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In Atlanta, What Does 'Walkability' Really Mean?

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Time and again, Atlanta listings describe any home or condo within a three-block trek of Publix as being "walkable," but is that accurate? Sure, the term "walkability" is arbitrary by nature, dependent on where and who you are, and the walkability standard in a city of yards like Atlanta is obviously lower than, say, Tokyo. But at the urging of one reader and devout commenter, we've been wondering how "walkable" might accurately be defined in Atlanta. Some burning questions: Is density an automatic walkability booster? Must walkable neighborhoods have good transit access, too? Is retail a prerequisite for walkability? Why do we care so much?

The creators of that all-knowing walkability index, Walk Score, say that subjectivity plays no part in the 0-to-100 ratings they assign to all Atlanta properties. Simply put, the Walk Score algorithm awards points based on the distance to the closest amenity — groceries, city buses, parks, etc. — in a number of categories. Those points decline as the amenity nears one mile away. Cool stuff beyond one mile away gets zero points.

The average Walk Score in Atlanta is a "Car-Dependent" 46. Somehow, we beat Savannah (41). The city with the highest score in Georgia — Decatur — registers an underwhelming 54, meaning "some errands can be accomplished on foot," per the algorithm.

Two years ago, we chronicled what might be considered the most "semi-walkable" points in town — places like the intersection of Broad and Walton streets downtown, or North Highland Avenue at Elizabeth Street in Inman Park. Certainly, with a groundswell in mixed-use development, a rebound in the restaurant/retail industry and better Beltline connectivity, intown has become more walkable since then. And while one academic study called Atlanta the eighth most walkable city in the U.S. — a ranking that was influenced by the metro area's trend toward density — new residents still complain of our car-centric culture and streets devoid of pedestrians.

So let's put the algorithms and academic studies away, and let's open the floor to walking, talking local citizens. What does the term "walkability" in Atlanta really mean to you? And how much does it mean to you?

· The Best Places in Atlanta For A Semi-Walkable Lifestyle [Curbed]
· Study: Atlanta ranks No. 8 for walkable areas [Atlanta magazine]