Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Walk Score gets to expand due to funding from the Rockefeller Foundation

Big news for the WalkScore people. They've received funding from the Rockafeller foundation, plan to make enhancements to the Walk Score system, and are starting an open source software project based on the walkscore software. This is all excellent news.

The enhancements include adding public transit, transportation cost, and greenhouse gas emission data to Walk Score. Or as they say in pressreleasese:

As part of the grant, the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) will provide Front Seat (the developers behind WalkScore) with the estimated transportation costs of a location as well as the household greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. “As people look for a place to live, we want to make it easy for them to factor transportation impacts into their buying decisions,” said Matt Lerner, CTO of Front Seat.

If this pans out they promise the result will be that WalkScore displays include

  • You’ll see public transit stops on the Walk Score map
  • Public transit accessibility will be factored into your Walk Score
  • You’ll see your predicted transportation cost and greenhouse gas emissions provided by The Center for Neighborhood Technology

The open source software project side of this will be hosted at (note .org rather than the .com which hosts the commercial service). At the moment the content of that site is a signup form and a promise of more to come. Having been through the open sourcing of a pile of commercial software I can attest that this is not a simple process. One must evaluate every bit of the software to determine whether you have rights to place it under an open source license among other considerations. Further it represents a change in business model. Until now Front Seat, the developers of Walk Score, have been earning their income through providing Walk Score services to real estate agencies. But by putting their source code in the hands of the public it's possible someone else could develop the same service and threaten their income stream. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for them.

The WalkScore is a measure of how walkable a neighborhood is. They have developed a set of measures with which to gauge how attractive it is to walk around a given neighborhood. These are based on the number of "attractions" in a given neighborhood and the presence of walkways to those attractions. More information is on their website at

About Front Seat and Walk Score

Walk Score is a project of Front Seat (, a civic software company based in Seattle. Since its launch in July 2007, Walk Score has become the most popular worldwide measure of walkability. Over 700 real estate websites show Walk Score on their listings and over 2.5 million scores are distributed to partners each day. The Walk Score team is advised by a tenperson Advisory Board, which includes urban planning, environmental and technical experts.