Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Mapquest ranks the District's most and least walkable neighborhoods

October 25, 2011 - 11:43 AM
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Walkability: 9. Vibe Score: 9.8. A true crown jewel of pedestrian access, the blocks of Capitol Hill feature Eastern Market, countless restaurants, and many other retail options and corner stores. 10 Photos
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons /Creative Commons)

Is Georgetown a walker's heaven and Deanwood a walker's hell? They are according to a new tool that ranks all cities' neighborhoods in terms of edginess, residential, burbiness (i.e., how many chain businesses dominate the blocks), and other dimensions — including that holy grail of pedestrian friendliness known as "walkability."

Less than two weeks ago, Mapquest released a beta version of this tool, known as mqVibe.  Some buzz accompanied its arrival, but I haven't seen anyone dive into the District's neighborhood rankings and I couldn't resist taking a look. First reaction — wow, these are all D.C. neighborhoods? Many of the names are familiar but more than a couple eluded easy recognition. Still, the results are fascinating and fit with much of what I've observed in D.C. I focused specifically on walkability and have included the 10 most pedestrian-friendly D.C. neighborhoods in the gallery above as well as listed the 13 worst ones, all of which received a score of 0 in Walkability, below the jump. I also include each neighborhood's "vibe score," a composite assessment of all its different traits.

How accurate do you find mqVibes' walkability ratings? As much as some make sense, it's hard to see how Columbia Heights can rank in the top-10 most walkable while Petworth — like a half mile north — holds a measly walkability score of 5.1. I'm guessing the heavy retail of 14th Street bumped up Columbia Heights' position, but that's still quite a difference for places so close. MqVibe defines walkability as "a guide to how easy it is to access common daily amenities in the neighborhood without needing to drive anywhere or drive very far to a single spot" but fails to elaborate on exactly how it calculated the score. The Denver-based Mapquest says it's mapping upwards of 50,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. in real time.

Other metrics have also attempted to calculate cities' walkability. I first looked at Walkscore back in August, which gives cities overall walkability rankings as well as broke it down within the city (and showed how far you could get on foot). Introducing mqVibe is a smart move for Mapquest, which initially dominated the world of online maps after its Internet launched in 1996 ... only to be eclipsed by the rise of Google Maps. MqVibe offers flair and data for people to look at, and each neighborhood listing includes the major businesses and sites to see. Could this compete with Yelp? With Google Maps in any way? I expect the rankings will get a bit more attention once MqVibe releases its iPhone app later this year. These types of neighborhood rankings really lend themselves to mobile technology.

See the 10 most walkable neighborhoods above and check out the 13 worst neighborhoods, all of which received a score of 0 but ranked in ascending order of vibe scores, right here:

13. Anacostia Naval Station and Boiling Air Force Base  

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 1.3.

12. Manor Park

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 1.3.

11. Randle Highlands

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 1.5.

10. Woodland-Normanstone Terrace

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 1.9.

9. Upper Central Northeast

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 2.

8. Naval Observatory

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 2.9.

7. Stronghold

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 3.

6. Foxhall Village

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 3.1.

5. Deanwood

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 3.2.

4. West Potomac Park

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 3.2.

3. Saint Elizabeths

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 3.5.

2. Rock Creek Park

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 3.7.

1. Buzzard Point

Walkability: 0. Vibe Score: 4.3.

See more walkability scores and maps of where all these different District neighborhoods are located over at MQ Vibe.

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