Living Green: Walk Score a big deal for towns like Tracy
by Christina Frankel / For the Tracy Press
Feb 22, 2013 | 3879 views | 10 10 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Do you know what your Walk Score is? It’s not about how fast you walk or how many steps you take — it is about your neighborhood’s walkability.

What makes a neighborhood walkable? Having amenities within walking distance — like schools, stores parks or transit options less than a mile away. Living on an interconnected street grid as opposed to a street layout with dead-end cul-de-sacs helps, too.

But a Walk Score helps more than just your miles-traveled footprint. It’s an economic development determination factor.

I actually was clued to the idea from the office of Tracy City Manager Leon Churchill.

The score shows up on real estate websites like Zillow — where it is a factor that helps determine the estimated value of your home — and is sandwiched between tax history of a property and local schools. The score — high or low — is a good determination of an area’s sprawl or compactness. It realistically quantifies if you have a lot of choices close to you or have to travel far and wide to get what you want.

The value of how much time you spend in your car is an economic factor that not only affects you, but the health and economic vitality of the city you live in.

It might not seem like a big deal in small standalone towns in the Central Valley like Tracy, but this is actually where it means the most.

The San Joaquin Valley is the breadbasket for the country. The more we can conserve our outlying agricultural land, the more food will be available — and affordable — for the nation. That means we need to develop our infill land before we sprawl outward.

Besides the financial hit, we should care about the quality of what we take into our lungs. The San Joaquin Valley also has a huge problem with air quality. As residents, we get penalized every year for exceeding the minimum air quality requirements set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Our children are more likely to get asthma, as their young lungs more susceptible to damage from air pollution. According to the EPA, residents in the San Joaquin Valley are four times more likely to die from air pollution than driving a car. And since breathing air is something we all do, it’s everyone’s problem.

Whether you believe in climate change or not, or whether you can afford to drive or not, the bottom line is if you live in the Central Valley, your lungs are taking in more particulates than are good for you. To make things better, we need to get out of our cars more.

So having a good Walk Score in Tracy would be good for all of us.

But Tracy has a problem bringing every residents’ Walk Score down: It doesn’t have an open-source transit monitoring system, despite my constant urging. As a result, our Tracer bus system doesn’t show up in the algorithms that determine every Tracy resident’s Walk Score — only the regional RTD system does.

It’s an information black hole that officials do not think is important enough to fill.

But it matters.

My Walk Score — as measured by www.walkscore.com — at home is only 54 out of 100 despite being less than a half-mile from a grocery store, a school and several restaurants, and less than a quarter-mile from a park. That seemingly low score is because missing from the calculation, because of Tracy’s lack of open-source information, are two bus routes and three bus stops within walking distance.

The neighborhood I work in, in Stockton, has a Walk Score of 70, a little economic engine of a street that includes several amenities within one city block, near several bus routes.

For those of you who live in Mountain House — who have to drive to go anywhere or do anything — your Walk Score is only an 11, which speaks volumes to the amount of time you spend in your car.

The point is that we would all be better off if we spent less time in our car and more time walking, using transit or riding a bike. It is better for our bottom line, our waistline and every breath we take.

For a change: Calculate your Walk Score. Visit www.walkscore.com

To make a difference: Walk around your neighborhood and visit a business within walking distance — slow down and enjoy the fact that you are getting exercise and an errand done at the same time.

To make a stand: Be a voice for change and ask city of Tracy officials to provide open-source transit information. We need transparency to make a regional transportation system work. Tracy deserves it.

• Christina D.B. Frankel has lived in Tracy for more than 20 years and is an architect and mother of three. Her column, Living Green, runs every so often in the Tracy Press. Comments can be sent to tpletters@tracypress.com, or she can be reached directly at

cdfrankel@sbcglobal.net.

Comments
(10)
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Macosxlover
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February 25, 2013
The reason people do NOT want to live downtown is obvious, because we all moved to Tracy in order to get away from "walkability". I would prefer a walkabout on Sycamore, or a bicycle ride in the Altamont, or a few laps in the pool to "walkability" in dangerous city traffic. Any day.

And the trunk of my car can carry frozen foods and ten pound bags of potatoes. I really do not love shopping carts left in my driveway. Somebody still has to drive out to my house to pick up the shopping cart. Now, if they offered a service to drive around picking up everybody's shopping carts then walkability might work.

See, there is a good reason why we moved to Tracy. It was to get as far away as possible from what is politically known as "walkability". And when we do go outdoors we can enjoy fewer exhaust fumes than we could in San Diego.

