Home > Complete Streets, Cultural Movement, Economics, Walking > Applying Walk Score: More Than Good Real Estate Choices-Part II

Applying Walk Score: More Than Good Real Estate Choices-Part II


In the previous post (part I), I asked readers to guess who lived at the addresses represented by a collection of Walk Scores plotted on the map below. If you’re landing here and don’t know about Walk Score, please read part I for an explanation.

The answer: The locations ranked and plotted below are the addresses of the seven City Commissioners in Traverse City, one of which belongs to the mayor’s previous home–he recently made a move from a “Somewhat Walkable” neighborhood  into the “Very Walkable” Central Neighborhood, but I used the old address.

Is it surprising to anyone that the average Walk Score of our city commission, in a city where the average Walk Score is 70, is a measly 42 and thus, “Car-Dependent?”

Is it any wonder those of us seeking complete streets struggle when it comes to having the City fund basic urban amenities like sidewalks? At least four of the 7 commissioners live in suburbia-lite despite being within the city limits. Making the case for walking to be valued as an asset is predictably a hard sell to people who have chosen to live in cul-de-sacs, on large lots removed from neighbors and in places where a 2, 3, or 4 car garage is the norm. The lowest Walk Score amongst our City Commissioners is one of the lowest I’ve ever seen at 12–is that “Car-Dependent-plus?” *

The Windshield Perspective

Now, whether someone lives in a car-dependent location or not doesn’t in itself predict their ability to empathize with and support a more balanced approach to our city streets. Where we choose to live is a result of many factors, not all of which relate to walkability, and commissioners can be convinced by the merits of a project regardless of where they live. For example, the commissioner with the low score of “12” was convinced of the need for a controversial sidewalk (MyWHaT) on Barlow St. last spring. However, it does offer a good gage on whether they are making judgments through knowledge gained on foot or through the perspective of a windshield at 30-50 miles per hour. And, it’d be nice if sidewalks weren’t controversial items within the city grid.

Something To Consider When You Choose

I look forward to using addresses of the candidates for the four commission seats (3 commissioners, 1 mayor) this November.

Just like I wouldn’t buy a house simply on its Walk Score, I won’t be voting simply based on a Walk Score, however, it does instruct on what motivates and informs a candidate, because how we experience the City is a key element to our understanding and vision for it.

A few questions to consider:

  • Is a candidate that lives in a “Somewhat Walkable” location and is fired up about making it better also likely to share similar values on other issues as myself?
  • Is someone who lives in a “Walker’s Paradise” (7th and Union gets a 94!) and already understands the value of that, ready to help other parts of the city thrive?
  • Is someone who lives in the relative boonies of the city, drives everywhere without question and is hard pressed to see the value of the burgeoning front porch culture in Traverse City ready to see how supporting more urban parts of the city connect is in the City’s financial interest (Big City)?

I’m excited to find out who is running this fall, and, among other things, to see where they live.

What about you? Is there value in using Walk Score to assess candidates? How so? 

Have you used Walk Score in the past for something else? 


* How does one address receive a “12” when nearby addresses receive scores 20 points higher? This particular score is due to the home being at the end of a cul-de-sac that is at the end of a very long and disconnected street. There is only one way in and out, and so by default there is a lack of options and thus, a lack of walkability in an already remote place. 

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  1. Greg
    April 27, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Your true colors are starting to show. Because you CHOOSE to walk does not mean everyone else must walk. You comment, with negative tone, that one CC lives in an area where the walk score of 12 and you will look at future candidates walk score. I would like to think issues of a candidate would be more important than a walking score. On another point, it looks like the traffic calming issue is now dead on Cass and Union. This area has the highest walk score of the city.

  2. April 27, 2011 at 11:59 am

    ..and, because some choose to drive, doesn’t mean others must drive or help over subsidize one mode over others. In fact, it’s a balance. I personally drive plenty (8-10,000 miles a year) and have noticed a distinct difference in how I view a place depending on the mode I choose. Even riding a bus reveals a different perspective and one outside of the norm for myself-I learn something new about our public spaces every-time I take public transit.

    I tried to be very clear that this exercise is only one consideration. That said, I do want to know where a candidate lives, not to “judge” them, but to inform myself to better ascertain what questions I will ask and to better understand the “values” they have. I may indeed ask a candidate who lives on the edge of the city if they ever ride a bike into town, and even if they say no, I may find that they have a perfectly legitimate reason not to–perhaps, the infrastructure is simply not convenient or perceived safe enough for them to do so. Or, perhaps they have an injury and are car-dependent for a completely different set of circumstances than their Walk Score.

    In the end, people have many different reasons for why they live where they do and how they move about. I care less about all that than I do about the awareness and understanding of others that they exhibit. So, the challenge isn’t about where people live, it is rather, are they able to show empathy and understanding for others’ needs despite apparent differences in daily perspectives. This is one construct among many.

    ADDED: Regarding traffic calming on Cass St. The score doesn’t take into account typical motorist behavior in a location, but rather it’s predicted walkability. So, yes Old Town is very walkable, but that experience is degraded due to the impact of motorized traffic through the corridor. Traffic calming would go a long way in helping ease that.

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