Measuring the 24-Hour Neighborhood Ideal

What makes a neighborhood an attractive place to live and work? Many planners and urban advocates believe that a neighborhood is more desirable if it has constant activity throughout the day and late into the night. This is because having activity on the streets at all hours makes it feel more vibrant, brings fosters diversity in people and activities, and ensures continuous safety. This ideal is often referred to as the “24-hour neighborhood.” Urban planners, developers, and architects often work towards this ideal when planning new neighborhoods, or when trying to improve existing neighborhoods.

This idea emerged as a reaction to many central urban office districts that became vacant after office workers left at 5pm. Instead of zoning a district to only allow office buildings, planners are now interested in creating a mix of uses that will enliven the neighborhood at all hours. Retail, restaurants, and entertainment might be promoted to keep people in the neighborhood after 5pm or on the weekends. Also, residential uses may be allowed in the neighborhood, which brings in a host of services for their needs.

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How can you measure if a neighborhood is meeting the “24-hour neighborhood” ideal? At KPFui we’ve been exploring datasets that would help us answer this question. One such dataset is called Google "Places". This is the dataset that’s used when you type in the name of a business into Google Maps. Most businesses have data in the Google Places dataset. This includes the business name, street address, web address, rating, price range, and hours of operation. The hours of operation, in particular, can be used to better understand when businesses are open in a particular neighborhood.

This study shows the Google Places dataset for 3 neighborhoods in NYC: the Financial District, The East Village/Greenwich Village, and Midtown. In order to better understand the impact of open businesses on the street, this visualization shows the number of businesses open on each street for each hour of the day. 

 

Financial District, Manhattan

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This animation shows the number of open places in the Financial District (FiDi) for every hour of the day on Wednesday and Saturday. It's very evident that this is an office neighborhood because of the much larger quantity of places open during the week, versus on the weekend.

 

East Village and Greenwich Village, Manhattan

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In the center of this map is Astor Place, with the East Village to the right, and Greenwich Village to the left. The difference between weekday and weekend activity is much less than in the Financial District. While having some office space, these neighborhoods are largely residential and retail focused. Retail along Broadway attracts both weekday and weekend day traffic. Meanwhile, the East Village's rich nightlife is evident the quantity of places that are open late into the night.  

 

Midtown, Manhattan

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In this animation of Midtown, centered on Times Square, we see a similar condition as in the Financial District. The weekend sees much less activity than during the week. This is also a district that is largely based around office workers. 

Ten Minute Trip - the "there" of urban place

Fig 1 - Comparison of Ten Minute Trips from Grand Central, Manhattan, and Queensboro Plaza, Queens. In a city with a high degree of mobility, transit collapses space, creating a time-based sense of place. 

Fig 1 - Comparison of Ten Minute Trips from Grand Central, Manhattan, and Queensboro Plaza, Queens. In a city with a high degree of mobility, transit collapses space, creating a time-based sense of place. 

Fig 2 - Buildings are colored based on the time required to reach them from the center point of the study. 

Fig 2 - Buildings are colored based on the time required to reach them from the center point of the study. 

In part two of our introduction of place-based analytics, we will explore the “there” of place, the interconnected character so fundamental to the urban experience. Enabling our journey from “here” to “there” is a new tool we have developed called Ten Minute Trip, which visualizes the transit network at various locations in the city, contrasting the bustling node of hubs with the relative isolation of less intertwined neighborhoods. For part 1 in this series see City Mile.

Fig 3 - Explanatory diagram of Ten Minute Trip analysis

Fig 3 - Explanatory diagram of Ten Minute Trip analysis

Given ten minutes of travel time from a target starting point, Ten Minute Trip visualizes all the buildings accessible within walking distance, as well as nearby subway stations, their associated train lines, the additional stops that can be reached after an average wait time, and finally, the walking radii from those points given the remaining time. This analysis yields a nuanced understanding of the “there” of any given place: how far one can travel, the sites within reach (colored by travel time), and a quantification of any place’s connectedness within the larger urban framework.

