Courtesy of Ian David Moss, I just discovered Walk Score, which rates relative walkability-vs.-car dependence on a citywide as well as a neighborhood level. It's imperfect, but nevertheless fascinating, since I recently figured out I've lived 11 separate places in my life.
The walkability trend for me has mostly been on the upswing, though my childhood home, in a solidly middle-class Scottsdale neighborhood, gets a 55 score ("somewhat walkable"), while the slightly more upscale Phoenix address I grew up in from sixth grade through high school, where my dad still lives, gets a measly 37 ("car dependent"). My L.A. address scores may be a little misleading, because my longtime neighborhood of Echo Park, which gets a handy 58 score, actually had fewer amenities nearby when I lived there throughout the '90s, while the last place I lived in L.A., in Los Feliz, has a surprising score of 82. I mean, I know I walked a lot when I lived there--I literally spent whole days without recourse to a car--but I thought that's just because I was a cash-poor, home-based freelancer. My current Greenpoint, Brooklyn address only fares a bit better, with a score of 86, while my current midtown workplace gets 100, and this highlights another flaw in Walk Score's admittedly flawed methodology: which neighborhoods are more pleasant to walk in.
Actually, Walk Score's list of Top 10 most walkable cities is an eye opener:
1. San Francisco
2. New York
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Long Beach, Calif.
9. Los Angeles
L.A. beats Portland? News to me!
(Photo by Jean-François Lanzarone)