How walkable is your neighbourhood? - Give Me Back My Five Bucks
How walkable is your neighbourhood?

How walkable is your neighbourhood?

When you decide to buy real estate or move into a new rental apartment, most people are able to narrow down what they need from their new home – how many bedrooms, how much they can afford to pay each month, or how many parking spots they will get. But Realtors always say that the only thing you can’t change about your home is the location, and that’s why neighbourhood was the biggest consideration for me when I was buying my first home last year.

I depend heavily on a website called Walk Score. This website is amazing because it measures how easy it is to get around without a car. They use an algorithm based on the distance to amenities in different categories. Amenities within 0.25 miles receive maximum points, and no points are awarded to anything located outside of a 1-mile radius. They base their score out of 100, and use a variety of data sources including Google, Education.com, Open Street Map, and Localeze.

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Why your walk score is important:

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  • People in walkable neighborhoods weigh 6-10 lbs less.
  • Walkable places make you happier and healthier.
  • Short commutes reduce stress and increase community involvement.
  • Saves money on the cost of operating a vehicle.
  • Your feet are zero-pollution transportation machines.
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What makes a neighbourhood walkable?

To show you how Walk Score works, I took a screenshot of a neighbourhood called Gastown in downtown Vancouver. It’s one of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city, and as you can see, it scores 100/100 in walkability.

According to Walk Score, the walkability of a neighbourhood is based on the following criteria:

Why your walk score is important:

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  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.
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Great for people looking into a new neighbourhood

Walk Score is perfect for people looking at neighbourhoods they aren’t familiar with. I used Walk Score a lot when trying to find an apartment in Stuttgart, Germany. And back in Vancouver, I loved how it gave me quick information public transportation, my potential commute time (and cost), as well as specific amenities within the  neighbourhood.

For me, as long as everything that I need is within a 10-15 minute walk, I’m happy. Within a 5-minute walk of my home, I have a beautiful park with a running trail, two grocery stores, a liquor store, and a Starbucks. That’s all I need, right? :) My only complaint with the neighbourhood that I live in is that it’s a 20 minute walk to a SkyTrain station if I don’t take the bus. But I rarely take public transit anyway, so it’s not that big of a deal.

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[icon name="sign-in" size="small"] How walkable is your neighbourhood?

[icon name="sign-in" size="small"] Do you think your happiness is related to the walkability of your neighbourhood?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

15 comments

  1. I agree that the walkability of a neighbourhood is so, so important, especially for someone like me who doesn’t have a car. When I moved to a new city in May, I only went to see one apartment in person and I had already decided it was the one for me based on only its location.

    However, I caution a bit against relying solely on Walk Score because it generates a number based on a variety of factors, some of which may not be at all important for you. For example, my apartment has a Walk Score of only 28, and the neighbourhood score is an abysmal 18. A lack of nearby grocery stores is a definite problem, but the lack of schools doesn’t bother me, as I don’t have any children.

    I have a great pool nearby, a pharmacy, a post office, library, and good public transportation, and that’s all that matters to me. A very walkable neighbourhood without a pool or post office would make me far less happy.

    I guess I’m saying that a Walk Score is a fine place to start, but make sure that you identify specific things that are important to you in a neighbourhood, because one person’s Walk Score might be very different from another person’s.

  2. I agree with Paige. I found that WalkScore counts things as grocery stores that I don’t really count and sometimes, it can only be the one tiny corner store within a mile. But, WalkScore is a really good starting point and a really good way to see all of those amenities that are around you.

    I absolutely love that my condo is within walking distance of restaurants, grocery stores, a drugstore, and my office. It’s great!

  3. My Walk Score is 48 (Car Dependent). I disagree with this. Each of the places listed are less than 1 mile. But it fails to mention that exactly a mile away, we have an outdoor mall, at least 10 restaurants, a major grocery store, etc. This is helpful as we are a one car family.

  4. Thanks for this! I was helping my bf look for a new apt. and I was looking at a similar app. A walkable neighborhood is VERY important to me b/c I don’t have a car, plus part of the joy for me is the neighborhood. Having a local deli, drugstore, restaurants, cafe, etc. that I can depend on!

  5. My walk score is 6.. FAIL. The only things close by are a park and a school. Our old apartment was a 48 which was nice, but we kinda love being away from it all too :)

  6. My walkscore was 68. I don’t drive so it’s nice to be close to conveniences. That being said, I really like my neighbourhood so I don’t think I’d move.

  7. This would be super handy for someone looking to move to a new city!

    I know Auckland pretty well, but it was interesting to see what Walkscore thought of some of our areas. My neighbourhood got a 63 – we have a mall close by and a big strip of restaurants and shops, and are fairly central.

    It’s likely when we buy we’ll be forced out to a less walkable area, but in the meantime I’ve always valued location over all things when choosing a house , because I don’t have a car of my own.

  8. I guess it depends on how far you’re willing to walk! We have a three big grocery stores within a 15-20 min walk, which I don’t think is that big a deal, but this site didn’t account for 2 of them (which I actually think are closer by foot than the one they did note). My neighbourhood only got a 33, but I think it’s decently walk-able.

    • Yeah my neighbourhood got a WalkScore of 50, which I think is low. But that being said, I probably walk more than the average person, and like you, a 15-20 minute walk to get groceries is not a big deal. I walk 30 minutes to the store here in Stuttgart, and it’s been fine.

  9. I moved from a neighboorhood with a walk score of 0 to one with a walk score of 58. I will never go back to one with a 0 again! My family is so much happier now that we can walk to places.

  10. I’ve lived in places with scores in the 50s and 60s and currently live in one that gets a 98 – there’s no comparison at all.

    The lower score ones, you *could* walk but with the slightest excuse not to (the weather’s iffy / I’m in a hurry! / etc) you’ll hop in the car instead. The high score neighbourhood, you never use the car because it takes longer to drive and park than to walk somewhere in the first place.

    I’ve been entertaining moving to another neighbourhood that’s “just” an 82 to reduce my commute to walking distance but it’s a pretty hard sell when the commute is via (steps away) rapid transit already.

    • I definitely agree. I think my neighbourhood is very walkable. Most of the time, I don’t mind strolling the 15 minutes to main area of the city, but if I’m in a rush, I will almost always take my car for the 2 minute drive instead.

  11. I didn’t take the quiz but I’m pretty sure that the WalkScore of my neighborhood is 0 but the pro of not having a WalkScore is privacy. To me, being able to walk to everything means that it is completely crowded. I do agree that walking is important but I prefer to walk because I want to not because I can’t afford to park a car in my neighborhood.

    • For me, it’s not about walking because I can’t afford to park a car… it’s about walking because it’s nice not to rely on transit or a car to get around. I like being able to walk to the centre of town in less than 20 minutes, and I like that my grocery store is a 5 minute walk away. It’s about choice. If I don’t want to take my car, I don’t have to. But that being said, I agree with you about privacy. I prefer my neighbourhood (with a WalkScore of 50) over the crowded, busy neighbourhoods with higher scores. It’s a lot more peaceful where I live, and I guess it’s about finding the balance that’s right for you.

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