Washington State School Walk Score
We used unique data from the 2016 Washington State Student Travel Survey combined with built environment data to first confirm the factors shown to influence children walking to and from school in previous literature. Walkability scores were then estimated for K-8 Washington state schools under different data availability scenarios. First, models were developed using the 66 schools in King County with both student travel data and extensive built environment data that could serve as “best case” scenarios for calculating walkability indices. The models were run for three additional scenarios that reflected the limited data available in the state outside of King County. Second, models with limited data were run for the 159 remaining schools in Washington state that had student travel data. A Walkability Score applied to all K-8 schools was based on two built environment characteristics: street connectivity (route directness) and vehicular traffic exposure (ratio of major/minor streets); as well as school total enrollment as a control variable. A Walking Potential Score estimating the percentage of children likely to walk at each school was calculated by adding the percentage of children in the school lunch program and the number of children riding the school bus to the variables used in the Walkability Score. The average Walking Potential Score was 21.5 percent (SD 16.1 percent) of the students in a school walking to or from school. To our knowledge, no other state has scored their schools for walkability. The scores can guide the future allocation of funds to support and promote walking to school in two ways: they can help rank schools according to the need for increasing their rate of walking; and they can identify those components/indicators of the school neighborhood environment that could be changed to most effectively increase the likelihood of children walking to school. An appendix provides a tally of Walkability and Walking Potential Scores for K-8 schools in Washington state by county and by school district.