Frequently Asked Questions
+ Why should cities care about walkability?
A walkable community is known to increase health, happiness and economic prosperity of its inhabitants. Nearly 80% of Americans want to live in more walkable places, but cities lack the objective data needed to justify investing in more walkable, livable development. That’s where State of Place comes in!
+ What is State of Place?
State of Place has transformed placemaking from an art into a science. Using our proprietary database, algorithms, and forecasting models, our predictive analytics software uniquely quantifies what people love about places (based on 290+ micro-scale built environment features), and identifies the walkability changes with the biggest impact. We do that by quantifying the impact of proposed projects, and forecast the Return on Investment (ROI) of those projects. By using our software, placemakers can get approvals and secure funding for their development projects faster and more affordably. Learn more here.
+ How is State of Place different from Walk Score?
Walk Score is a well-known walkability index used by residential realtors and some urban planning researchers as a proxy for amenities. However, it hasn’t been widely adopted as a planning tool, because it is more aptly a proxy for walkability for mostly urban, affluent, and already walkable areas. Also consider that walkability is more than just access to and quality of destinations - it's about the safety, comfort, and pleasurability of the walk as well. The micro-scale nature of the data that we collect allows us to offer a more comprehensive measure of walkability that is more suitable for diagnostic purposes, which is partly what helps position State of Place as an effective data-driven, evidence-based planning, policy, and investment tool.
+ What is the State of Place Index?
The State of Place Index is a walkability and quality of place score from 0-100. It is based on 290 built environment features – like sidewalks, benches, street trees, and land uses – that we collect block by block. It indicates how walkable – convenient, safe, pleasurable, and livable – a block, group of blocks, or neighborhood is. Read more here.
+ What is the State of Place Profile?
The State of Place Profile breaks down the State of Place Index into ten urban design “dimensions” empirically known to impact people’s perceptions of walkability and quality of place. It’s also broken up into four sets of urban design features – Urban Fabric, or the nuts and bolts of the neighborhood, its bones; various types of Destinations to walk to; the level of Human Comfort for the pedestrian; and Liveliness and Upkeep. These are organized in terms of their level of resiliency, or how hard it would be to change them once they are in place. For example, it’s much harder to increase density than to complete a sidewalk. Read more here.
+ How does Prioritization work?
Each of the ten urban design dimensions that make up the State of Place Profile have a different “magnitude” of impact on different real estate premiums. For example, pedestrian amenities may add more value for retail vs. office tenants; traffic safety may add more value than aesthetics for residential homebuyers. Using a technique known as "multi-criterion analysis," our analytics platform sets evidence-based urban design priorities based on what customers goals actually want to achieve. Read more here.
+ How does Scenario Analysis work?
Once we have collected data on your project area and you have set your priorities, you can essentially play "SimCity" - adding benches, trees, widening sidewalks, adding mixed-use development - to a block, set of blocks, neighborhood, etc. - and see how that would impact the State of Place Index and Profile - in real time. In other words, cities can use this to test how their plans would actually improve quality of place - and even use it to objectively evaluate responses to their RFPs! And developers can use it to see how their plans would "measure" up to the State of Place Index of competing properties - and add amenities if their original visions fall short! Read more here.
+ How does Financial Forecast work?
Based on the Brookings Institution study, the State of Place Index is linked to economic value. We found that for each additional 20 points on the State of Place Index, there is an increase of about $9/sq.ft. for office rents, $7/sq.ft. for retail rents, an 80% increase in retail revenues, a $300 increase in residential rents, and an $81/sq.ft. increase in for-sale residential values. Based on the Brookings findings, we created a forecasting model to predict how changes in the State of Place Index may impact economic value. Specifically, we calculate how projected increases to the State of Place Index (based on your proposed plans) would impact real estate premiums, and we calculate the value capture and ROI of your project. Read more here.
+ What do the Index and Profile show together?
The State of Place Index & Profile, together, provide a quantitative assessment of existing walkability, which provides an objective assessment of built environment assets and needs, highlights urban design features to be targeted for potential redevelopment/intervention, and (when a whole neighborhood is assessed) indicates which blocks or set of blocks need the most TLC. It lays the groundwork for more data-driven, evidence-based urban design, planning, and development. Read more here.
+ What are the 10 Urban Design Dimensions?
The 10 Urban Design Dimensions are Density, Aesthetics, Traffic Safety, Connectivity, Parks & Public Spaces, Personal Safety, Form, Recreational Facilities, Pedestrian & Bike Amenities, and Proximity. The State of Place Index is composed of ten urban design dimensions that are empirically known to impact people’s decisions to walk, based on a meta-analysis (study of studies) of the relationship between the built environment and walking/physical activity. Download a handy guide here.
