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How walkable is your neighborhood? Check your Walk Score

by retirebyforty on February 8, 2013 · 51 comments

in sustainability, transportation

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If you glanced at my January financial update, you would have seen that we didn’t spend any money on gasoline last month. How is that possible? Well, I filled up near the end of December and the tank happened to last the whole month. It was a bit of luck and I’m not sure how long it will be before we make another no gasoline month. Anyway, now that gasoline prices are going up again, I’m quite glad we live in a very walkable neighborhood.

Portland Walk Score

Check out our walk score!

We live in downtown Portland and it’s a “Walker’s Paradise” according to walkscore.com. Now that I am a stay at home dad/blogger, I don’t have to commute to work anymore. Previously, I split between driving and taking the light rail out to the suburbs for my job (17 miles each way.) Mrs. RB40 works near downtown and she takes public transportation to work. We usually drive only once or twice a week and I love it. I hate getting stuck in rush hour traffic and it’s great for my health to be able to walk more.

These days, I spend much more time walking than driving. I walk to the parks, library, grocery store, restaurants, theater, bank, and many other places. Baby RB40 also walks with me all over downtown Portland. It’s a bit slow when he comes along because he has to investigate every little thing in his path. The last time he rode his stroller to the library was over 4 months ago and a mom commented that his stroller was so clean. That’s because we rarely use the stroller! We are walking everywhere and I think it’s good for Baby RB40 to see the town from this leisurely view.

Other transportation options

We also have excellent public transportation options in our location. According to Walk Score, we have access to 34 buses, 5 rail lines, and 1 other. I’m not sure what they mean by ‘other’.  Perhaps they are counting the car sharing programs or maybe even the tram. Here are our options.

  • Streetcar. I got the annual pass for $100. The price went up to $150 this year. :( The streetcar is a good option for going around downtown and to other neighborhoods that are very close by.
  • Bus and MAX light rail. A 2 hour ticket is $2.50. These used to be free downtown, but they got rid of the free zone last year. :( The bus and light rail is a good option if I have to go out further that what is available by streetcar.
  • Zipcar. A car sharing program. You pay an annual fee and pay $8+ per hour to drive one of their cars. You have to return each car to its designated parking spot.
  • Car2go. A new car sharing program. They are all Smart Cars and you only pay for the amount of time you drive. There is no annual fee. There are no assigned parking spots and you can park these Car2go cars almost anywhere in their home zone.
  • Bike. I have a bike, but I’m not very good on it, so I don’t use it much.

Usually I walk or take the streetcar around downtown. If our destination is further out, then I drive. It’s a lot more convenient than taking the bus or light rail. We actually didn’t have a car for 3 months when our old BMW Z3 broke down in 2010 and we survived just fine.

Our previous walk score

We used to live in the suburbs near my old office because of it was easier for me. Our old walk score was 40 (Car-Dependent) and we had to drive everywhere. Our old house was about twice as big as our current condo. I liked the space, but I like living in downtown much better. There are so many more things to do within walking distance and it is much livelier here. I understand why some people like living in the suburbs, but we like living in the city.

Our high walk score is not free

Our 98 walk score is not free. Our small condo costs more than our previous house in the suburb. We also have higher HOA and property tax. Just those two things cost us $450 more per month than if we had stayed put. That is expensive, but we also saved in other ways. We share only one car and rarely drive. Our utility bill is also lower because the condo is much better insulated.

We don’t spend as much money on entertainment because there are so many free things to do in town. Last month we went to the free day at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, Children’s Museum, Oregon History Museum, and the $2 day at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. This month we’ll take advantage of the free day at the Zoo and the Japanese Garden.

Overall, we are probably paying around $200 dollars per month extra for the privilege of living downtown. (I figure an additional car, gasoline, and related expense would cost us $150/month. Utilities probably cost $100 more in the burb. $450-$250 = $200.) That’s not too bad and we can handle it right now. We could always go carfree and we’d come out ahead. Having a car is so convenient though.

So that’s how I was able to skip paying for gasoline in January. Gasoline price is going up earlier than usual this year, but the experts expect it to level off for the rest of the year. I just feel bad for readers who has to fill up every week. That’s tough.

How about your neighborhood? Can you beat my Walk Score? ;)  

 

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

My Financial Independence Journey February 8, 2013 at 2:35 am

I live in a giant extended suburb. The walk score for my current apartment is 49. Of course there aren’t really any sidewalks outside of the apartment complex, so I’m not sure how they came up with that number.

