17 July 2008

Targeting walkability

It's difficult to come up with robust indicators of well-being. This difficulty is particularly obvious when we are thinking about which goals a Social Policy Bond could target. But it's just as relevant, if more obscure, when we look at policymaking under the current regime. Many indicators of well-being are good at the basic level. At the lower levels of wealth, income, nutrition, literacy, for instance, numerical indicators (dollars, caloric intake, ability to read) are both easy to measure and strongly correlated to well-being. At higher levels, such correlations tend to break down.

If we needed, though, indicators for well-being at a community, or neighbourhood level, I'd think seriously about including walkability. Here's the complete post from Grist:

Software company Front Seat has released a ranking of the most walkable U.S. cities, rating the relative distance to and density of businesses like grocery stores, bars, book stores, and coffee shops to calculate an overall walkability score. San Francisco took top honors, followed by New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia; the lowest scoring cities were Jacksonville, Fla.; Nashville; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; and Oklahoma City. The rankings also singled out the nation's most walkable neighborhoods, with Tribeca, Little Italy, and Soho in NYC placing first. "It's both healthy for the Earth and for humans to be able to walk to most of the places they need," said Kate White of the Urban Land Institute. "Your carbon footprint is significantly lower than someone who has to drive everywhere ... and you're able to have real neighborhoods where you're not totally separated from your neighbors." People [in the US] can see their own 'hood's walkability score at Walkscore.com.

I like this idea. With quantification comes the possibility of measurement and targeting. There are always going to be other criteria, but walkability, I think, is important, and deserves a higher rating in town planning than it has right now.

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