SO, WHAT'S YOUR WALK SCORE? It's a question that home buyers could start asking, thanks to a new application on the popular Google Maps Web site. The score measures the walkability of an address on a scale of one to 100, with 100 being a perfect score. A high score means it's close enough to walk to a host of necessary and desirable services. The farther residents have to drive to school or to pick up a gallon of milk, the lower the score will be.

The application, which actually takes you from Google Maps to the Walk Score Web site, currently is Google Map's most popular search feature, says Matt Lerner, co-founder of the Walk Score site. It was inspired by a collection of walking maps printed by Sightline, a Seattle-based nonprofit group, in an effort to encourage people to walk to places near their homes, rather than drive.

“Being software guys, we saw we could make them interactive,” Lerner says. “Our goal was to make walkability part of the home buying process. People always ask, ‘What can I walk to?' when they're going to buy a house or rent. This puts a quantitative score to something that before was more just an emotion.” Rather than buyers having to rely on a general sense of which neighborhoods are closer to desired amenities, Walk Score gives them the exact measurements.

Jeff DuFresne, executive director of the Atlanta District Council of the Urban Land Institute, says there have been similar software and services available in the past, but “this takes it to a new level. It's a revolutionary application that will encourage people to make use of their free time when visiting other cities or even their home towns.”

There are limitations, of course. The score doesn't take into account crime in the neighborhood, the availability of sidewalks, the width of the streets or length of the blocks, or the topography. It strictly measures distance, Lerner says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE WALK SCORE, VISIT OUR WEB SITE AT WWW.BUILDERONLINE.COM, CLICK ON “THE MAGAZINE” TAB, AND THEN CLICK ON “BUILDER ARTICLE LINKS.”