Kent has a diverse mix of housing, from new suburban style neighborhoods to turn of the century homes, but our street network definitely favors a more traditional urban design built around the downtown spine of Main Street. That’s not surprising since most of Kent was built in an era when cars were not as abundant so city planners worked hard to keep more density in close proximity to grocery stores, drug stores, and the other retail outlets that tended to cluster in downtown. That’s why Kent’s downtown and neighborhoods feel much better connected than some of our newer suburban cousins like Stow or Streetsboro. I’ve come to discover that connectivity and walkability are now actually being measured and compared using a “walk score.” Walk score helps people find walkable places to live by calculating how far an address is from nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. See what your walk score is.
Here’s the web link where you can enter your address to get your walk score.
I tried it out using City Hall (215 E. Summit Street), and not surprisingly given it’s close proximity to downtown, it came up with a pretty high walk score of 82/100. Some of the data is a little out of date but overall it did a good job of showing the clusters of nearby stores and amenities.
So what does 82/100 mean? According to the summary chart below, City Hall is a “very walkable” place to be. And it is. As is most of Kent which is exactly why I like living here.
Why Walking Matters
Walkable neighborhoods offer surprising benefits to our health, the environment, and our communities.
Better health: A study in Washington State found that the average resident of a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood weighs 7 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood.
Residents of walkable neighborhoods drive less and suffer fewer car accidents, a leading cause of death between the ages of 15 – 45.
Reduction in greenhouse gas: Cars are a leading cause of global warming. Your feet are zero pollution transportation machines.
More transportation options: Compact neighborhoods tend to have higher population density, which leads to more public transportation options and bicycle infrastructure. Not only is taking the bus cheaper than driving, but riding a bus is ten times safer than driving a car!
Increased social capital: Walking increases social capital by promoting face-to-face interaction with your neighbors. Studies have shown that for each 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10 percent.
Stronger local businesses: Dense, walkable neighborhoods provide local businesses with the foot traffic they need to thrive. It’s easier for pedestrians to shop at many stores on one trip, since they don’t need to drive between destinations.
“Over time, these differences compound. Step by step, the extra walking helps the family in the compact neighborhood remain, well, compact. They keep off weight and exercise more, helping to prevent chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. Fewer miles in cars—and perhaps more in buses—keep them safer from fatal or debilitating crashes. The air they breathe may even be cleaner than their suburban counterparts’, especially if they spend less time in the “pollution tunnel” of busy highways. And they may interact with their neighbors more, which helps connect them to their community and fosters close friendships within their own neighborhood. This in turn may help buoy their health and lift their spirits in hard times.
Conversely, the family in the sprawling neighborhood is more prone to weight gain and inactivity (and the resulting disease) and car and truck crashes (and the resulting devastation). They spend more time in their cars, which may expose them to worse air quality on the highway, while diminishing their contacts with neighbors and involvement in their community.
The difference between the families on any of these measures would not be large. But small differences spread across millions of such families amount to colossal costs: sprawl cuts short Cascadians’ lives.”