Scores of Scores: Methods to measure the features of communities

December 11, 2013

Do you know your Walk Score?  How about your Transit Score? Neighborhoods that are livable, walkable, sustainable and well-connected are increasingly the most desirable neighborhoods in a community.  But how do we measure these features?  And how can we make comparisons between neighborhoods?  Or regions?  Read on to learn about innovative methods to measure features like access to transit or bikeability.  Easy-to-use analysis tools can give communities a shared understanding for making decisions and can give individuals the information needed to make more informed choices. 

Walk Score

Walk Score measures the walkability of the area surrounding an address. To determine a score, Walk Score analyzes hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities, such as restaurants, parks, schools and grocery stores.  Short walks to a variety of amenities will earn high walk scores.  Walk Score also measures pedestrian friendliness by analyzing the length of blocks (shorter is better) and how many intersections there are in an area (more is better).  Walk Score is reported in the most recent Central Corridor Tracker

Walk Score has rated over 10,000 neighborhoods in nearly 3,000 communities including Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  Minneapolis has an average Walk Score of 65 and Saint Paul has an average Walk Score of 56, with a score of 89.3 for downtown Saint Paul – the highest in the Central Corridor (average Central Corridor Walk Score is 83).  For comparison, New York has an average Walk Score of 88 and San Diego has an average score of 49.  See more about Walk Score methodology and calculate the score for your address.   

Bike Score

Similarly, Bike Score measures how easy it is to bike in an area.  Bike Score is calculated by measuring bike infrastructure (lanes, trails, road connectivity), hills and destinations.  However, score developers realized that these three factors didn’t capture the important social nature of biking.  So they added a fourth component: the number of bike commuters in the area.  This is based on research demonstrating that more bikers in an area makes drivers more aware of bikers which, in turn, makes biking safer.  See more about the methodology of Bike Score.    

Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul receive high overall Bike Scores (79 and 63, respectively).  The Nice Ride bike sharing service as well as many miles of trails contribute to our high results.  Calculate the Bike Score for your address

Transit Score

Also produced by the developers of Walk Score and Bike Score is Transit Score.  Transit Score measures how well a location is served by transit using a scale from 0 – 100.  The score is calculated by analyzing the distance to the closest stop on each route, route frequency and transit type.  See more about Transit Score methodology.  Transit Score is available for about 300 cities in the United States, Canada and Australia, including Minneapolis (which has an overall Transit Score of 69).

To get news and updates about Walk Score’s work, including Bike Score and Transit Score, check out their blog covering a range of topics including real estate, biking, health, community life, lifestyle tips and advice, how to live more locally, authentic travel experiences, trends and news.

Park Score

The Trust for Public Land has developed the Park Score rating system to measure how well major U.S. cities are meeting the need for parks.  The scores are based on acreage of parks, number of playgrounds, local government spending on parks, and park access (measured by how many residents are within a 10-minute walk to a park).  See more about Park Score methodology

So far, TPL has calculated Park Scores for the 50 largest U.S. Cities, and Minneapolis ranks #1 overall!  Nationally, the percentage of the population living within a ten-minute walk of a public park ranges from 26 percent to 98 percent, with a percentage in Minneapolis of 95 percent.  See the complete rankings list.  

H + T Calculator

Housing costs are considered affordable at less than 30% of household income.  The location of housing can have a major impact on a family’s transportation expenses, but isn’t always considered when choosing a place to live.  For example, a less expensive home located far from regional job centers may have much higher transportation costs than a more expensive home near transit. 

The MSP Housing + Transportation Cost Calculator (adapted by the Urban Land Institute from the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s H + T Affordability Index) combines the costs of transportation and housing into one affordability index.  The tool helps to evaluate the actual costs of housing and transportation choices based on location.  This index is reported in the Central Corridor Tracker


Also developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a tool named Abogo helps measure how transportation impacts the affordability and sustainability of communities.  The tool calculates how much a typical household would spend on transportation and the CO2 impact of the transportation.  The calculations are displayed for any given address in the United States and for the greater regional area as well.

TOD database

The National TOD Database is a project of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development and provides economic and demographic information for every existing and proposed fixed guideway transit station in the U.S.  The database provides a wealth of information for existing and proposed transitways in the Twin Cities region.  Data are available at three geographic levels; the transit zone (the 1/2 mile buffer around the individual station), the transit shed (the combination of all transit zones), and lastly, the greater region. 

Browse the database (registration is required).