In light of how individual humans not only possess unique genetic traits but are also exposed to a unique collection of experiences as young people and then less young people, it is not surprising to find that they also develop preferences that are distinct from those possessed by all the other humans around them. Some like the color red, for example, while others prefer green. Some enjoy the taste of cilantro, while others seem compelled to curse its existence. Some even appreciate the work of Canadian rock band Rush, while others are not my roommate Dan from college.
Despite the wide range of tastes possessed by the individual specimens of our dumb species, there do also appear to be some cases of general agreement. In some instances, the reasons are obvious. Humans tends to prefer temperatures in the vicinity of 70 degrees, probably, because anything much colder or much warmer actually becomes a health liability. In some instances, the reasons are more obscure, but the effects are detectable anyway. This appears to be the case with physical spaces. People, it seems, are naturally drawn to areas that facilitate pedestrian traffic — and are built according to what urban designer Jan Gehl, who has studied the matter in some depth, characterizes as “human scale.”
Five years ago, I wondered which ballparks, by virtue of their location, might best lend themselves to human scale (although that’s not exactly how I phrased it). After a very poor attempt at answering the question, I published a less poor attempt at answering it using the walkability metrics available at Walk Score. Because they are based on proximity to shops and cafes and other services relevant to daily life, the Walk Scores figures aren’t necessarily a perfect representation of human scale, but they nevertheless serve as a decent proxy.
Here is a basic explanation of what the walk scores signify:
- 90–100 Walker’s Paradise
Daily errands do not require a car
- 70–89 Very Walkable
Most errands can be accomplished on foot
- 50–69 Somewhat Walkable
Some errands can be accomplished on foot
- 25–49 Car-Dependent
Most errands require a car
- 0–24 Car-Dependent
Almost all errands require a car
There’s more to say about using the scores as an indicator of walkability around a park. First, though, here are the current numbers for all 30 major-league teams. (Walk dnotes Walk Score, while zWalk denotes standard deviations above and below the mean Walk Score for the league’s 30 stadia.)
|1||Red Sox||Fenway Park||Boston||MA||96||1.2|
|2||Blue Jays||Rogers Centre||Toronto||ON||95||1.2|
|9||Giants||AT&T Park||San Francisco||CA||86||0.8|
|10||Padres||Petco Park||San Diego||CA||85||0.8|
|15||Reds||Great American Ball Park||Cincinnati||OH||74||0.4|
|16||Cardinals||Busch Stadium||St. Louis||MO||73||0.3|
|17||Astros||Minute Maid Park||Houston||TX||71||0.2|
|18||White Sox||Guaranteed Rate Field||Chicago||IL||67||0.1|
|21||Rays||Tropicana Field||St. Petersburg||FL||53||-0.5|
|24||Phillies||Citizens Bank Park||Philadelphia||PA||38||-1.0|
|26||Rangers||Globe Life Park||Arlington||TX||29||-1.4|
|27||Dodgers||Dodger Stadium||Los Angeles||CA||22||-1.7|
|28||Royals||Kauffman Stadium||Kansas City||MO||22||-1.7|
By this measure, the areas around Fenway Park, the Rogers Centre, and Yankee Stadium are best for walking, while the areas around Miller Park, the Oakland Coliseum, and Kauffman Stadium are least well suited to it. Some visual evidence supports the most extreme cases.
Here, for example, is the street-view image provided by Google when searching for Fenway Park in Boston:
And the same thing for Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City:
In the former image, one finds a relatively narrow street and indications of commerce; in the latter, one finds more open space and little else. Open space has its virtues, of course — without the benefit of the expansive Bonneville Salt Flats, for example, it would be nearly impossible to write and shoot a car commercial — but it doesn’t facilitate much in the way of spontaneous pedestrian traffic.
I should note one curisoity that I observed while gathering this data — namely, that there is sometimes a difference between the walk scores assessed to a stadium depending on whether one is using that stadium’s “official address” or the GPS coordinates. I’ve used the official address for the purposes of constructing the table above because the coordinates didn’t work in every case with Walk Score’s interface. That said, there are differences that merit attention. For example, using the official address for Safeco Field (1516 1st Avenue South) elicits a Walk Score of just 60. The park’s official coordinates (47°35?29?N 122°19?57?W), however, return a Walk Score of 71. If the reader is compelled to mentally adjust the Mariners’ score because of this, I am hardly going to stop him or her or them.
Finally, it’s probably worth comparing the data here to the same data from five years ago. It’s also probably worth noting that it should only be regarded with the caveat that I can’t guarantee I used the same precise format (i.e. official address) in the first version of this post.
|Team||13 Walk||18 Walk||Diff||13 zWalk||18 zWalk||zDiff|
The Nationals and Rockies have, in theory exhibited the most improvement in terms of walkability over the last five years, perhaps as a result of (a) development around their respective stadia or (b) differences in Walk Score’s methodology or (c) user error. In each case, option (c) is most likely — and the most likely explanation for why the scores for the clubs at the bottom (the Dodgers, Mariners, and Rays) have decreased the most.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.