Macpup
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February 23, 2013
I believe the author of this article is truly concerned about our environment, but she needs to research why the government is promoting sustainability plans and walk-ability ratings. It's to control America's citizens and the economics of each city.



Tracy became an Emerald City to get the free money, but it comes with many strings. One of which is building stack-n-pack housing (apartment complexes) and promoting transit systems and walking instead of using your evil car.

The City Council has approved two such housing complexes since January. We built a train station to promote buses and trains.

As to air quality, the evil car does have something to do with it because of our commuters but even if we parked our evil SUV in the driveway, our air quality would not improve. We are in the direct line of the winds from the San Francisco Bay Area - the Utopia of Agenda 21.

Should we be good stewards or our planet - yes. Should we give up our liberty and property in the name of Agenda 21 and/or Cap and Trade - no.
princesaportuguese
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February 23, 2013
I am sooooo glad to see Tracy residents researching and understanding the true evil behind Agenda 21 and sustainable development programs! It has NOTHING to do with the environment!
Sneaky
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February 22, 2013
"It realistically quantifies if you have a lot of choices close to you or have to travel far and wide to get what you want."

What I want is 1) no close neighbors, 2) peace and quiet, 3) the freedom to do what I want on my own property (park a car on the grass, paint my house purple, have a fire any damn day I want, ride dirt bikes, etc). Yes, I would rather not travel far to do those things but I don't see a high walkability score as helping me get the things I want.
Sneaky
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February 22, 2013
I don't think the proximity of buses should improve a "walkability score", unless perhaps you are pushing that bus while you walk. Using the bus is little different from climbing in your car.

For my next house I want something with at least 2 acres and no neighbors within a quarter mile. I do find the walk score useful. The lower it is, the more likely I will be able to enjoy the area. My current one is 31, a bit high for my tastes, but that will eventually be fixed.
victor_jm
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February 22, 2013
I have read many articles by this author. Her articles consistently provide the readers with information and admonitions about living more environmentally responsibly. Still, I question this author’s metaphysics, her worldview, because her recommendations and observations seem superficial and conventional.

First, I don’t want to live on top of people. Mega-cities in this world have thousands of people per acre living on top of one another in “lifeless,” concrete containers.

Second, does this author subscribe to television? Well, I don’t. Perhaps getting rid of our televisions might be environmentally responsible.

Third, why don’t we reduce the number of legal immigrants to this country each year. In spite of the fears of Jonathan V. Last, who ultimately does as Frankel does, and provides an argument based on economics, when, perhaps, a non-economic consideration may provide us with better insights about earth-responsible living. (The flaw of our economic system is its inability to tolerate contraction.)

Finally, I am tired of the mantra of diversity, yet authors like Frankel would like us all to embrace a mono-culture lifestyle.

TimMichaelCase
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February 22, 2013
This column, whether Ms. Frankel knows it or not, is a promotion piece for the United Nations agenda 21. Agenda 21 was passed by the United Nations in the late 1980s.

The goal of agenda 21 is to have communities and cities living with in a very close proximity of public transportation. This is the way the other socialist countries like it.

As in England and Russia, citizens live in 700 Square Ft. apartments or condos in buildings with 50 units on the first floor and on each subsequent floor all the way up to the 20th story.

These ugly buildings can be seen in every European country and Russia. Agenda 21, from the United Nations standpoint, is about depriving US citizens from owning large parcels of land and calling it private property.

After studying agenda 21, one can draw the conclusion that mother Earth is Queen and man is the natural enemy to her. It is man who pollutes and destroys mother Earth.

It is also a way that the ruling elite can keep control of the masses. Government owns most of the land and you own a 700 ft.² condo with no property. Agenda 21 is all about removing an individual citizen's right to own private property.

TimMichaelCase
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February 22, 2013
The bottom line of the United Nations and agenda 21 is all about taking the rich and powerful America and knocking it down to the size of the other socialist nations and Third World countries.

Bush 41 and Bush 43 were both dumb enough to be conned into this idea, thinking it was a good idea. Of course, it was sold to them as an environmentally friendly approach.

Tyrannical government leaders like you go shopping as, Fidel Castro, and Barack Hussein Obama along with Bill Clinton love agenda 21.

Need I say more!!
TimMichaelCase
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February 22, 2013
In the last line "you go shopping as" was supposed to be HUGO CHAVEZ. So much for dictation software!!!


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