew exactly what I wanted and was willing to do things most people can’t be bothered to do, like going door to door and talking with building supers. I have little patience with people who say they drive because they “have no choice.” If you’re a grownup, you always have choices.

  • MRN

    An idea – can there be presets for like “walk score for…” children; elderly; singles; etc.

    When I was a kid, I had a prescribed distance I could wander from home on my own, regardless of if it was by bike or on foot. Additionally, the places I went – comic book store, convenience store, community center, playgrounds; were very different than the places I go now as a “single” – bars, restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, etc.

    Obviously WalkScore and it’s ilk can’t ever be a be-all-end-all, but especially for people who are contemplating a long-distance move, it could be a godsend.

  • Alex

    Almost every address I’ve lived in in nyc is 95+ . it’s too easy to score high in the city. I get it’s walkable, but some areas are definitely better than others.

  • This is another way of telling folks – you really should consider mixed use areas of the country instead of residential only zoned areas. Growing up in Staten Island in mostly residential area, there was still within a quarter mile walk little shops and convenient stores that were indispensible for like food and pharmacy. Every residential subdivision should be required to have a little convenience store every half mile or so.

  • john

    WalkScore data is so WRONG it’s hard to take it seriously. My neighborhood is given a “very walkable” score and lists dozens of destinations within a walkable 0.35 miles.

    The TRUTH: nearest of these destinations is a walk of over 1.8 miles as two highways have been expanded and the only pedestrian bridge was removed by MoDOT years ago. The surrounding streets have been expanded to foster greater volume without any improvement in sidewalks or pedestrian crossings.

    The local library for my children has a distance of 0.57 miles according to WalkScore but is close to two miles on dangerous roads and requires crossing highway intersections.

    Informed WalkScore of the problems but they still haven’t fixed their inaccurate data as promised.

  • MinNY

    John –

    “WalkScore data is so WRONG it’s hard to take it seriously. My neighborhood is given a “very walkable” score and lists dozens of destinations within a walkable 0.35 miles. The TRUTH: nearest of these destinations is a walk of over 1.8 miles as two highways have been expanded and the only pedestrian bridge was removed by MoDOT years ago.”

    The people at Walkscore are aware of this shortcoming, and are about to unroll a new version very soon – they’ve blogged about it here: http://blog.walkscore.com/2010/08/street-smart-walk-score/

  • Does WalkScore look at if the routes have sidewalks or not? If there are no sidewalks, that would make walking more dangerous because we would have to share the roads with motor vehicles.

  • Joseph E

    @W.K.Lis: “Does WalkScore look at if the routes have sidewalks or not?”

    No, it does not. So far, Google Maps does not have a list of streets with and without sidewalks. As far as I know there is no public database with that information.

    However, most neighborhoods with great walk scores also have sidewalks. On the other hand, it’s hard to tell if a car-dependent area has sidewalks or not. You can look at the satellite image, but there is not automated function.

    I think Walk Score will be greatly improved when it adds walking directions into the distance calculation.

  • I get for 92 walk and 100 for transit, and I’m not even in New York!

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    Additionally, Walkscore seems based on faulty data. Google just doesn’t cut it for this as a sourc. For example, Walkscore lists a wholesale produce distributer/warehouse under “groceries” in my neighborhood. That business closed about 6 or 7 years ago and it never ever sold retail. Under nearby “Parks” is a company whose name starts with the word “Park” (It looks to be a literary agent). The closest non-Starbucks coffee shop isn’t listed at all and I know the closest Starbucks (1 block) is listed as further away from the next closest (2 blocks).

    Its a good idea but if, say, a software manufacturer were to distribute it as it is right now, they would be vilified for issuing a product before it was ready.

  • Since cycling is about 3 times faster (or further for a set time) the increase in area that can be covered is about 9 times larger and a significant advantage.

    I hope the math is right?

    ******************************
    Area of Circle Walking = Pi x radius x radius
    ******************************

    to

    ****************************************************
    Area of Circle Cycling = Pi x 3 radius x 3 radius = 9 x Pi x radius
    ****************************************************

    No wonder I changed to cycling when I moved from 100% to 82% walkable score and started to realize how much time was spent walking to local places including getting to and from transit.

    Walking it took me 5 minutes (actually less in many instances) to get to transit in the 100%-transit-score-place and 20 minutes (and more in some instances) to get to transit in the 57%-transit-score-place.

  • #11 gecko (continued),

    Admittedly, I’ve gotten lazy and jump on the bike even to go a couple of blocks; but, since emissions are one-third if I walked at least I am not spewing out extra CO2 and, in any case, can’t remember the last time I took the subway or a bus and have maybe driven a car in NYC 6 times in the last 10 years where 2 of the times were probably mistakes.

  • #12 gecko (continued),

    Of course, there are those who can’t use bikes and it is amazing how many can get quite good at cycling; and, pretty much everyone can use wheelchairs so, tricycles with electric power and real seats like on recumbent and semi-recumbent trikes provide accessibility to virtually everyone; that is, if it were not for the dangers caused by cars.

  • Alan

    Great fun to discover that my nearest bank is a sperm bank!

    OK, not really a complaint. And the new transit and commute data will help educate people about the often-illusory “affordability” of the suburbs, so all to the good.

  • Chris G

    The new transit data is very bad. Only major bus stops are included instead of each stop along the route. It says my nearest bus stop is .56 miles away and in reality its across the street to the right and in front of the building to the left going in the only direction worth using the bus.

