This past summer's severe weather and the hope for some major snow storms this winter (I love snow and miss that part of living in Ohio) are just another in a long list of events we lived through in our house.  reinforced how great it is to have so many things at our immediate disposal within a short walk from our house.

From snow storms that have seemingly buried our car, to hurricanes, to the the desire to just spend less time driving in some of the worst traffic in the country, we often leave our car parked for days and even weeks at a time. It is fairly typical to go as many as three or four weeks without filling up the gas tank, and we only get about 15-17 miles per gallon.

Growing up in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, we're no strangers to the car required lifestyle. Where we're from you really can't go out or do anything more than a walk or jog without first getting into your car. It's just an accepted way of life and really you don't think twice about when you grow up in a setting like this.

When we moved to DC we decided to try to live with only one car, primarily for budgetary reasons, but still needed a car given the proximity of our apartment to conveniences. In a previous post we covered how we've been able to live and renovate where we do with just one impractical car between the two of us. I can't imagine doing that where we spent our formative years.

It wasn't until we moved into our house in Old Town that we realized just how possible it is to actually live car independent. Easy walking distance to grocery stores, the Metro, markets, shopping, drug stores, entertainment, attractions, and so much more. When friends or family come to visit, they often park when they arrive and leave their car parked until they leave.

All of this wonderful walkability is great and all, but quite honestly, we lucked into it. We knew we could get to the metro easily, but through the years of living in our house new stores, restaurants, and grocery locations have opened that just keep making the area better. I mean, right now we have a Giant, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Balducci's all within an easy walk of our place, and soon we can add a Harris Teeter to that list. That's six major grocery stores within a 15 minute walk, whereas my parents have one within a 15 minute drive. This all just fell in place around us. Like I said, luck! 

But now there is a tool available online to show you just how walkable your address is. The website, WalkScore.com, allows you to enter an address and will show you the proximity of the various necessities to make an area truly walkable. Local real estate agents have even tapped into this valuable resource and have been putting a listing's walk score on the profile page to highlight the ideal location of Old Town Alexandria.

Each address you enter provides you with a walk score out of 100. The higher the score, the better. I put in various addresses where we've lived over the years:

  • My parents' house - 0 (car dependent) 
  • My college address - 86 (very walkable)
  • First Apartment - 68 (somewhat walkable)
  • Wendy's parents' house - 12 (car dependent)

Then the moment of truth, we plugged in our current address and got.... wait for it... drumroll please.....

Walk Score - 98, Walker's Paradise!

Yep, our current address in the heart of Old Town is close enough to everything that it is considered a walker's paradise. This isn't a real surprise, but rather confirmation of what we've long suspected. 

I compared this to several over scores from around DC, Chicago, New York, and other major cities and they were all comparably scored. We did notice that some of the items weren't totally accurate, like a main admin office of the hospital being listed as the actual hospital, but I'll let it slide.

Looking back on growing up, I feel like I missed out on things by not being able to walk or ride my bike to just about anything I needed. I definitely think it turned me into more of a couch potato kid than I would have been if we had lived somewhere more urban. But that's ok, there's always time to change. 

Try out your address and let us know what kind of score your house has. Also, let us know if the results confirm what you think about your neighborhood or if it surprises you a bit.

Comments 6

Comments

10/20/2011 at 9:49 AM
Cool site -- I'm an 82 in the heart of Del Ray.
Wendy
10/20/2011
Thanks Katie! Del Ray is a great place. Isn't the town motto "where main street still exists"?
10/21/2011 at 10:33 AM
Yep, it's on the street sign posts so it's gotta be true!
10/20/2011 at 1:04 PM
My current address gets an 86, which I'm frankly surprised is so low. My wife's apartment from before we met, in the heart of Center City Philadelphia, gets a 98 as well. I can't imagine what you could change to make it 100, indeed, she didn't even have a driver's license. Simply didn't need it there.

The neighborhood in the suburb I grew up in just outside Boston got an 82. But, it was developed pre-WWII, before every household had at least two cars. It's the areas that were only built up starting in the 50s, back when gas stations would pay YOU to fill up there, that have the awful sprawl. It's like that by *design*.

New Urbanism is getting pretty mainstream, and I've noticed our generation (thirty-somethings and younger) really is flocking back to traditional city centers.
10/21/2011 at 11:15 AM
Okay, only got a 51 (somewhat walkable) ... but then we do live just south of Old Town in Huntington. Oddly, it appears that it did not count the Metro station as an amenity?!?
threadbndr
10/31/2011 at 1:08 PM
my house got a 55 - primarily due to the lack of neighborhood grocery stores, I think. The only ones in walking distance are a health food co-op (open to the public, but expensive) and a little ethnic market with a limited selection (but the most incredible home made tamales - made fresh by hand!!!)

We are close to hospitals and the main public library.
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