There are pocket areas with high walk scores, usually around little downtown areas and train stations. Unfortunately, these areas are all insanely pricy. The funny thing about public transportation here is that it’s reasonably insanely easy to get into the citym moving around the suburbs is basically impossible without a car.

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Tony February 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

You could read more about how the Walk Score is calculated at — http://www.walkscore.com/methodology.shtml

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I guess they can’t tell if there are sidewalks or not. Maybe in a few years?

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Alexa @ travelmiamor February 8, 2013 at 5:02 am

my current neighborhood has a score of 35 and is Car-Dependent. We dont even have sidewalks or bike lanes here.

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Daisy @ Add Vodka February 8, 2013 at 6:29 am

My home isn’t particularly walkable in that there is no way I could walk to work, but I can walk to the grocery store, drug store, dollar store, any number of restaurants and pubs and fast food places, parks, schools and even the library, YMCA and liquor store. so I’m lucky that way.

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm

That’s pretty good. Do you actually walk to those places? :) I’m sure you do.

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David W February 8, 2013 at 7:08 am

Interesting idea for a site. I scored 48 but I think it is inflated since some of the “ammenities” are just home based businesses. If I need a party DJ someday I’ll be set.

I also wonder where they get their vehicle cost data, they’re claiming $.69/mile, which seems quite high.

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Home base businesses? They shouldn’t count those.

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Tony February 10, 2013 at 3:29 pm

If a home based business has an online profile page (perhaps even some reviews), it is difficult to tell them apart from actual amenities, without someone from the area calling out such places. The “Edit Place” links on Walk Score allow people such as David to more accurately represent their neighborhood.

It works similarly for missing places — if a local park doesn’t have on online profile page, it could be difficult to find that such a place exists, without someone from the community adding it as a place.

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Christine February 8, 2013 at 7:41 am

My score was 69, but I think it should have been higher. We live in a very small town that still has a lot in it and we can walk everywhere including restaurants, movie theater, library, park, grocery store, beach, the gym and more. We love it, although it was a little tough walking this morning because of the foot of snow we got lat night :)

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:03 pm

That sounds great. I would rather live in a small town than the suburb. Hope you guys are handling the snow ok.

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Emily @ evolvingPF February 8, 2013 at 7:45 am

The walk score for our townhouse is 42 “car dependent” and the transit score is 31 (only buses nearby). The distances to some closer-by businesses actually surprised me! Maybe I will try walking to the grocery store – that should cut down on what I choose to buy! We are able to get by with 1 car for the 2 of us because we work at the same place.

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Carrying groceries home is no fun at all. It’s great that you can share one car. Nice job!

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Michelle February 8, 2013 at 10:11 am

Mine said car dependent. Definitely not surprised by that!

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Nick February 8, 2013 at 10:33 am

My neighborhood walk score is 65, or “Somewhat Walkable”. I think the big problem for me is that my work is a 25 minute drive from my home. :( I need to find a place to work that is closer to my home!

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SavvyFinancialLatina February 8, 2013 at 11:59 am

We live in an apartment community next to some shops. It’s nice, but the shops are pricey so other than Chipotle, we usually don’t dine there.

I live half a mile from work but couldn’t walk without getting run over. We have to drive everywhere.

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Yeah, I didn’t see much bike lanes when I was visiting Texas.

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Kurt @ Money Counselor February 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I’m really envious, sounds like a great lifestyle you have there in beautiful downtown Portland. We live in a small city–population 90,000–and in an older section of town but still a few kilometers from downtown. There’s little commercial stuff in our neighborhood, but the physical environment is awesome–water and mountain views, lots of trees, hilly–so it’s a great walking neighborhood for relaxation, contemplation, and exercise.

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Your location sounds really nice too. I’d rather live in a small town than in the burb.

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20's Finances February 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

A score of 86 and that explains why I pay so much in rent. ;) I’m with you Joe. I’d rather walk and use public transportation for most things, even if it means more money in housing.

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retirebyforty February 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Nice score! You’re the highest so far.

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Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter February 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Our walk score is 52 apparently. I can walk to Kroger pretty easily, but everything else is like playing live Frogger. No bike lanes and sidewalks only exist in specific subdivisions.

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My Multiple Incomes February 9, 2013 at 4:58 am

True! One of the things that we need to consider when choosing a place to live in is its proximity to our workplace and other places that we need to frequent on a regular basis.

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Mike February 9, 2013 at 7:45 am

I am looking at these things as well-how well can I reach certain places on foot (when I get ready to move again). You also forget to calculate that gas prices seem to be on an upward trend (at least they are in my area). So the amount of walking and light rail might be a nice way to make up for that particular expense.

