Methodology: How We Determined the Best Neighbourhoods for 2020

Our data-driven approach to ranking the 185 residential neighbourhoods of Calgary.

Finding a good place to live in Calgary isn’t hard. But what about finding the best place to live? What even makes it the best? A big part of the answer to that question is personal. Many of us want to live close to family or friends, in the same neighbourhood we grew up in or close to work, or sometimes it’s just that we love the look of a particular home on a particular street. Some of the answers have to do with intangible and subjective feelings about a place — how it feels to be there or to give it as your address rather than anything quantifiable.

But putting all that aside for a moment, this is our data-driven approach to ranking the 186 residential neighbourhoods of Calgary. What makes a neighbourhood the perfect place for you to live is a matter of personal taste. But what makes a neighbourhood a great place to live for most Calgarians? What characteristics and amenities are the most desirable to most of us? That’s the question we try to answer each year with our Best Neighbourhoods survey and rankings.

Our Best Neighbourhoods survey was open from the beginning of January through to March 10, 2020. The survey is designed to get respondents to tell us what characteristics are most important to them in a place to live. The survey presents several lists of characteristics and asks respondents to rank them from most to least important aspects in determining what makes a great neighbourhood. From those responses we determine the weighting of importance for each characteristic. Then we use that weighting combined with data we collected on 186 established residential communities to rank all of Calgary’s residential neighbourhoods.

Neighbourhoods: Neighbourhood names and boundaries follow those defined by the City of Calgary. Neighbourhoods were included by Avenue as long as they had sufficient data, including data collected from the Civic Census and business licensing both available through Open Calgary (the City of Calgary’s open data catalogue) as well as data from other groups such as Walk Score and Federation of Calgary Communities. Neighbourhoods that are too new to have all this data were excluded this year.

Parks: For pathways, we scored neighbourhoods on access to regional pathways (part of City-wide network), local pathways (secondary route within communities) and trails (unpaved pathways recognized by the City). That data was collected from Open Calgary. Based on our survey, the weighting of importance is 18216.

Pathways: For parks access we considered the size of parks, the number of smaller green spaces that the City does not provide size data on and the parks adjacent to communities. Data was collected from City of Calgary Parks. Based on our survey, the weighting of importance is 17283.

Has a high Walk Score: Walk Score measures the walkability of a neighbourhood based on the percentage of daily errands that can be accomplished on foot in the area. Walk Score is a private company based in Seattle, Washington, and it provides a complete list of both Walk Scores and Transit Scores for Calgary neighbourhoods on its website. A score of 90 to 100 means daily errands don’t require a car and a score between 70 and 89 means most errands can be done on foot. The weighting of importance for walkability is 16973.

Grocery stores, supermarkets and food markets: Using the City of Calgary’s business license data, found on Open Calgary, we gave varying points based on the number of supermarkets, grocery stores, food markets and convenience stores within a neighbourhood. The weighting of importance for access to supermarkets, grocery stores and food markets in the 2020 Best Neighbourhoods survey is 15103.

Engagement score: We created a point system focusing on the idea that a neighbourhood where neighbours run into each other more often is more engaged. Points were calculated using percentage of households with a dog, percentage of bike and walking commuters and percentage of owner-occupied dwellings, all collected from the 2016 and 2017 Civic Census. We also added access to pathways, number of playgrounds and libraries, all using data from Open Calgary. Data on community association membership levels and the activities of the community association were collected from the Federation of Calgary Communities and was also used in our point system. The weighting of important for strong community engagement is 14893.

Transit: Transit Score is a patented measure of how well a location is served by public transit on a scale from 0 to 100. The weighting of importance for access to transit is 12292.

Recreation score: We included public leisure centres, art centres, aquatic and fitness centres, outdoor pools and rinks, athletic parks, multi-sport facilities, tennis courts and lakes. A point system was created so larger, more diverse facilities received more points. We evaluated neighbourhoods based on the facilities inside its borders and in adjacent neighbourhoods. Recreation facilities within neighbourhood borders received more points than recreation facilities adjacent to a neighbourhood. Data was collected from Open Calgary and the Federation of Calgary Communities. (Private lakes were considered recreational facilities for the home community but not for adjacent neighbourhoods.) The weighting of importance for recreation facilities this year is 10660.

Has lots of trees: Using data from Open Calgary we recorded the number of trees per square kilometre in each neighbourhoods. The weighting of importance for having lots of trees is 10365.

Restaurants, Cafes and Bars: Using the City of Calgary’s business license data, found on Open Calgary, we gave points based on the number of full service restaurants, cafes and bars within a neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods with 30 or more restaurants were considered a “dining district” and 1/3 of their total point value was also given to each adjacent neighbourhood. The weighting of importance for restaurants, cafes and bars is 10302.

Crime: Crime statistics for each residential neighbourhood were supplied by the Calgary Police Service for the calendar year 2019. The weighting of importance for low crime was 7980.

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