A.L. gets a low Walk ScorePublished 9:49am Thursday, April 5, 2012
Albert Lea garners a 37 out of 100 on new website that offers property buyers scores to sum up how walkable a city or a neighborhood is.
The site, Walk Score, labels Albert Lea as “car-dependent.” That’s because www.walkscore.com takes into consideration how little an automobile is needed for daily living. In other words, the closer the stores are to a place, the better the score.
“If I lived and worked in Minneapolis, I might not need a car,” Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr said. “Would people trade the Albert Lea lifestyle for Minneapolis? I don’t think so.”
He said the site benefits urban places like Minneapolis, where residential neighborhoods often have corner stores right in the neighborhood.
Albert Lea, on the other hand, has its businesses concentrated in about five general locations: downtown, Bridge Avenue, East Main Street, West North Street and South Broadway.
He said Albert Lea has added many miles of sidewalk in recent years since the 2009 AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project, which strongly advocated walking to improve health and formed local walking groups called the Walking Moai. And Kehr noted Albert Lea has many popular walking routes, whether it is the Blue Zones Walkway around Fountain Lake, the Blazing Star Trail or Edgewater Park.
Walk Score, however, fails to consider proximity to popular walking routes in its scores. The site aims to appeal to real estate professionals touting walkable locations.
Real estate agent Dawn Freeman said the score seems to reflect whether people can reduce their automobile use rather than one to determine whether people like walking in their neighborhood.
That fits with how Walk Score plainly says it wants to promote walking while curbing automobile use. It also has a page where real estate professionals can pay to market a place’s score. For instance, a Walk Score flier is $5. The makers of the site clearly also want to make money from the rankings.
Freeman said she can see how the website would be helpful to people new to a community, particularly for finding landmarks and businesses near a property, but noted the for-profit aspect might skew the numbers a bit toward urban locations.
And she said it doesn’t factor the places where people enjoy walking more than other locations. More people like to walk around Fountain Lake than they do the north end of Bridge Avenue, yet the north end gets high scores and Fountain Lake away from the downtown gets low scores.
The site has been featured in media outlets from USA Today to the Wall Street Journal to the Boston Globe and even the National Recreation and Park Association trade publication.
Cambridge, Mass., presently wears the crown as the most walkable city in the United States. New York is in second place; Jersey City, N.J., third; San Francisco fourth and Berkeley, Calif., fifth.
The only Midwestern cities in the top 25 are Chicago, at eighth, and Minneapolis, at 20th.
Walking scores for area cities
Albert Lea 37 Car-dependent
Austin 44 Car-dependent
Faribault 35 Car-dependent
Hastings 39 Car-dependent
Lakeville 24 Car-dependent
Owatonna 34 Car-dependent
Mankato 50 Somewhat walkable
Mason City 46 Car-dependent
Minneapolis 69 Somewhat walkable
Northfield 40 Car-dependent
Rochester 37 Car-dependent
St. Paul 62 Somewhat walkable
Willmar 41 Car-dependent
Winona 52 Somewhat walkable
(Citywide scores for Blue Earth, Fairmont, Red Wing and Worthington were unavailable.)
for various places in Albert Lea
Albert Lea City Hall 68
Albert Lea City Arena 5
Albert Lea Tribune 48
Brookside Edu. Center 20
Bus stop (Eastside Shell) 43
Eastgate Park 25
Freeborn County Courthouse 63
Halverson Elem. School 23
Hawthorne Elem. School 51
Lakeview Park 6
Lakeview Elem. School 34
Marion Ross PAC 68
Northbridge Mall 89
Southwest Middle School 54
Skyline Plaza 46
Riverland Community College 71
Sondergaard Park 9