Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Subway's Walk Score

The Red and Purple Lines, the two branches of LA's subway.
Source: Metro

Now it's time to assess the walkability of the crown jewel of LA County Transit: the subway. It consists of two branches. The Red Line connects downtown LA and North Hollywood and the Purple Line connects Downtown LA and Koreatown. I'll be treating these lines as two branches of the same line, which is what they really are.

Remember, this is how to interperet the Walk Scores:
90-100: Walker's Paradise
70-89: Very Walkable
50-69: Somewhat Walkable
25-49: Car Dependent
0-24: [Very] Car Dependent

Here's the highlight reel:
Overall Mean: 93.1 (Walker's Paradise)
Purple Line Mean: 94.5 (Walker's Paradise)
Red Line Mean: 92.9 (Walker's Paradise)
High: 100 (Pershing Square North and Wilshire/Vermont)
Low: 77 (Vermont/Beverly)

And here are the data:
Station Name Walk Score
Union Station (west) 89
Union Station (east) 82
Civic Center (west) 97
Civic Center (east) 91
Pershing Square (south) 98
Pershing Square (north) 100
7th Street/Metro Center (Figueroa) 97
7th Street/Metro Center (Flower) 98
7th Street/Metro Center (Hope) 98
Westlake/MacArthur Park 86
Wilshire/Vermont 100
Wilshire/Normandie 94
Wilshire/Western 98
Vermont/Beverly 77
Vermont/Santa Monica (south) 91
Vermont/Santa Monica (north) 92
Vermont/Sunset (west) 97
Vermont/Sunset (east) 97
Hollywood/Western 92
Hollywood/Vine 95
Hollywood/Highland 95
Universal City (north) 91
Universal City (south) 88
North Hollywood 92

So, the short version is if you want to live in a place in which it's really easy to walk and use transit in LA County, you should probably be living near one of these stops. The subway blows all of the other lines out of the water on walkability. It stands to reason, since it includes some of LA's most classic urban neigborhoods, places that are dense, and mixed-use enough to make walking the logical way to get around. I'm talking about Downtown, MacArthur Park, Koreatown, and Central Hollywood.

If you're paying close attention you'll notice that the scores from Union Station are different from the one that came up for the Gold Line. That's because the subway and the Gold Line stop in different places in the station, and the "slight" difference in position is enough to affect the score. "Small" differences in position matter a lot to a person on foot. Boosting walkability is about not wasting space.

MacArthur Park's score is lower than I thought it would be. Walk Score tends to deliver lower scores for places near large parks. It's not necessarily a bad thing to a have a score that's a bit lower in case like this.

I think the data speak for themselves for the most part. Especially if you visit these places and walk around them. I do want to point out that I have a problem with the scores at Universal City. They feel really high to me because crossing to the east to go to Universal Studios has a really car-oriented intersection with only three crosswalks, and because you have to go up a giant steep hill to get to Universal Studios and the City Walk (there's a tram, but it is hard to walk). You are technically close, but Walk Score doesn't factor in things like these. That's why it's important to take all of these scores with a grain of salt and read the Methodology page on Walk Score's website.

Next time, I'll bring it all together.


  1. I'll have to make a comment about Hollywood/Highland compared to Wilshire/Vermont. How does Wilshire/Vermont come out to 100 when there is a gas station and empty plot of land at 2 of the street corners, yet Hollywood/Highland with bustling street-life, no dead-zones at street corners, comes out with 95. Hollywood/Higland has nightlife entertainment...Wilshire/Vermont is severly limited. Doesn't make much sense.

  2. @ Neel

    Wilshire/Vermont got a perfect score because of the mixed-use building sitting on top of it, which has over 10 shops and the richness of the areas immediately to the east and west. It's also near many different transit lines.

    Both stations got excellent scores though. I'd say the difference isn't that significant.

    If you go the the Walk Score web site and right click on the station area, it'll show you exactly what gives points for each place.

  3. Chewie: great idea and series! Walk Score is good at giving a *general* idea of an address's walkability, but as you noted, it's not perfect.

    Here's another idea: Walk Scores for planned rail lines (Expo and Westside subway come to mind).

  4. @ Fred

    Thanks. Sounds like it would be interesting to explore. I can do it, but it'll take me a few days to get there. If you don't want to wait, feel free to do it yourself (just right click on the map at the appropriate places).