Biking, Walking, & Blogging: How do new apartments score for bike, walk, and transit? Biking, Walking, & Blogging: How do new apartments score for bike, walk, and transit?

How do new apartments score for bike, walk, and transit?

Scoring New Real Estate Developments #2

From Hilary Reeves, Communications Manager

Finance & Commerce ran a story recently by reporter Burl Gilyard about new apartment projects coming "outside the metro core"-in Plymouth, Saint Louis Park, and Bloomington (Finance & Commerce, Tues, Nov 15, 2001, p 1). The developer of a new apartment building coming at Hwy 169 and 55 in Plymouth says that the site is very close to General Mills & to shopping-"five minutes to the [Shops at] West End." The quote presumes a car, but what about folks who want to get around in other ways?

TLC checked to see how easy it would be to get around via bicycle, walking, or transit from these new apartment buildings-at least one of which includes affordable units (thanks to tax increment financing). Some of these new apartment buildings are close to very good bike paths and some are close enough to key destinations to walk.

Some great new tools helped us see how accessible these new apartments are by walking, bicycling and transit.  Here is what we found. New feature-Street Smart Score

Walk Score is beta testing a new scoring system called the Street Smarts Score. The new scoring system looks at how far it is to reach nearby destinations by category (groceries, restaurants, shopping, coffee, schools, parks, books, entertainment, and banking). It also measures "Pedestrian Friendliness" by calculating block length and intersection density, adding or docking points. My limited exposure to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tells me that they have data on hand to generate the Street Smart score. But, one of the drawbacks of GIS-the ability to really get a sense of a place-is revealed in the somewhat random scores shown for these developments. Check it out and see if you agree.

1. 157-unit project at southwest corner of Hwy 169 and Hwy 55 (Quest Development). According to the Lakeshore Weekly, "Plans call for a $28 million, five-story apartment building, with two underground levels of parking. The council also approved a $2.5 million request for tax increment financing (TIF) to support the construction of 64 workforce units. Of the 157 units, 64 units will be affordable to families who earn 60 percent of the area's median income."



a.      Bike & transit. The Luce Line and Medicine Lake Regional Trails pass just north of the location. Buses: 742 Plymouth Express; 675 Express Mound Wayzata.  From Metro Transit interactive map.

b.      Walk Score 62:  somewhat walkable, with destinations across Olson Hwy to the north or just south at Shelard Parkway. Not sure how many people actually walk in this area.

c.       Street Smart Score 43: car dependent. Have to agree. It's very hard to see how a person would cross Hwy 55 here. There don't appear to be sidewalks.

d.      Transit score 37: some transit, a lot of it express routes (it appears). Nearby routes include 742 Plymouth, 675 express, 705 Starlight, 755 ltd stop.


2.      36 Park Apartments, a 10 story, 192-unit complex in St Louis Park, just east of Hwy 100. (E.J. Plesko & Associates). "The site is close to retail centers, parks, and freeway connections," says the developer in Finance & Commerce. It's a little farther west than #4 below, closer to Hwy 100. I can't quite fathom why it gets such a better Street Smart Score.

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a.       Bike & transit. The location is just south of the Kenilworth bike trail and is served by bus routes 615 Ridgedale, 17 Minnetonka Blvd Uptown. From Metro Transit interactive map

b.      Walk score 85 = very walkable. Lots of shops and destinations around Excelsior Blvd. I am not sure I agree with this. The size of the parking lots for nearby destination suggests that driving is prioritized.

c.       Street Smart Score 75 = very walkable. Scored well for groceries, shopping, coffee, and banking but less so for schools and entertainment. Pedestrian friendliness good, with shorter blocks, but not many intersections. I am skeptical. Is this a friendly place to walk to get places?

d.      Transit score 43 = some transit, with 14 nearby routes, including (as noted) 615, 12, and 604.


3.      In Bloomington, the 3-building, 234-unit Genessee at 8055 Penn Avenue at American Blvd, just south of 494 and just west of 35W (StuartCo)


a.       Bike & Transit: For bicycling, there are some on-street routes heading east/west. If routes could be found to get across 94, the "Southern Connector" bike route (coming in 2012) would be a way north on a bike. Bus stops for routes 539 (France Ave Pen Ave Normandale) and 542 (84th St) are right at the address and  the 82nd Street Transit Center is nearby. From Metro Transit interactive map, with assists from the Twin Cities bicycle map and Minnehaha Media's Twin Cities Regional Trails Map

b.      Walk score 65 = somewhat walkable, but busy streets thereabouts.

c.       Street Smart Score 70 = very walkable. I am not so sure about such a high score. The intersection has crosswalks and even "pork chop islands" for pedestrians to wait between turning lanes and the main lanes of traffic. But, it's not that friendly for walking with all those lanes to cross.

d.      Transit score. For some reason, no ranking for this address, though the site does note nearby routes including 539, 542, 538, and 558 express. 


4.      In St. Louis Park, a proposed 132-unit market-rate apartment project at 3924 Excelsior Boulevard, dubbed "e2" for a second phase of the Ellipse project (Bader Development).

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a.       Near Bass Lake Park, this new apartment building will be across the street from the Minikada Golf Club, which fronts Lake Calhoun. It's just west of Uptown and very close to the Cedar Lake Trail, which connects to the Midtown Greenway. The Metro Transit buses #12 and #114 stop right at the door. From Metro Transit interactive map.

b.      Walk score 63: somewhat walkable

c.       Street Smart Score 42: car dependent. This seems a little "off" to me. The neighborhood seems like it would be more walkable because of the nearness of Lake Calhoun and Uptown. I think the Street Smart Score missed the fact of the Whole Foods that is less than 1 mile away. It did capture Trader Joe's, .6/mile the other way. The location also was docked points for having very long blocks and for the number of intersections.

d.      Transit score 60


Here are the tools to research locations yourself.

  • Metro Transit's interactive map. http://www.metrotransit.org/map/ Plug in any street address or intersection and the map shows nearby routes and stops (for bus, LRT, and commuter rail), park and ride locations, bikeways and Nice Ride stations, and HourCar car-sharing stations. Cool.
  • Walk Score. http://www.walkscore.com/ Plug in an address or intersection and this site calculates the number of nearby destinations to indicate whether a location is good for walking. It does not always factor in major impediments to walking, such as highways.
  • Transit Score Scroll down on the results page on walkscore.com to find out the transit score.

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Walkscore Heat Maps

Walkscore has also created "heat maps" of cities and neighborhoods. These show the walkability of the entire City of Minneapolis (entire region, really) by averaging out the individual scores of all the addresses. You can hover over the map to find information for neighborhoods. Pretty cool stuff.