Walk Score ‘ChoiceMaps’ show depth of neighborhood amenities

Tool can measure neighborhood development over time

Amid growing interest in how access to amenities impacts neighborhood desirability and property values, Walk Score recently debuted a new feature that enables people to gauge the range of choice people in certain areas have over different conveniences, like restaurants and public transit.

Drawing on historical data, the feature also provides analysts with a new tool to measure neighborhood development over time, the company says.

Screen shot of Walk Score ChoiceMaps tool.
Screen shot of Walk Score ChoiceMaps tool.

“It’s just adding a significantly additional layer of insight that goes beyond access and looks at choice,” said Josh Herst, CEO of Walk Score.

People may use “ChoiceMaps,” which produces a heatmap to illustrate its findings, to calculate the average number of public transit spots, car and bike shares, schools, grocery stories, coffee shops or restaurants there are within a specified walk time in a neighborhood or city.

In Midtown Manhattan, for example the tool shows that the average resident can walk to 1,251 restaurants in 20 minutes. In contrast, residents of Topeka, Kan. may only reach an average of seven restaurants in 20 minutes, according to ChoiceMaps.

The feature also determines the share of people in a given area that may walk to certain amenities in certain period of times. For example, in Washington, D.C. the tool finds that 34 percent of people can walk to grocery providers within five minutes.

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The debut of the tool dovetails with growing interest among real estate experts in how a neighborhood’s access to amenities as well as its general “walkability” impact quality of life and property values.

A study commissioned by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) recently found that access to public transit tends to make the property values of neighborhoods much more resilient in the face of housing downturns.

“Stable property values in areas of public transit have a very clear policy implication,” Darnell Grisby, director of policy development and research at APTA, told Inman News last month. “Congress, state and local government should look for ways to promote growth … by investing in more public transportation.”

Meanwhile, a 2009 study corroborated the price premium of walkability. It found a one-point increase in Walk Score was associated with an increase in value ranging from $500 to $3,000, depending on the market.

Walk Scores are generated by the company Walk Score, and are determined based on a neighborhood’s walking distance to different destinations.

As the benefits of walkability and access to amenities becomes clearer, some cities are backing plans that foster their development. Washington, D.C., for example, recently introduced a sustainability plan that aims to put healthy food within a five-minute walk of 75 percent of residents.

Walk Score is touting the ChoiceMaps as a tool that real estate analysts may use to track the progress of such initiatives. Walk Score data subscribers, people like urban planners who use Walk Score data for projects, now may use the tool to look at historical and trend data pertaining to choice of amenities.

“Cities can use Walk Score to track the percentage of residents who can access various amenities — and how this changes over time.  Real estate analysts can track whether a neighborhood is becoming more or less walkable or how public transit service is increasing or decreasing,” Walk Score CEO Matt Lerner wrote in a blog post introducing ChoiceMaps.