How Walkable is Harrisonburg?

DebSF -- May 25th, 2008

This site calculates the walk score of your neighborhood based on how closed grocery stores, parks, library, etc., are to you (and, interestingly enough, porn shops but not places of worship). Joe and I live off Central Avenue near Keister; our house has an index of 48 out of 100, which feels about right. Some of the distances they list seem to be as the crow flies–there is no way to walk there without covering much more ground or going by routes that are extremely hostile to pedestrians, like no sidewalks and cars whooshing past at 55 mph.

According to the site, your Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100.   They are the first to admit that the index is an approximation, with a number of factors (topography, safety, temperature, etc) left out of the algorithm:

  • 90 – 100 = Walkers’ Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
  • 70 – 90 = Very Walkable: It’s possible to get by without owning a car.
  • 50 – 70 = Some Walkable Locations: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
  • 25 – 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.

All of the locations shown on Walk Score come directly from the Google Maps API.  The site hopes that businesses will use this to estimate how walkable their location might be to potential customers.

16 Responses to “How Walkable is Harrisonburg?”

  1. Emmy says:

    My neighborhood scored a 29 which I find a little hard to believe, but when I look at why it scores that way, I understand. If it were solely on leisure walking, I think the score would be higher.

  2. The address for Urban Exchange, the new condos in downtown Harrisonburg, is 238 East Water Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801. This might not be too much of a surprise, but the walk score for Urban Exchange is . . . 94 out of 100!

  3. As I’ve looked further, there are some questionable data points on walkscore.com. Hopefully the data will get better over time. For example, LPL Financial and SunTrust are listed as grocery stores!? :)

  4. Del says:

    “This might not be too much of a surprise, but the walk score for Urban Exchange is . . . 94 out of 100!”

    I see that under parks, walkscore.com lists the Urban Exchange as a quarter of a mile from the George Washington National Forest.

  5. Frank J Witt says:

    http://www.walkscore.com/get-score.php?street=31+Emery+Street%2C+Harrisonburg%2C+VA+22801&go=Go

    Hey Deb, even though we live a mere 300 yards away, that makes a big difference. I don’t think this is very precise though.

  6. Del — that’s funny — I hadn’t scrolled down that far. Yes — there is some questionable data about items surrounding Urban Exchange, as well as many Harrisonburg locations.

    For example, if you pull up DebSF’s house, you’ll see Sheetz and “Fast Fuels” as grocery stores, and “Old School Auction”, Halterman Karate, and “Jiggers Bartending” as a schools (all within 1 mile). :) It would be interesting to know if the data is more accurate in larger metro areas…

  7. linz says:

    The data discrepancies explain a lot, b/c we live near Emmy, and I agree our score seemed awfully low for our neighborhood b/c we have a lot survival and leisure options within walking distance, as well as wide, safe, clean roads on which to walk. Still a cool project, though, and I hope it gets even better with time.

  8. Justin C says:

    My townhouse is a 9 / 100 while my office is a 92/100. The thing is, I walk from one to the other. Hmmmmm, maybe the data does have some tweaking left to do.

  9. JGFitzgerald says:

    Further into the site: “We’ll be the first to admit that Walk Score is just an approximation of walkability. There are a number of factors that contribute to walkability that are not part of our algorithm.”

    Also: “All of the locations shown on Walk Score come directly from the Google Maps API. Unfortunately, some listings may be missing or out of date. Business owners can go here to update their listings. Google does not provide a way for people to update the business listings in their neighborhood.”

  10. Justin says:

    I live on 18th St in Grottoes.

    I got a 17/100.

    There’s really not much to drive to in Grottoes, much less walk to.

  11. David Miller says:

    This idea is great but the data is worthless, Suntrust as a grocery, Blue Ridge Theater?? Restless promotions as a bar on south main??

  12. Renee says:

    Well, you can’t blame WalkScore for the inaccuracies. If you search “grocery” in Harrisonburg, VA on Google Maps, you will get all of the normal stores 1st, then you can see some random things further down the list. For instance, apparently SunTrust is listed as grocery because that SunTrust ATM location is in Martin’s grocery store. I think only the business owner can log in and correct those inaccuracies in Google’s database.

  13. Renee says:

    My house only got a 9 which is about right. Beautiful and safe neighborhood to walk around in, but since I’m over by harrisonburg high school, there is not much within a short walk. To get to Wal-Mart, I’d have to walk on Erickson where there are no sidewalks. I try to bike to downtown occasionally, but I’m out of shape, so I always have to walk up that hill by THMS on 33!

    Even though a lot of the business categories are wrong, this would give a general estimate of how many shops there are in the area surrounding the house.

    My downtown office got a 94 since it’s right in Court Square! When it gets hot, I’m sure I’ll be walking to Kline’s when I’m taking a break.

  14. David Miller says:

    Renee, good points except “Well, you can’t blame WalkScore for the inaccuracies. “. because that’s exactly what I am doing. The Suntrust by my house is not in a Martins and the theater doesn’t exist and Restless promotions is a figment of the google mind. Mongers isn’t a hardware store, El Sol is classified as a Coffee Shop, GW is not .22 miles from my house. No biggie though, since I already knew how walker friendly my house is. They did get the library, Burger King, Blue Ridge, Downtown Books and Harrisonburg Fitness right, I’ll give em that! :)

  15. David, Restless Promotions is based in Washington DC and in Harrisonburg VA, not a “figment of the google mind” as you call it. I assure you, we are quite real. We promote dozens of events in Clubs and Bars in both cities, we just don’t have a storefront location. We employ a team of 20 DJs and promoters across both cities. When it came to selecting a location for Google Maps, We just chose South Main Street because we do not have public offices. You can learn more about us and the events we host in Harrisonburg and Washington DC at http://www.restlesspromo.com .

    Cheers,
    DJ Mark Maskell
    President, Restless Promotions

  16. Renee says:

    Hi David,
    See Mark’s post above (Hi Mark!) – that’s what I meant about not blaming the walking website for the inaccurracies. They just display whatever is stored in Google’s databases, and as you mentioned, sometimes business owners make the call on that. Also, the algorithms they use to categorize places aren’t perfect, so the business owners would have to log in and correct them in order to make it more accurate – WalkScore can’t do anything about that.

    As a software developer who loves websites that offer services and APIs that are free for the public to consume, I deal with those positives and negatives when developing new programs. All of these sites that use Google rely both on Google’s web services being up, and rely on their data integrity.

    I think it’s a neat little service they offer, despite its imperfections.

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