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Steve February 9, 2013 at 9:02 am

I’m not sure how they calculate the walkscore but it is obviously flawed in Bangkok where we live. My walkscore is 43, but there are groceries, parks, public transport, restaurants and more all within a 15 minute walk. Maybe they factored in the fact that no one wants to walk outside for 15 minutes in Bangkok? I personally walk almost everywhere. I walk to the gym each day, for groceries, out for lunch, to pick my daughter up from school, etc. Yeah I sweat, but it is still very walkable. 43…BAH!

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retirebyforty February 10, 2013 at 11:17 pm

That seems silly to me as well. Bangkok has awesome public transportation. You do need to get used to the humidity to walk around though.

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Maverick February 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Currently living in 65 walkscore…building the “retirement” house in a walkscore of 2! Plan to retire early…in 2 years, or less. Do I get the lowest award? :)

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retirebyforty February 10, 2013 at 11:19 pm

2 is the lowest I’ve read about so far. :)

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Dividend Mantra February 9, 2013 at 7:40 pm

I scored a 52.

That’s funny, because I’ve been mostly car-free for almost two years. My apartment is right next to a bus stop. That bus takes me 25 minutes to work. I also use a 49cc scooter for back-up. I have a giant mall with a grocery store and restaurants across the street, a grocery store less than half a mile away, a gym next to the grocery store, a Target next to the gym, a Costco across the street and so on.

I think if one wants to save money and walk everywhere you simply need to plan it. I live in Sarasota, FL which is not a mecca for public transportation. We have a lot of retirees driving brand new Lexus’ and Audi’s…not riding the bus. But, I make do.

I bet living in downtown Portland is amazing. I wouldn’t care for the weather, but other than that it seems like a wonderful city. The bike culture is pretty strong, from what I hear. I understand the parks are also top notch.

Best wishes!

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Tony February 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

52 translates into “Some amenities are within walking distance.”, which seems pretty accurate for the Costco address you’ve mentioned. Some of the amenities (such as those you’ve listed) are very close, but others (such as a park) are further away.

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retirebyforty February 10, 2013 at 11:21 pm

The scooter for a back up is a great idea!

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Kevin @ Invest It Wisely February 9, 2013 at 7:51 pm

We get a walk score of 65… not terrible. ;)

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Mr. 1500 February 10, 2013 at 6:04 am

Wow, I scored an 18! Its totally true though. It would take a couple of hours to walk anywhere. We do bike often though.

Coincidentally, we don’t like our neighborhood. This site is a nice resource to use when looking for a new ‘hood as we’re doing now. Thanks!

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Sarah Park February 10, 2013 at 10:36 am

Walking to various places does not only save you money, but gives a free exercise as well.

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Do or Debt February 10, 2013 at 10:44 am

My score is a 78! I live in SE Portland and I love the walkability. I don’t own a car and challenge myself to not take the bus or walk everywhere, unless the weather is really bad. The free zone closure is a big hit and $2.50 each way is expensive!

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retirebyforty February 10, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Hey, another Portlander! I’m sad about the free zone too. SE Portland has pretty good bus service from what I understand.

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nicoleandmaggie February 10, 2013 at 10:58 am

Our walk score is 5. Yes, five.

I think we get all five of those points for our ability to walk to the local Catholic church. Also, there’s a scary dentist in walking distance and a tiny park.

It should actually be lower than 5… the food mart it claims is 1.34 miles away is no longer in existence, and the school they claim as a school is actually a small fundamentalist Christian private school. Also the arts museum they say is 1.86 miles away is actually more like 186 miles away (in a city), however there is a library about 2 miles away that could replace that in their calculation.

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Mary Rhodes February 10, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Looks awesome… is there a UK version to you knowledge???

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Little House February 11, 2013 at 6:58 am

My neighborhood’s walkscore isn’t terrific (I think it’s about 65), but it’s not completely car dependent either. I’m just lucky that I love riding my bike and can do so about 3 days a week (once the weather warms up it will be 4). We fill up our one car maybe twice a month since Mr. LH works from home and I only work 1.5 miles away and ride most days. I’m sorry to hear you aren’t very good on a bike – I find that sad, especially since you live in a super bike friendly city! I’m sort of jealous, actually. ;)

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retirebyforty February 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm

That’s pretty good. Is it safe to ride in your area? That’s what I’m concerned about.

