Do our college communities pass the walkability test?

In a nutshell, the answer is largely a resounding NO. Below is a list of American college communities with their walkability score for 2014 as compiled by walkscore.com. The overall rating was used for each community as students tend to live, shop, eat, and play all over the community, not just on or near the campus. Here is a breakdown of what each city’s average score represents:

  • 90-100 = Walker’s Paradise – daily errands do not require a car
  • 70-89 = Very Walkable – most errands can be accomplished on foot
  • 50-69 = Somewhat Walkable – some errands can be accomplished on foot
  • 25-49 = Car Dependent – most errand require a car
  • 0-24 = Car Dependent – most errands require a car

What particularly surprised this urban planner is how few of our college communities scored mediocre to well (50 or above) given the pedestrian traffic generated by a major university. Considering the national need to improve overall fitness and health, it appears that many college communities have some serious work ahead of them to improve their walkability scores. Otherwise, they may need to be put on double-secret probation.

Also of note, the top four ranked college towns are situated in major metropolitan areas. Ithaca, NY is the highest rated freestanding college town, followed by State College, PA and Athens, OH respectively. Much larger cities (New York, Chicago, LA, Seattle, Columbus, etc.) were not included on the list as college students make up a smaller percentage of their overall population. Individual suburbs of some of these cities, such as Evanston and Tempe were included and the average walkscore reflects only that particular community.

Walkscores are varied by geographical region with the South, Rockies, and Great Plains typically scoring the lowest, while the Pacific Coast, Great Lakes, and Northeast tended to score the highest.

  • Cambridge, Massachusetts (MIT and Harvard) = 87
  • Berkeley, California (California) = 79
  • Evanston, Illinois (Northwestern) = 74
  • New Brunswick, New Jersey (Rutgers) = 71
  • Ithaca, New York (Cornell) = 65
  • State College, Pennsylvania (Penn State) = 65
  • Athens, Ohio (Ohio) = 59
  • Charlottesville, Virginia (Virginia) = 57
  • Syracuse, New York (Syracuse) = 57
  • Boulder, Colorado (Colorado) = 56
  • Ypsilanti, Michigan (Eastern Michigan) = 56
  • Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Lehigh) = 55
  • Fairfax, Virginia (George Mason) = 54
  • Palo Alto, California (Stanford) = 54
  • University Heights, Missouri (Washington at St. Louis) = 54
  • Burlington, Vermont (Vermont) = 53
  • Morgantown, West Virginia (West Virginia) = 53
  • College Park, Maryland (Maryland) = 52
  • Tempe, Arizona (Arizona State) = 50
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan (Michigan) = 49
  • East Lansing, Michigan (Michigan State) = 49
  • Annapolis, Maryland (Navy) = 48
  • Corvallis, Oregon (Oregon State) = 48
  • Towson, Maryland (Towson State) = 48
  • Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (Illinois) = 47 and 46
  • Madison, Wisconsin (Wisconsin) = 47
  • West Lafayette, Indiana (Purdue) = 47
  • Arcata, California (Humboldt State) = 36
  • Boone, North Carolina (Appalachian State) = 46
  • Moscow, Idaho (Idaho) = 46
  • Provo, Utah (Brigham Young) = 46
  • Salisbury, Maryland (Salisbury State) = 46
  • Amherst, Massachusetts (Massachusetts) = 45
  • Spokane, Washington (Gonzaga) = 45
  • Bowling Green, Ohio (Bowling Green State) = 44
  • Oxford, Ohio (Miami of Ohio) = 44
  • Bozeman, Montana (Montana State) = 43
  • Huntington, West Virginia (Marshall) = 43
  • Iowa City, Iowa (Iowa) = 43
  • Missoula, Montana (Montana) = 43
  • Ogden, Utah (Weber State) = 43
  • Des Moines, Iowa (Drake) = 42
  • Evansville, Indiana (Evansville) = 42
  • Pullman, Washington (Washington State) = 42
  • South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame) = 42
  • Ashland, Oregon (Southern Oregon) = 41
  • Eugene, Oregon (Oregon) = 41
  • Fargo, North Dakota (North Dakota State) = 41
  • Harrisonburg, Virginia (James Madison) = 41
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan (Western Michigan) = 41
  • Macomb, Illinois (Western Illinois) = 41
  • Blacksburg, Virginia (Virginia Tech) = 40
  • Lincoln, Nebraska (Nebraska) = 40
  • Newark, Delaware (Delaware) = 40
  • Ames, Iowa (Iowa State) = 39
  • Bloomington, Indiana (Indiana) = 39
  • Carbondale, Illinois (Southern Illinois) = 39
  • Grand Forks, North Dakota (North Dakota) = 39
  • Kent, Ohio (Kent) = 39
  • Lafayette, Louisiana (Louisiana – Lafayette) = 39
  • Manhattan, Kansas (Kansas State) = 39
  • Orlando, Florida (Central Florida) = 39
  • Brookings, South Dakota (South Dakota State) = 38
  • Lawrence, Kansas (Kansas) = 38
  • Logan, Utah (Utah State) = 38
  • Boise, Idaho (Boise State) = 37
  • Peoria, Illinois (Bradley) = 37
  • Pocatello, Idaho (Idaho State) = 37
  • Valparaiso, Indiana (Valparaiso) = 37
  • Boca Raton, Florida (Florida Atlantic) = 36
  • Greeley, Colorado (Northern Colorado) = 36
  • Reno, Nevada (Nevada) = 36
  • Rolla, Missouri (Missouri Tech) = 36
  • Terre Haute, Indiana (Indiana State) = 36
  • Columbia, South Carolina (South Carolina) = 35
  • De Kalb, Illinois (Northern Illinois) = 35
  • Dover, Delaware (Delaware State) = 35
  • Hattiesburg, Mississippi (Southern Mississippi) = 35
  • Lubbock, Texas(Texas Tech) = 35
  • Muncie, Indiana (Ball State) = 35
  • Normal, Illinois (Illinois State) = 35
  • Springfield, Missouri (Missouri State) = 35
  • Cedar Falls, Iowa (Northern Iowa) = 34
  • Chapel Hill, North Carolina (North Carolina) = 34
  • Lexington, Kentucky (Kentucky) = 34
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado (Air Force) = 33
  • Flagstaff, Arizona (Northern Arizona) = 33
  • Gainesville, Florida (Florida)  = 33
  • Laramie, Wyoming (Wyoming) = 33
  • Stillwater, Oklahoma (Oklahoma State) = 33
  • Waco, Texas (Baylor) = 33
  • Bowling Green, Kentucky (Western Kentucky) = 32
  • Fairbanks, Alaska (Alaska) = 32
  • Fort Collins, Colorado (Colorado State) = 32
  • Las Cruces, New Mexico (New Mexico State) = 32
  • Monroe, Louisiana (Louisiana–Monroe) = 32
  • Natchitoches, Louisiana (Northwest Louisiana ) = 32
  • Richmond, Kentucky (Eastern Kentucky) = 32
  • College Station, Texas (Texas A & M) = 31
  • Greenville, North Carolina (East Carolina) = 31
  • St. Cloud, Minnesota (St. Cloud State) = 31
  • Tallahassee, Florida (Florida State) = 31
  • Fairborn, Ohio (Wright State) = 30
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Alabama) = 30
  • Denton, Texas (North Texas) = 29
  • Durham, North Carolina (Duke) = 28
  • Norman, Oklahoma (Oklahoma) = 28
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas (Arkansas) = 27
  • Auburn, Alabama (Auburn) = 26
  • Columbia, Missouri (Missouri)= 26
  • Starkville, Mississippi (Mississippi State) = 26
  • Athens, Georgia (Georgia) = 25
  • Cedar City, Utah (Southern Utah) = 24
  • Johnson City, Tennessee (East Tennessee State) = 24
  • Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Middle Tennessee State)= 23
  • Oxford, Mississippi (Mississippi) = 23
  • Ruston, Louisiana (Louisiana Tech)= 22
  • Jonesboro, Arkansas (Arkansas State) = 21
  • Troy, Alabama (Troy State) = 19