+ Which features do you collect data on?
We collect data on over 290 built environment features – like street trees, sidewalks, benches, curbcuts, etc. – related to walkability at the street level. These "micro-scale" built environment features are what impact the "touch, see, and feel" of walkability - the things that actually impact our choice to walk, and the experience of that walk. Read more here.
+ How do you collect data and who collects it?
We collect data on-site (or using Google street view). Raters must go through a training process to ensure the integrity and reliability of the data, including a video training and quiz. Data collection takes about 20 minutes per block, and the data is collected using our State of Place app, which significantly streamlines the process relative to our paper and pencil days! While the State of Place team typically conducts data collection internally, virtually anyone can be trained to collect this data, including high school students and community members. Accordingly, some customers choose to collect their own data, as it serves as an opportunity to foster community engagement along with collecting quantitative data.
+ How do you define a block?
A block is the street segment between two intersections and includes both side of the street.
+ Does State of Place have data for my city?
+ How does my Index compare to other cities?
The State of Place Index is composed of ten urban design dimensions and that’s why two neighborhoods with the same Index may have very different Profiles. The highest score is determined by the highest observed score in our database, as you don't need to have all 290 features to be considered walkable or to have good quality of place. Read more about what a typical block looks like at each “level” of the State of Place Index.
+ Can State of Place be used in a rural community?
Yes! Our algorithm was tested on a sample of neighborhoods that included a mix of urban, suburban, exurban and rural communities with a variety of land-use mixes, densities, and of course, walkability. Read more here.
+ How reliable is the Index?
When we first applied the algorithm, we carefully constructed a sample of neighborhoods - as part of a Brookings Institution study our Founder co-authored with Chris Leinberger - that varied from low to high walkability and everything in between. We started with the "universe" of neighborhoods in the Washington D.C. metropolitan region - 201 neighborhoods to be exact. We placed these neighborhoods along a "continuum" of walkability based on their Walk Scores and divided them into 5 levels of walkability according to the mean (average score) and standard deviation (on average how "far" was each neighborhood away from the average score) and then sampled a random, representative number of neighborhoods from each level (this sampling strategy is called random representative stratified sampling). In total, there were 66 neighborhoods in the sample, that served a "microcosm" of the various types of neighborhoods found in the region (and across typical U.S Metros) and included a mix of urban, suburban, exurban and rural communities with a variety of land-use mixes, densities, and of course, walkability. Since collecting data for 1500+ blocks across the original sample of 66 neighborhoods, we have quadrupled our database - and the original scores have pretty much held constant. What this means in plain speak is that we did not "a priori" decide what a neighborhood should and should not have to be considered a great place. We simply let the numbers do the talking. In that same vein, we do NOT assign weights to any specific features over others. Read more here.
+ Have you verified the economic predictions of your software?
Not yet. It takes time for projects to actually be constructed, and we need time after that to see the economic effects.
+ Who are your clients?
We have worked with Downtown West Palm Beach, Uptown Houston, Kilbourne Group, Lionstone Investments, City of Tigard, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Cit of Irvine, Velocity Group, Asbury Park, Lee Highway Alliance, Downtown Sacramento Partnership, Madison County Council of Governments, and the Conservation Law Foundation. We are partners with ELGL and New Cities. We also work with NGOs, community organizations, and academic institutions.
+ Where is your team located?
We are a remote and distributed team! We can be found in New York City, NY; Needham, MA; Shanghai, China; Metro Detroit, MI; Moscow, Russia; Cincinnati, OH; Metro Washington, D.C.; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Urbana-Champaign, IN. Please check out our team page!
+ How much does it cost?
It depends on the size of your project area and the amount of consulting time your organization will need. Please visit our Pricing page for more information.
+ What can I expect as a State of Place client?
Once you join the State of Place family, we will discuss your current project with you (how many blocks, what is your timeline...), and then we will collect the data on your specified blocks or we can train your team on data collection (it takes about 20 minutes of data collection per block). Once data collection is complete, we will grant you access to the web-based State of Place platform, where you will be free to explore your State of Place Index & Profile for each block or group of blocks, create as many Scenario Analyses as you’d like, and generate Financial Forecasts of your proposed changes. We have an experienced and friendly support team who are always a click or call away! We see all of our clients as family, and most importantly, teammates in this effort to bring walkable, liveable cities to all.