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Glen Craig February 11, 2013 at 5:22 pm

The walk score in my neighborhood is actually pretty decent, 89, but it’s deceptive. Yes I can pretty much walk to anything I need but it’s not always the fun thing to do as we have a couple of big roads near us. On the other hand a similar score in Portland would give a much more enjoyable walk with probably more choices in the area.

That said, it is much nicer to have the choice to walk. When you have kids it can be a real pain to have to pack them in the car to get anywhere. When we had the superstorm last year it was nice to be able to drag a wagon of kids to the supermarket instead of use gas and drive (gas was tough to come by for a bit there).

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Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin February 13, 2013 at 6:32 pm

This is a nifty tool, thank you for sharing. Our walk score is 65, we look to take advantage of this when they weather warms up. The temperature was 31 degrees today so I don’t believe we’ll be walking anywhere anytime soon.

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retirebyforty February 13, 2013 at 11:25 pm

That’s pretty cold. Our high was 51 and we had fun walking around today. Can’t wait until Spring. :)

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Budget and the Beach February 19, 2013 at 8:55 am

Mine is a 95. I live in an area of LA that is close to the beach (1/2 mile), and I live one block from Main St. with shops, restaurants, farmer’s market, etc.

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retirebyforty February 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

Santa Monica? Love it! :) That’s awesome. I would love to live there in my 20s. :)

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Mike June 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Be careful when using Walk Score. Science has not been kind to Walk Score – it is actually associated with more crime, obesity, and less exercise – you can learn more here – http://flowalking.com/2013/05/what-does-walk-score-mean-the-surprising-results-of-scientific-research/

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Tony June 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

That’s bad science. The article compares Crown Point (median family income in 2000 — $64,274) vs. East Chicago (median family income in 2000 — $31,778). With such different socioeconomics it’s easy to find a pair of cities that would be very different.

For a comprehensive overview of the subject, consider reading a well researched publication instead, such as Making Healthy Places.

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Mike June 4, 2013 at 3:24 am

Hi Tony, Thank you for link.

Crown Point and East Chicago is not meant to be science but just an example. And it is just one example of many of how Walk Score does, at times, scores low walkable areas higher than they should be and it scores highly walkable areas lower than they should be.

The rest of the article reviews peer-reviewed published science in recognized scientific journals. The published research finds Walk Score has some problems and at times is associated with Crime, Obesity and LESS moderate to vigorous exercise. This is not MY science and not MY research; just what I could find in the scientific literature about Walk Score at this time. These researcher may be proven wrong in time.

There is also the inference that my article is not “well-researched” – as I said at the bottom, I read all the published, peer reviewed research on Walk Score I could find at this time. If you know of truly peer reviewed articles, I will add them. I tried to include the good and the bad so people can better understand their score.

http://flowalking.com/2013/05/what-does-walk-score-mean-the-surprising-results-of-scientific-research/

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Tony June 4, 2013 at 11:17 am

I would argue that there are more examples of where Walk Score gets it right, but do accept that you might disagree with some particular pair of comparisons.

Looking into the cited research some more, it seems that quotes were unfairly taken out to present a conclusion other than what the papers state as their conclusion.

Walk Score™ As a Global Estimate of Neighborhood Walkability — http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(10)00430-7/abstract — “Collectively, these findings support Walk Score as a free, easy-to-use, and quick proxy of neighborhood density and access to nearby amenities. However, positive associations between Walk Score and reported crime highlight a limitation of Walk Score and warrant caution of its use.”

“reported crime” is very different from “actual crime”. An objectively safer neighbourhood can very well have a higher reported crime rate, if the demographic’s culture is to report every disturbance. At the same time, if the population of an unsafe neighbourhood does not have a good relationship with the police, much crime may go unreported. This is described in more detail at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr-statistics-their-proper-use — “Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place.”

Validation of Walk Score for estimating access to walkable amenities — bjsportmed.com/content/45/14/1144.abstract — made no conclusions regarding crime. “Conclusion These results support Walk Score as a reliable and valid measure of estimating access to walkable amenities. Walk Score may be a convenient and inexpensive option for researchers interested in exploring the relationship between access to walkable amenities and health behaviours such as physical activity.”

Associations Between Neighborhood Amenity Density and Health Indicators Among Rural and Urban Youth — http://www.ajhpcontents.org/doi/abs/10.4278/ajhp.120711-ARB-342 — compares just “three middle schools” and the paper is not cited by any other according to scholar.google.com/

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retirebyforty June 3, 2013 at 11:30 pm

I know that I walk a lot more now that I live in a high walk score neighborhood. I would have just drove everywhere in my previous location. Yes, I know crime is higher, but it’s a much more dense neighborhood too.

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