WalkScore.com ranks cities on a 100-points scale:
FORT WAYNE —
Analysis by WalkScore.com, a company that ranks the ease of walking to destinations in cities and their neighborhoods, gave Fort Wayne a score of 39 out of 100, meaning it is car-dependent. This isn’t surprising to numerous officials who note that most Midwest communities have focused on vehicle infrastructure for decades.
City Councilman John Shoaff, D-at-large, said he is hopeful that that car focus will start to change.
“We’ve been heavily dependent on cars,” he said. “I think a lot of us are turning our attitudes around on that.”
It’s yet another ranking Fort Wayne isn’t proud of: In 2002, the CDC ranked the town among the fattest in America, and then in 2005, Men’s Health magazine called it the dumbest.
Shoaff has long pushed for transportation officials to consider more than just moving vehicles when designing projects. He said there used to be resistance to building sidewalks in neighborhoods because of the cost, so minds can change over time.
The council last year approved the Walk Fort Wayne plan, which outlines areas of the city in need of pedestrian infrastructure and ways to start attacking those problems. It also stressed the “complete streets” concept – to have pedestrian and bicycle usage included in regular street projects instead of being an afterthought.
Pam Holocher, deputy director of community development, said the plan is meant to link pedestrians to key destinations, which should raise the city’s walkability score.
The online scores rank communities on how easy it is for residents to walk to destinations, such as stores and restaurants. Top scores mean people do not need a car for daily errands, while low scores mean people need a vehicle for almost every trip.
For example, New York was ranked as the most walkable city in the nation with a score of 85. In Indiana, East Chicago was ranked as the city easiest to get around by foot – scoring 62 – and Granger was the most difficult – scoring 14. Indianapolis scored a 37.
The site even ranked neighborhoods within a community, showing wide differences in how easy it is to get places by food around Fort Wayne.
West Central, which included downtown by the site, was the easiest for pedestrians, scoring a 72. Cherry Hill was the lowest-ranked large neighborhood – more than 1,000 people – scoring only a 4 on ease for walking to places.
Charlotte Weybright, president of the West Central neighborhood association, said residents appreciate the ability to walk to almost anything, from restaurants to parks to churches.
“The location has a lot to do with it,” she said of being near downtown. “You can walk a few blocks and be at a quality restaurant.”
Webright said the only thing lacking is a local grocery store.
While the online ranking shows the availability of walking infrastructure, it doesn’t show how much that infrastructure is used. Holocher said that isn’t a concern to her, because she sees people using sidewalks and paths to get places after they are installed.
For example, the city recently completed a sidewalk along Meijer Drive in northeast Fort Wayne, and she sees people using it to get from home to the shopping centers.
“There’s really evidence that when we do build it, that people use it,” she said.