August 6, 2008

Inaccuracies Help York Score ‘Walker’s Paradise’ Rank

By Eyana Adah Mcmillan, The York Dispatch, Pa.

Aug. 6--So, downtown York is a "walker's paradise," according to Front Seat, a Seattle-based company that runs a Web site,

With restaurants, bookstores and libraries within walking distance of each other, the downtown area scores a 97 out of 100 points, according to the Web site, which ranks the walkability of more than 2,500 American neighborhoods.

"I appreciate the score, but the validity of it might not be as good," said Christina O'Brien, executive director of Downtown Inc, which focuses on economic development, physical appearance, promotions and marketing in York.

After examining the Web site's information about downtown York, O'Brien noticed some interesting entries listed for the area.

The Web site incorrectly states that Weis Markets is 0.13 miles from the downtown area. In reality, Weis Markets is located about a mile away in the North Gate Shopping Center in Manchester Township.

Also, Hellam Pharmacy is listed at 72 W. Market St. in the downtown area. The pharmacy is actually located at that street address in Hallam borough.

Hardware Bar is listed as a hardware store.

And listed under bookstores is Cupids Connextion, an adult entertainment and erotica store.

Local contact? "I don't know if I would use this Web site as a main resource for seeing what's available downtown," O'Brien said. "I think people may be best served by finding a local resource to inform them as to where things are."

She said she plans to contact Web site officials about the listings.

The listings come from Google, and Front Seat is developing a program for that will give the public access to Google to make corrections, said Matt Lerner, the company's chief technical officer.

"People know their neighborhoods better than we do," he said. "Our goal is to help people see the benefits of living in walkable communities and help people move to those places."

Neighborhoods that offer community-based amenities, such as parks and libraries, as well as "diverse sets of businesses" -- including clothing and music stores, theaters, coffee shops and fitness centers -- get high walkability scores, Lerner said. "We look at what amenities are nearby that you can walk to, and based on the distance from your address to those amenities, we calculate a walk score," he said.

Walk scores ranging between 90 and 100 mean the neighborhood is a walker's paradise. Areas with lower scores are put in the "very walkable,""somewhat walkable" or "car dependent" categories.

Among the neighborhoods ranked as "walker's paradise" are Chinatown in San Francisco, Tribeca in New York and the downtown area of Washington, D.C. While having a "walker's paradise" ranking is good, residents already know that the downtown area is "highly walkable," O'Brien said. Also, visitors and residents take walking tours downtown, she said.

"People have been able to maneuver their way through the downtown and take advantage of the businesses there," she added. "Our downtown has a lot to offer, and you can get to where you need in a short time."

RANKINGS: A random sampling of other York County municipalities at revealed these scores, with the lowest indicating car dependence and the highest as least car dependent.

Car dependent:

--Dover: 25 of 100

--Wrightsville: 31 of 100

--Spring Grove: 49 of 100

Somewhat walkable:

--Springettsbury Township: 55 of 100

--Dallastown: 58 of 100

--Red Lion: 66 of 100

Very walkable:

--Dillsburg: 74 of 100


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