Portfolio Orange right arrow Spatial activism by the numbers

We often cite the statistic that 70% of San Francisco’s public space is devoted to the movement and storage of the private automobile. That allocation is malleable though [see: Park(ing) Day]. A recent blog posting by Mike Frumin (via Stamen) got us thinking about this malleability in the other direction. Frumin mapped what “it take in terms of auto facilities to replace the morning rush hour carrying capacity of the┬áNYCsubway” — and it’s awesome, in the non-colloquial sense.

Manhattan without subways / Manhattan as parking lot.

Manhattan without subways / Manhattan as parking lot.

Frumin cautions that his map is more conceptual than data-based, but stunning visual arguments have a way of quickly becoming factual evidence. If anything, he may be underestimating.

What we haven’t seen — but would love to — is an in-depth study of various cities’ paved urban spaces and how much of those spaces are allocated to cars, bikes, and pedestrians respectively, on the basis of Rebar’s favorite metric, the square-foot-minute. We think it’s doable given enough coffee and Google Earth, to compare the sections of various streets in cities like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Portland and Houston. Samples could be taken in representative neighborhoods and city-wide numbers extrapolated from there.

A street in San Jose. In this case, the allocation ration would be Ped=12%, Bike=9%, Car=55%, Fluff=24%.

A street in San Jose. In this case, the allocation would be Ped=12%, Bike=9%, Car=55%, Fluff=24%.

And then what? With some more numbers from organizations that keep stats on how many people walk, drive and bike in a given area (SF, for example, has a goal of 10% of trips being taken by bike by 2010 with the reality not too far behind), a comparison could be made on a purely spatial basis. Using a regression analysis, how well do the numbers of spatial use vs. spatial allocation track? When you change one, does the other change? This is sort of statistics-based test of spatial activism could help to prove a musty quote by Winston Churchill or depict the future of events like Park(ing).