A couple of already pretty awesome publicly available tools for looking at transportation, land-use, and affordability have just gotten big upgrades, which is wonderful as Boulder heads into updating its Transportation Master Plan and the comprehensive housing strategy discussion over the next year.
First, WalkScore has done a big overhaul of their data and algorithms, and now they’re using real-world routes to determine the time of travel — it’s a great interactive tool for getting a quick idea of how accessible various locations are by mode — also interesting to see visually how something like the Foothills Parkway or US 36 acts as an impenetrable wall, increasing travel times because you have to go out of your way to cross them. All of the BHC Co-ops are in highly walkable locations, with at least decent access to transit and great (by US standards) access to bike facilities. Chrysalis is a “Walker’s Paradise”, just a couple of blocks from Pearl downtown.
I looked up the WalkScore ratings for both the Long’s Garden and Hogan-Pancost properties, which I’ve talked about recently in connection with human scale development (or rather, the lack thereof in Boulder…). Right now they’re both car-dependent — especially Hogan Pancost — but the area around Broadway and Iris could, if it were re-developed well, extend the largest contiguous walkable area within the city — rather than creating an isolated island of human scale urbanism, which is all you can ever get with a development at the margin, like Hogan Pancost, or even the Table Mesa shopping center — which on its own it’s fine, but it’s disconnected from the rest of the city from the pedestrian’s point of view. In Alex Steffen’s vocabulary, both NoBo and Table Mesa lack “deep walkability“, while the Long’s Garden area could potentially tap into the deepest pool we’ve got.
Second, the US DoT has worked with HUD and Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology to develop a tool that allows you to explore the cost of living by location, including both housing and transportation costs — either typical for the region, or customized by your own travel preferences and rent/mortgage. You’d think this would be standard practice, but alas, it’s not. CNT has been doing this for a long time, but the Feds are only now picking up on it. And a lot of the mortgages that went belly up in 2008/2009 and which continue to under perform are the ones stranded in utterly auto-dependent exurban disaster areas. The tool takes the form of an interactive Location Affordability Index map. I love that it lets you build your own particular household, instead of having to go with the regional averages. I saw the story over at The Atlantic Cities first.
It’s really interesting to look at the location affordability of central Boulder vs. Longmont or Louisville — they’re actually not that different, especially if living in central Boulder means your household can ditch a car. Some of the rents I saw estimated in their tool for Boulder were pretty low though — I adjusted them up significantly, and central Boulder was still competitive if it meant one fewer vehicles or one fewer commuters.