Source: walkscore.com

For the fun of it, walk scores were broken down by major athletic conferences (as of 2013) to determine the most walkable collegiate conference (minimum five cities):

Atlantic Coast (41.0 average) – Blacksburg (40), Charlottesville (57), Chapel Hill (34), College Park (52), Durham (28), and Tallahassee (31)

Big Sky (37.25 average) – Bozeman (43), Cedar City (24), Flagstaff (33), Grand Forks (39), Greeley (36), Missoula (43), Ogden (43), and Pocatello (37)

Big Ten (50.0 average) – Ann Arbor (49), Bloomington (39), Champaign (47), East Lansing (49), Evanston (74), Iowa City (43), Lincoln (40), Madison (47), State College (65), and West Lafayette (47)

Big 12 (37.25 average) – Ames (39), Lawrence (38), Lubbock (35), Manhattan (39), Morgantown (53), Norman (28), Stillwater (33), and Waco (33)

Conference USA (33.4 average) – Boca Raton (36), Greenville (31), Hattiesburg (35), Huntington (43), and Ruston (22)

Mid-America (44.2 average) – Amherst (45), Athens (59), Bowling Green (44), DeKalb (35), Kalamazoo (41), Kent (39), Muncie (35), Oxford (44), and Ypsilanti (56)

Missouri Valley (37.5 average) – Carbondale (39), Cedar Falls (34), Des Moines (42), Evansville (42), Normal (35), Peoria (37), Springfield, MO (35), Terre Haute (36)

Mountain West (34.8 average) – Boise (37), Colorado Springs (33), Fort Collins (32), Laramie (33), Logan (38), and Reno (36)

Pac 12 (52.9 average) – Berkeley (79), Boulder (56), Corvallis (48), Eugene (41), Palo Alto (54), Pullman (42), and Tempe (50)

Southeast (28.7 average) – Athens (25), Auburn (26), College Station (31), Columbia, MO (26) ,Columbia, SC (35), Fayetteville (27), Gainesville (33), Lexington (34), Oxford (23), Starkville (26), and Tuscaloosa (30).

Sunbelt (30.5 average) – Bowling Green, KY (32), Jonesboro (21), Lafayette (39), Monroe (32), San Marcos (40), and Troy (19)

The Southeast Conference may be a powerhouse in football, but don’t try walking in and around it’s college communities, as you won’t be getting fit soon – they ranked the lowest of the eleven major conferences that were calculated.

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4 thoughts on “Do our college communities pass the walkability test?

  1. This is great! I actually was on Walk Score last night working on some things. We must be on the same page (blog to follow today backing up evidence of Bradley University in Peoria).

    What’s interesting to note is that the University of Illinois is the only “bike-friendly” awarded university in Illinois, yet rated in the mid 40’s on walkability. It may accommodate those by bike better, it just doesn’t have things within a reasonable distance.

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