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Walk Score Factors In the Ineffable Qualities That Make Neighborhoods Great

2:00 PM EDT on September 25, 2012

Walk Score is a service that quantifies how walkable your neighborhood is and helps connect people with housing in areas where they can live car-free or car-lite. It's a widely-used and practical tool, but it can be a little frustrating: Like anything so data-driven, it can leave out some of the intangible things you love most about where you live. Today, Walk Score is trying to solve that problem by launching a new iPhone app and website, seeking to harvest all those unquantifiable neighborhood attributes.

“Nobody knows your neighborhood better than you do,” said Josh Herst, CEO of Walk Score. “Every day we hear from people telling us how special their neighborhoods are, pointing out their wonderful tree-lined sidewalks, outdoor spaces, nearby restaurants and locally owned shops.”

“They might say, ‘Well, I got a walk score of 50, which seems about right because I can’t actually walk that many places, but I just want you to know we have the most beautiful, old, tree-lined streets, and the architecture here is really wonderful,’” added Walk Score co-founder Matt Lerner. “’And we feel like when people look up the score on Walk Score they just get this number, 50, that doesn’t capture why we love our neighborhood.’”

Herst says that by adding this “rich local insight” to Walk Score, they’ll be able to provide more accurate depictions of different areas, all toward their goal of allowing people to “drive less and live more.”

They point to a 2010 study by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, which identified the three qualities that create emotional attachment to neighborhoods:

    • Social and cultural opportunities and gathering spots
    • Community openness to diversity
    • Appealing aesthetics

“So that’s the thing we’re trying to capture,"” Lerner said, "the aesthetics and experience of a neighborhood, which has always been the weakness of walk score. It’s always just kind of been a number and a map.”

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