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walk from your houseAre you looking for a new place to live? Are you concerned about the cost of living? Consider this – you can save a lot of money simply by walking instead of driving to run errands or to get to work. From getting groceries to shopping for gadgets, walking is good for you and the absolute cheapest way to get around.

So a cheap apartment in the suburbs might end up costing you more money than one in the city, if you end up needing to burn expensive fuel anytime you leave the house. Combine that cost with the hidden expenses of driving, from wear and tear on your car to the risk of an accident, and the advantages of walking become clear pretty quickly.

WalkScore helps you figure out how walkable any address is, helping you determine an important part of a given home’s value. It is a perfect tool to supplement any housing search. To quote their website:

Our vision is for every property listing to read: Beds: 3 Baths: 2 Walk Score: 84. We want to make it easy for people to evaluate walkability and transportation when choosing where to live.

This is an admirable goal. Walking increases quality of life, so why shouldn’t it be a key part of any housing search? We’ve shown you the top 5 apartment search sites Top 5 U.S. Apartment Search Engines Top 5 U.S. Apartment Search Engines Read More already. WalkScore makes all of them better by focusing on one important factor. It officially works in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand; other countries might work as well but not fully.

Checking Any Address

Head to WalkScore and enter an address. You’ll then see a map and a collection of results:

walk from your house

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This is the main way you’ll use the site: doing research on any potential apartment or house you’re thinking about living in. You’ll see a run-down of nearby essentials, ranging from groceries to entertainment to schools. You’ll also see an overall score for the address, giving you a way to compare its walk-ability with other addresses.

Don’t have a particular address in mind? You can bring up a list of neighborhoods in just about any city.

walk from your home

This will give you an idea of areas you might want to check out during your housing search.

Another factor to consider: how will you be getting to work? Walk Score lets you calculate your commute time and how much it will cost. Whether you plan on driving, walking, biking or taking the bus, this tool covers it all.

walk from your home

Once you figure out your commute costs, you can calculate the overall costs of living in a particular place. There’s a built-in tool for doing this:

walk from your house

You can combine your rent and your commuting costs with this, giving you an idea of the hidden costs of a cheap, car-dependent home. Remember, living in the suburbs may seem cheaper, but the total cost of commuting and rent might add up to more. Using this tool lets you determine whether that’s true or not in your situation.

How Does It Work?

So how does this site calculate Walk Scores? Good question. The site’s creators explain:

The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on the distance to the closest amenity in each category. If the closest amenity in a category is within .25 miles (or .4 km), we assign the maximum number of points. The number of points declines as the distance approaches 1 mile (or 1.6 km) – no points are awarded for amenities further than 1 mile. Each category is weighted equally and the points are summed and normalized to yield a score from 0–100. The number of nearby amenities is the leading predictor of whether people walk.

This seems reasonable to me, and I’m finding the tool very useful. I want to hear from you guys, though. How walkable is the place where you live? Share scores below, along with any other sustainability tools I might not know about.

  1. Chris Hoffman
    February 2, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Wow, this is an awesome idea!

    I'm not all that sold on the rankings, though -- my current location is rated at 60/100 and it's a North American suburb. The location I stayed in downtown Paris last summer is rated at 73/100, but they're worlds apart. (Although they admit they don't have enough data for France.)

    Seems almost like video game reviews -- the scores are perhaps a bit inflated.

    • jhpot
      February 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Where I grew up, which is in rural Canada, the score is 6. We couldn't walk anywhere, really. So I think the scale is simply bigger than you're thinking: the suburbs aren't great to walk in, but you probably could get to a grocery store walking if you wanted to.

      As for Paris, I'm sure the problem is lack of data. Try an equivalent area in North American, like Manhattan, and you'll find plenty of 95s.

      • Chris Hoffman
        February 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        You're right. My standards are probably way too high.

        Downtown Vancouver gives me a 100 score, so it looks good. I take it back! This app works brilliantly (for North America, at least.)

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