Cool Toys Pic of the Day – Walkscore


My colleague Anna Schnitzer sent me this earlier today. We had been talking months ago about the need for some sort of mapping tool that allowed people with special needs (physical, mobility, sensory, etc.) to notate tips and challenges relating to transportation and campus building access. This doesn’t quite do that, but it could be considered a step in that direction.

Walkscore is a resource that assesses and scores the "walkability" of a location based on how many routine daily tasks can easily be accomplished by someone who is willing to walk a moderate distance. Scores are on a scale of 0 (car REQUIRED) to 100 (car completely optional). They also provide a Transit Score, which refers to busing and other public transit options, and a biking score, referring to pedal bicycles and bike lanes (not motorcycles). Information provided in both English and French (Français), with support for real estate and apartment hunting. I tested it out with my office address.

I was, frankly, very surprised by the high score given to the location, but despite the impracticability of the location for my own personal assessment of these core areas for daily tasks, I couldn’t quibble too much with the examples provided.

Then I tested it with my home address. I’m not sharing that screenshot, for privacy as much as anything, but I remain absolutely baffled by it. First off, I love where I live. Within three blocks of my house I can find:
4 sit down restaurants
5 grocery stores of various ethnicities
a drug store
gas station
2 city parks
a laundromat
2 dry cleaning shops
2 hair styling / cutting salons
… and more.

I chose it because of the excellent access to bus routes in the area, and I like the bike lanes also. I also like that within a mile there are 2 city schools, and two more private schools.

It’s not perfect. There are some shops I’d like to see move into the area, but it’s still awfully nice. But it got a Walkscore of under 50, an indicator of problems. It turns out that Walkscore is partially community generated content. I went in and tried to edit the info for my neighborhood, and encountered a few problems. First, it allowed me to give them info, but then, after entering the info, asked for a bunch of information about me before it would allow me to submit the data. Well, that wasn’t going to happen, and it annoyed me. Next, digging around to learn more about the rules for upgrading info about a location, the site evidently seems to prefer that the info come from corporate folk with a vested interest in making the location sound good as part of marketing and recruiting customers. Oh, well, you know, that really doesn’t fit my neighborhood, where most of the stores are Ma and Pa operations. So I guess we’ll stay unrecognized, and an accessible neighborly location that is a well kept secret.

So, for what it’s worth, Walkscore is helpful as far as it goes, it’s a great idea with lots of potential, but I personally wouldn’t put a great deal of stock in the ratings yet.


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