Fig 4 - Grand Central, Manhattan: Max Distance 9,171, Buildings Accessible 4,157, GFA 319,232,465 Accessible, Daily Ridership 158,580

Fig 4 - Grand Central, Manhattan: Max Distance 9,171, Buildings Accessible 4,157, GFA 319,232,465 Accessible, Daily Ridership 158,580

Fig 5 - Queensboro Plaza, Queens: Max Distance 9,318, Buildings Accessible 5,024, GFA Accessible 68,019,605, Daily Ridership 23,588

Fig 5 - Queensboro Plaza, Queens: Max Distance 9,318, Buildings Accessible 5,024, GFA Accessible 68,019,605, Daily Ridership 23,588

Fig 6 - Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center, Brooklyn: Max Distance 9,309', Buildings Accessible 7,660, GFA Accessible 90,571,831, Daily Ridership 42,711

Fig 6 - Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center, Brooklyn: Max Distance 9,309', Buildings Accessible 7,660, GFA Accessible 90,571,831, Daily Ridership 42,711

Fig 7 - Detail view of Queensboro Plaza, Queens 1. Largest radii and most accessible buildings at center point 2. Intermediate radii and buildings at first subway stop 3. Smallest radii and least accessible buildings at furthest subway stop

Fig 7 - Detail view of Queensboro Plaza, Queens

1. Largest radii and most accessible buildings at center point
2. Intermediate radii and buildings at first subway stop
3. Smallest radii and least accessible buildings at furthest subway stop

This analysis creates snapshot comparisons of transit centers throughout the city: the massive figures related to Grand Central station in Manhattan clearly position it as one of the city's great hubs, while the Atlantic Avenue and Queensboro Plaza locations differ most strongly in ridership, suggesting that the Queens station functions mostly as a gateway, with its passengers largely passing through the area without disembarking or engaging the neighborhood. Ten Minute Trip can just as easily highlight the disparity among less connected parts of the city, especially those with no immediate subway access, such as the isolated Redhook neighborhood along the Brooklyn waterfront.

Fig 8 - 46th Street, Queens: Max Distance 8,810', Buildings Accessible 4,796, GFA Accessible 39,213,553, Daily Ridership 14,335

Fig 8 - 46th Street, Queens: Max Distance 8,810', Buildings Accessible 4,796, GFA Accessible 39,213,553, Daily Ridership 14,335

Fig 9 - Redhook, Brooklyn. Max Distance 2,640', Buildings Accessible 1,105, GFA Accessible 11,667,922, Daily Ridership NA

Fig 9 - Redhook, Brooklyn. Max Distance 2,640', Buildings Accessible 1,105, GFA Accessible 11,667,922, Daily Ridership NA

Finally, Ten Minute Trip can be applied across scales, providing a wide-ranging analysis of the varying conditions of connectivity that exist within a single city. In the example below, the tool is applied to the entire length of Broadway, one of New York City’s most iconic streets, which runs from the northern tip of Manhattan at 220th street, all the way south to Battery Park. This visualization demonstrates both the remarkable intertwining of NYC’s subway system, as well as the uneven distribution of that network throughout the borough.

Fig 10 - 

Fig 10 - 

It is worth noting that any sufficiently robust analysis system implies the potential for a design tool, and taken together, City Mile and Ten Minute Trip provide new platforms for Planners, Designers, Urbanists and Architects to engage some of the many characteristics that define metropolitan places. By leveraging novel representational methods to visualize results in a compelling manner, these tools draw in both the committed stakeholder and the casual participant, helping to foster a discussion of place that is both more informed, and more imaginative through the use of data.

City Mile - the "here" of urban place

In architecture, data analysis is often utilized to quantify space: from environmental factors such as solar radiation and shadow casting, to the tectonics of massing and floor area optimization, computation allows for a deep exploration of the quantitative. But how can data interrogate the qualitative aspects of space? Can data be used to analyze place?

