Validation of Walk Scores and Transit Scores for estimating neighborhood walkability and transit availability: a small-area analysis
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We investigated the validity of Walk Scores and Transit Scores from the Walk Score website using several objective geographic information systems (GIS) measures of neighborhood walkabiltiy and transit availability based on 400- and 800-m street network buffers. Address data come from the 2008 Boston Youth Survey Geospatial Dataset, a school-based sample of public high school students in Boston, MA with complete residential address information (n = 1,292). GIS data were used to create multiple objective measures of neighborhood walkability and transit availability. We also obtained Walk Scores and Transit Scores. We calculated Spearman correlations of Walk Scores and Transit Scores with the GIS neighborhood walkability/transit availability measures as well as Spearman correlations accounting for spatial autocorrelation. Several significant correlations were observed between Walk Score and 400-m buffer GIS measures of neighborhood walkability; all significant correlations were found for the 800-m buffer. All correlations between Transit Scores and GIS measures of neighborhood transit availability were also significant (all p < 0.0001). However, the magnitude of correlations varied by the GIS measure and neighborhood definition. Relative to the 400-m buffer, correlations for the 800-m buffer were higher. This study suggests that Walk Score is a good, convenient tool to measure certain aspects of neighborhood walkability and transit availability (such as density of retail destinations, density of recreational open space, intersection density, residential density and density of subway stops). However, Walk Score works best at larger spatial scales.
KeywordsNeighborhood walkability Transit availability Walk Score Validity Small-area analysis Transit score
Color reproduction costs were supported by funds from the Alonzo Smythe Yerby Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at Harvard School of Public Health and the Department of Geography at the University at Buffalo. The 2008 Boston Youth Survey (BYS) was funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Grant # U49CE00740) to the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center at Harvard School of Public Health (David Hemenway, PhD, Principal Investigator), and was conducted in collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission (Barbara Ferrer, Director), Boston’s Office of Human Services (Larry Mayes, Chief), Boston Public Schools (Carol Johnson, Superintendent) and the Office of the Mayor, the Honorable Thomas M. Menino. The survey would not have been possible without the participation of the faculty, staff, administrators and students of Boston Public Schools as well as faculty, staff and students of Harvard School of Public Health and City of Boston employees who participated in survey administration. A grant to Dustin Duncan from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research Program (Grant # 67129) supported the development of the BYS geospatial dataset. We thank Jeff Blossom for providing technical assistance with building this dataset.
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