Can a neighborhood be too walkable?
In an interesting post on her blog All About Cities, Wendy Waters asks, “Is there such a thing as too much walkability?”
Waters, a real estate investment analyst, uses the Walk Score tool — which, as she points out, is increasingly popular among both sellers and buyers of real estate to measure the desirability of a property — and discovers that her home scores a 98. Then she goes on to wonder if that might not be excessive for some people:
There is undeniable evidence of housing preferences shifting from auto-centered suburban locations to more walkable, higher-density urban spaces.
But does everyone want perfect walkability? Do they want to have all amenities they’ll ever need in close proximity — given that often comes with higher car, foot, and bike traffic, as well as noise?…
[I]f I run a Walk Score in another neighbourhood with a different population profile (slightly older), in what I would consider a walkable location, same one-block distance from the main shopping strip as my home… 85 comes up.
There are no pubs nearby, and a slightly lower quantity of stores in each category, which accounts for the lower score. If you’re usually in bed by 10 p.m., and are content with two pharmacies rather than four, is this locale “less walkable” to you than the 98? Probably not, since you don’t use the nearby amenities that achieved a 98.
A couple decades ago, few people wanted walkability — they wanted quiet, or the perceived security of auto-centered life. Today, many want the opposite. But maybe we’ve gone too far in thinking everybody should have everything close by? Perhaps even more people would embrace an urban life with an 85 Walkscore?
It’s a good question, especially if you are trying to defuse the “war” between suburban and urban lifestyles, and counter the impression that “density” can only mean living packed together like sardines.
My home ranks 98 on walkability, according to Walk Score, and it scores 100 on the site’s Transit Score feature. That suits me just fine. What is the Walk Score of the place you live? Are you happy with it?