New Walk Score app: Another step forward for walkabilitySeptember 25, 2012
By David Goldberg
Few single actions have helped advance the cause of walkable neighborhoods more than the launch of WalkScore.com a few years ago. In a simple and elegant formulation, Walk Score summed up what it meant to be “walkable” and put a value on it. Since then, every real estate web site worth visiting has added it as a must-have feature, and apartment-hunters don’t leave home without it.
Today, Walk Score had more good news for walkability advocates. They’re going one step farther, moving past mere numbers to offer a crowd-sourced tour of what a neighborhood has to offer, and how easy or perilous it is to get there on foot. Walk Score has added an interactive feature on their popular iPhone app and website that allows you to upload photos of “neighborhoods gems” and “problem spots”. Others can then comment and vote them, and the app maps the highest-rated additions onto the virtual tour.
Whether you are considering a move or just want to learn more about neighborhoods around you, you can benefit from, and take part in, the aggregation of inside dope on what the place is really like. And what could be more fun: Take a walk in the neighborhood, shoot photos of the cool farmers market, public art or hang-out, document the missing crosswalk or dodgy intersection, and share with everyone else.
“We’re excited, because this is the first thing we’ve done that moves beyond numbers to the esthetic and qualitative,” said Matt Lerner, co-founder and chief technology officer at Walk Score. “A lot of people want to respond to their score. I get long emails from people telling me the score doesn’t tell the whole story about my neighborhood. … And obviously, a ‘90’ score in Brooklyn might very different qualitatively from a ‘90’ in Portland.” Both eminently walkable, in terms of meeting your daily needs and desires, but each its own thing.
“We’re hoping that the app becomes a useful tool for walkabilty advocates,” Lerner added. “It’s an easy way to do a walkability audit that can highlight what’s good or needs to be fixed in a given neighborhood.”
The app got a beta test in that regard from Feet First, a statewide pedestrian advocacy group in Seattle. Staffers used the app to highlight the good bad and the ugly of navigating several neighborhoods, creating a “walk audit” that can be used to press for improvements.
“This innovative technology increases the number of ‘eyes on the street’ that can capture information in real time,” said Lisa Quinn, executive director of Feet First. “The app provides an easy way to collect visual information to identify critical problems and community assets. With limited budgets, this app is a valuable resource for advocacy organizations and government agencies that are looking to invest their time and money into projects that will provide safe, easy and accessible ways for people to choose to walk.”
Technologically speaking, these are exciting times for those who want to make their neighborhoods and cities better places to live. Apps like SeeClickFix allow people to flag repair issues that need addressing, while apps like Blockee give them an easy way to envision improvements to the streetscape.
Lerner said Walk Score wants feedback about how this can be a better tool for walkabilty advocates. So give it a spin, and let Matt and company know what you think and what other features could help you advance the cause.