  • http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2010/08/apple-introduces-us-to-the-smart-bike.html

    Apple’s Smart Bike Systems and patent application which describes cycling integrated with iPods and iPhones has the potential to be really exciting.

    While it’s mostly described in a networked and or group racing and training context it can easily be purposed for transit using cycling technology with the typical Apple cool factor.

    Like the smart cell phone market Google and Droid will likely have their own versions and a much more open system in collaboration with Verizon.

  • #16 gecko (continued),

    This will make updating mapping and routes much easier though it should be pretty easy with current automation technology.

  • #16 gecko (continued),

    Should Apple goes for this, what is kind of nice is that it likely will not be able to stifle innovation and competition like the automotive and oil industries and the market could be wide open to lots of new great ideas, price points, etc.; especially with one-percent the environmental footprint (compared to cars) of cycling.

    Companies will be able to capture market share by value rather than being the only game in town typical of transportation systems, and this will be a good thing.

  • Gecko, my dear lizard and old friend, you should retire your “only game in town typical of transportation systems” argument. It is plainly false. The pavements for your bike are provided solely by DOT or Parks; transit systems in NYC involve MTA, NJ Transit, and countless private companies.

  • #19. Mark Walker, ” . . . transportation systems . . .”

    Systems using iPhones have existed in Germany and elsewhere for about two years now.

  • #20. geck (continued)

    . . . Public bike systems that is.

  • #19 Mark Walker, Here’s one in development local:

    http://gadgetblips.dailyradar.com/video/the-social-bicycle-system/

    First I’ve heard of them 5 minutes ago.

  • #19 Mark Walker, re: “only game in town typical of transportation systems”

    Yes, people have lots of options when MTA cuts services and raises prices.

  • Gecko, thanks for all the attention. I do appreciate it when you engage with me, especially when you give me new things to think about. But in none of your four responses do you address my central point: That all the pavements on which you ride your bike are provided by government agencies for free. This puts bike infrastructure and transit systems on pretty much the same footing, competition-wise.

  • #24. “That all the pavements on which you ride your bike are provided by government agencies for free. This puts bike infrastructure and transit systems on pretty much the same footing, competition-wise.”

    There is really no comparison between cycling and say subways.

    A typical empty subway car weighs 35 tons and costs $1.5 million.

    A typical bicycle weighs 25 pounds and cost $300.

    There is really no comparison in the costs for infrastructure and maintenance.

    A bike does not require the expensive roads that have to hold tons; they just have to be the only thing around. If we could get rid of existing high-carbon heat-island-effect roads it would be great. Costs for urban infrastructures would plumment. Emissions would plummet.

  • Wanderer

    Cyclists would have a better reputation in the general world if they didn’t trash other non-polluting modes, like transit. i don’t think a lot of 80 year olds are going to be cycling, or a lot of blind people, or a lot of people moving suitcases from an airport or train station, or people traveling with two kids etc. etc. As a transit advocate, I try not to trash cycling, no matter how annoying the behavior of cyclists and bicycle advocates.

    I question the “unreliability” of Walkscore data. There certainly are mistakes, how could there not be in a nationwide database. But for painting a picture of a neighborhood, I’ve always found Walkscore data to be accurate. Neighborhoods with a 95 walkscore are significantly more walkable than those with a 75 score, which are better than 60’s etc. I wouldn’t use them as my neighborhood guidc, but they’re fundamentally on target.

  • Wanderer, thank you.

  • #26 Wanderer, “trash other non-polluting modes, like transit.”

    If you are implying that transit has been trashed you are wrong. What is very wrong is the way transit has been implemented and the process is absolutely awful.

    And, yes all the electric power for running the MTA subway and buses, the air conditioning, the lighting, etc., comes from clean energy like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal currents etc.

    And, yes there is plenty of money to upgrade the MTA transit system so that everyone gets easy access; the elderly, disabled, women with small children do not have to go up and down stairs, do not have to stand underground and wait on dangerously crowded hot dirty platforms, do not have to stand during long train rides in trains that are designed to carry 188 people with 144 standing . . . . I actually believe there definitely is plenty of money to greatly improve conventional transit to make it much more convenient, practical, and comfortable.

    And, I also believe that the current ways of providing transit is a very difficult, wasteful, and expensive way to do it and in these difficult times with much worse to come, transit will very likely never get the resources to make it truly convenient and practical.

    Modern practical transit can be provided by low-cost distributed on-demand mobility that runs on-and-off systems to provide rapid, comfortable, automated, hands-free travel in and on exquisitely accommodating infrastructures when expedient.

    Regarding “I try not to trash cycling . . . ” this is not some tit-for-tat parlor chat, wring your hands and trash cycling as much as you want. New Yorkers are real good at that. Maybe it has lots to do with small rooms, cubicles, and having to travel underground . . .

    I do not miss the subway, buses, and driving cars and take them only when I have to and quite happy powering my own mobility — instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me — bathed by the sun, under the stars, and in the weather which most times is terribly pleasant (and, other times even better).

    And, I also do not believe that conventional transit will get us through the extremely difficult times ahead of accelerating environmental devastation caused by rapidly advancing climate change much faster than the models predict as witnessed by ongoing and direct observation.

  • “Streetsblog is a daily news source, online community and political mobilizer for the Livable Streets movement. We are part of a growing coalition of individuals and organizations in cities around the world working to transform our cities by reducing dependence on private automobiles and improving conditions for cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.”

    — About Streetsblog
    (I’ve taken the liberty of adding the italics)

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