How Livable Is Whidbey

How livable is Whidbey? Hey, if you like it, it is livable enough. AARP and some others measured the livability of so many communities in the US that they were able to include places like Coupeville and Langley. The good news is that Island County is in the top half of communities in the US. They did more than measure one thing, though, so here we go.

Island County’s score was 50. Compare that to one of the top places in the nation, Seattle, which was 60, so it is probably hard to make it to 100. Perfection is picky that way. Seattle was 8th among big cities.

They measured things like housing, neighborhoods, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity. Those are fine titles, but looking into their definitions shows that they are more about general policies and general metrics. They measured housing and neighborhoods, but that didn’t measure whether housing was in neighborhoods nor whether it was available and affordable. (Side note: On May 17th at 6:30PM I’ll be giving a talk at the Langley Library about the real estate and affordability trends on Whidbey Island. Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc., so I’ll be able to show the data, and share some stories.) 

Island County ranks highest in Engagement. Great. What’s that? Engagement attempts to measure if people can connect (like with the internet) and whether they feel excluded or included (basically local and state plans). The next highest metric is transportation, which is handy and important on such a long, skinny island that also manages to have a mix of urban, suburban, and rural areas. These two measures don’t mean everyone has broadband and everyone has a bus coming by, but relative to the rest of the nation we’re doing better than average. 

Drill down a bit and get to see the differences and similarities between some of our major population centers.

Oak Harbor excels at transportation. That may have to do with the ability for so many to get places by walking or taking a bus. Sure, we get traffic and construction and ferry interruptions, but every community gets some mix of that. Evidently, we get around.

Coupeville, Freeland, and Langley do well with engagement, which is also second for Oak Harbor. Evidently, we’re doing better than many when it comes to connecting to the internet, voting, the arts, and basically being a community. (See the earlier post, Feeling Charitable On Whidbey, which showed that Whidbey Island has one of the highest concentrations of charitable organizations per person in the US.)

These studies can never tell the complete tale. They measure generalities so they can compare against every other community in the nation. What matters to you is you and your experience. Transportation may not seem great if you’re a mile from a bus that only runs every hour or more. Engagement may not feel very engaging if you can’t get a reliable signal on your phone. You also may feel that your neighborhood is the best place on the planet, for you. Congratulations. Don’t let a study change your mind. Every place has someone who loves it and would never want to leave. How many teenagers see the same street from the other perspective and are screaming to get out of town and move to a big city? 

If we didn’t find reasons to gripe social media would be completely different. (Which is probably a good thing.) A study like this can be a reason to look around and appreciate our place, our island, for what it has going for it. 

For a while a friend had a terrible commute: Langley to Mt. Vernon, twice a day over the bridge or crossing the ferry, depending on weather, construction, and traffic. One day during tourist season she was stuck behind an under-powered RV. Griping commenced. ‘What are these people thinking by coming here?’ And then she actually asked that question without the emotion, but logically. They came here because Whidbey Island is beautiful. There’s a lot to do, or nothing if that’s what you want. It is not too close or too far from The Big City. And the people are nice (mostly, but everyone has bad days.) After that she realized that every day she got to travel a route that people will come from around the world to witness. What’s better than that?

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