State College Ranked Second Best City to Walk to Work

Many Penn State students come to State College during their freshman year of college without a vehicle because parking can be expensive. Freshmen quickly discover that while living without a car would be difficult at home, it’s manageable in State College because most restaurants, stores, coffee shops, etc. are within walking distance of their dorms.

It’s no surprise (or is it?) that State College was recently given accolades for this achievement. State College was ranked second in a MSN Real Estate post ranking the “10 cities where you want to walk to work.”

Here’s what MSN had to say about State College:

“ ‘Happy Valley’ is a nickname for State College, Pa., home to Pennsylvania State University. Just more than 11% of its commuters walk to work, according to Walk Score. With more than 142 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in State College, residents can walk to an average of three restaurants, bars and coffee shops in five minutes, Walk Score says.”

The ranking is based off an evaluation of the city’s walkability from walkscore.com, a website promoting walkable neighborhoods. The site gives State College a score of 70, and the classification “very walkable, most errands can be accomplished by foot.”

While it’s enjoyable to laud State College for any and all positive rankings, this score may be misleading. Walk Score uses only the Borough of State College in its evaluation – the center-most and most densely-populated region of the city. Many residents live in surrounding townships and neighborhoods not within the Borough but still within State College.

For example, more than 9,000 State College citizens live in Park Forest. This neighborhood is only given a Walk Score of 22 and the warning that “almost all errands require a car.”

The article concludes by saying that “this year, the city embarked on a walking and biking audit, asking its residents which routes they used for biking and walking, what they looked at and how they liked it. They will use the results in future neighborhood planning.”

Rounding out the top five in the rankings, in descending order, were Bloomington, Ind.; Corvallis, Ore.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; and Ithaca, N.Y. It’s worth noting that seven of the ten areas on the list are home to major universities.

In all, it is difficult to put much faith in the rankings based on the issues raised above. But still, it’s always nice to see State College receive some national praise.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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