With new features that allow users to calculate commute cost and time and search for housing, Walk Score has a lot of analytic mojo behind it
The popular online neighborhood-rating tool Walk Score is pure genius. It takes a simple (if also sometimes hard to measure accurately) concept -- proximity to conveniences within walking distance -- and turns it into a measure that can be rated on a 100-point scale. My house gets a "very walkable" 75; my downtown office is a "walker's paradise" at 97; my suburban in-laws' house rates a "somewhat walkable" 54. And I learned all three scores in less than a minute: type in an address and you're there.
What Walk Score is telling me is that I can reach more useful places -- shops, offices, transit stops, restaurants, and so forth -- on foot from my office than from my house, even though I can reach many from my house. And that both house and office are more conveniently located than my in-laws' place, though there are at least some amenities within a short distance from their house. Though one can quibble with precise numbers and definitions, those findings match up well with my real-world observations and experience.
Walk Score works so well because of its simplicity to the user. And, since the site first went online a few years ago, it has continued to get incrementally better. For example, I last wrote about the site two years ago when it began to incorporate transit; now we take that for granted, with Walk Score helpfully reporting which transit stops are what distance away from the starting point. The site now reveals that my house has a "Transit Score" of 66, with 16 nearby routes and six stops within a half-mile (including Metro rail, 0.42 miles away).