In this two-part series, we will introduce the idea of place-based analytics. Why two parts? Well, the heterogeneity of cities immediately suggests a need to understand the characteristics of a neighborhood, such as density and program, what we could term the “here” of place. But in a metropolis such as New York, where movement is a given, analyzing place also means understanding the “there” of transit connectivity with other locations. In this post we will explore a tool focused on the "here", while in the next post we will extend our inquiry over "there."

Fig 1 - Place-Based Analytics applied to the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, NYC

Fig 1 - Place-Based Analytics applied to the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, NYC

Fig 2 - Legend (note: current colors reflect KPF programming. In the future, this tool will be updated to incorporate APA Land Use colors.

Fig 2 - Legend (note: current colors reflect KPF programming. In the future, this tool will be updated to incorporate APA Land Use colors.

CITY MILE

In order to explore the “here” of metropolitan place, we have been developing a tool called City Mile, which considers a one-mile diameter swath of urban territory, organizing the built environment into concentric rings of buildings that a resident will experience by the minute, as they walk outwards from the center. Each ring is divided into segments representing single buildings, and color coded by use, with the resulting visualization quickly conveying the programmatic tapestry of the neighborhood, the size and proliferation of structures, as well as the overall density of the area (thicker rings swell to include the area of large buildings).

Fig 3 - Explanatory diagram of City Mile visualization

Fig 3 - Explanatory diagram of City Mile visualization

Fig 4 - Applying City Miles to neighborhoods across the five boroughs of New York City, we can compare the enormous density of Midtown Manhattan, the thriving mixed-use quality of Downtown Brooklyn, and the relative suburban, residential dissimilarity of Todt Hill in Staten Island. 

Fig 4 - Applying City Miles to neighborhoods across the five boroughs of New York City, we can compare the enormous density of Midtown Manhattan, the thriving mixed-use quality of Downtown Brooklyn, and the relative suburban, residential dissimilarity of Todt Hill in Staten Island. 

Fig 5 - Detailed view of Downtown Brooklyn, with the inner rings (1) visualizing the density of large-scale commercial, residential, and retail development, while the outer rings (2) show the mixed-use, low-rise periphery more typically associated with the neighborhood scale. 

Fig 5 - Detailed view of Downtown Brooklyn, with the inner rings (1) visualizing the density of large-scale commercial, residential, and retail development, while the outer rings (2) show the mixed-use, low-rise periphery more typically associated with the neighborhood scale. 

In addition to snapshot-visualizations of the urban fabric (Fig 2), City Mile provides the opportunity to challenge assumptions of metropolitan conditions: when New Yorkers are asked to think of a low-rise neighborhood, the West Village often comes to mind, but City Mile clearly demonstrates radical differences in density when compared to another low-rise, vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood of St. George, Staten Island.

Fig 6 - City Miles for Greenwich Village in Manhattan, and Saint George in Staten Island

Fig 6 - City Miles for Greenwich Village in Manhattan, and Saint George in Staten Island

Finally, when larger conditions are composited, City Mile can provide insight into the amorphous characteristics of thoroughfares, entire city quarters, or even neighborhood adaptations over time.

Fig 7 – City Miles animation along 42nd street in Midtown Manhattan. While the increasing density and preponderance of office space is to be expected, relaxation at the periphery illuminates the opportunities for development underlying projects like Hudson Yards and Waterline Square. 

Fig 7 – City Miles animation along 42nd street in Midtown Manhattan. While the increasing density and preponderance of office space is to be expected, relaxation at the periphery illuminates the opportunities for development underlying projects like Hudson Yards and Waterline Square. 

Fig 8 – City Miles animation along 125th street in Harlem, Manhattan. While the overall density remains relatively consistent (at least compared to the monumental increases along 42nd street), the trend in size of buildings is reversed, revealing a remarkably tight clustering of smaller structures towards the middle of Manhattan, with larger, predominantly residential buildings by the river.   

