Traffic is terrible. One solution? Walk.
Walk Score ranked Seattle as the 8th most walkable major U.S. city this year, with an overall rating of 70.8. They also provided specific ratings for each Seattle neighborhood, so you can find out exactly how walkable an area is.
Savvy homebuyers often ask us walkability questions when shopping for real estate:
“How close is the grocery store?”
“Can I walk to a park in the evenings?”
“Will I need to drive everywhere if I move here?”
In Seattle, those questions usually turn up good answers. Besides convenience and avoiding traffic, walking helps the environment, saves you the hassle of finding a parking spot, and gives you free exercise—and in the right neighborhoods, it’s pretty darn enjoyable, too.
A Walk Score of 70.8 and a position as 8th best in the country seems like good news for us. But how much does Walk Score really know about our city?
“The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on the distance to the closest amenity in each category [including businesses, parks, theaters, schools, and other common destinations]. 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 farther 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.”
Some factors Walk Score doesn’t consider: (1) elevation; (2) sidewalks. But that information is available in other locations, and we’ve compiled it here.
“We have hills! Everywhere!” some might say. “You can’t walk in Seattle!”
That’s a good point. Walking in Seattle can be a calf-killer. But if you avoid the steep streets, it’s still a walkable city.
This map from Floodmap shows the city’s elevation. Although Walk Score doesn’t take hills into consideration, a quick glance here will give you all the extra elevation information you need. Upper Queen Anne to Lower Queen Anne? Forget about it. But South Lake Union to Belltown? Easy!
Walk Score also doesn’t take sidewalks into account. You might have a grocery store half a mile from your new house, but to get there, you’d have to make an expedition along the shoulder of a busy street. And who wants to walk beside 35 mph vehicles while carrying overflowing bags of groceries?
Fortunately, we found a detailed map of all the city’s sidewalks. This thing shows every sidewalk as well as the surface of those sidewalks. Asphalt, concrete, brick—you get the picture. But the most important feature it shows is the “unimproved sidewalk,” also known as grass, gravel, or dirt. Also known as “not really a sidewalk.” This information is crucial for determining if a neighborhood really is walkable or not.
Between Walk Score, the elevation map, and the sidewalk map, we get a clear idea of just how walkable a place is. On the whole, Seattle still fares quite well. But when you break it down on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, a wide divide forms.
Some of the best:
- Downtown (Walk Score 98)
- Pioneer Square (98)
- Belltown (97)
- First Hill (97)
- International District (97)
- South Lake Union (91)
- Lower Queen Anne (91)
- Capitol Hill (91)
- University District (91)
- Central District (89)
Some of the worst:
- Matthews Beach (33)
- Rainier Beach (39)
- South Beacon Hill (40)
- View Ridge (40)
- Broadview (41)
When you’re looking at that new home, consider its walkability. A walkable neighborhood means easier errands, a cleaner environment, and a healthier lifestyle. And maybe best of all: less time stuck in traffic.