Fig 8 – City Miles animation along 125th street in Harlem, Manhattan. While the overall density remains relatively consistent (at least compared to the monumental increases along 42nd street), the trend in size of buildings is reversed, revealing a remarkably tight clustering of smaller structures towards the middle of Manhattan, with larger, predominantly residential buildings by the river.   

For part 2 in this series see City Mile - the "There" of Urban Place

For close-ups of our borough-by-borough analysis, see below.

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Grand Central Terminal Pedestrian Studies

East Side Access Raises Pedestrian Footfall

East Side Access will bring eight new Long Island Rail Road trains tracks to Grand Central Terminal by December 2022, raising the number of passenger trips per day to 162,000. Currently, Metro-North Trains deliver 69,700 passengers to Grand Central per hour during peak hours (Fig. 1). East Side Access is being constructed directly below Grand Central as an extension of the terminal. In the diagram, the darker the shade of blue, the deeper underground those passageways are. The following analysis visualizes the jump in pedestrian traffic from the construction of new entries and passageways planned for East Side Access.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Upon completion, daily commutes to Grand Central will be cut short by 30 to 40 minutes, according to MTA, but the new rails will also raise pedestrian traffic by 193%, bringing in an additional 65,000 passengers and raising the average number of pedestrians in the station to 134,700 per hour during peak hours and 7,600 per hour on average (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Multi-level Connection Disperses Pedestrian Traffic

To integrate the total underground network of two upper platforms (Grand Central as it is), two lower platforms (East Side Access), and a mezzanine, platforms will be interconnected by four 180-feet escalators (akin to those at the new Hudson Yards station linked to the 7 train): three will be operational, the fourth a backup. Additionally, four staircase entrances linking the mezzanine to the platforms will be installed. These multi-level connections would diffuse traffic density and improve circulation (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

 

One Vanderbilt Upzoning Improves Net Circulation for City

Fig. 4 The extension of Vanderbilt Avenue from 43st to 42st will also absorb pedestrian footfall

Fig. 4 The extension of Vanderbilt Avenue from 43st to 42st will also absorb pedestrian footfall

Upzoning Vanderbilt Corridor (Fig. 4) made possible the development of One Vanderbilt, which will further disperse traffic density (Fig. 5). The new skyscraper will include a multi-level, hybrid space linking the labyrinthine below grade to the street level.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

Under current conditions, additional passengers from East Side Access would worsen street level traffic around One Vanderbilt by 3.6%. With One Vanderbilt and the Vanderbilt Avenue extension, increased traffic from East Side Access will be absorbed by those new developments, which will, in fact, improve pedestrian walkability by a net 2.9% (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

The development of One Vanderbilt and the extension of Vanderbilt Avenue alone would improve nearby pedestrian levels by 22.5%. If East Side Access is introduced without allowing for the Vanderbilt Avenue extension, the new train routes will diminish pedestrian walkability by 0.7%.

The development of One Vanderbilt will nearly even out increased traffic from East Side Access and benefit the neighborhood, testaments to rezoning in favor of more developments.

XIM: Quantifying the Pedestrian Experience

While the experience of a pedestrian walking through a city is inherently subjective, the physical characteristics that define it are not. The pedestrian's experience exposes the character of a city through his contact, or lack of contact, with the surfaces of buildings. These characteristics can be measured and quantified, informing our understanding of how the built environment shapes the perception of place.

We created an analysis system that quantitatively exposes the different affects urban morphology has on pedestrian experience, beginning with a pedestrian's field of view.

Floor Area Ratio: NYC vs LD

Floor Area Ratio: NYC vs LD

Floor Area Ratio, the ratio of the total building floor area to the lot area, is a common measurement system used to regulated the density of buildings. Most cities use floor area ratio (FAR) as part of their zoning regulations. Both New York City and London use FAR, but they measure it in different ways, resulting in different representations in density.

Transnational Cities Conference

Luc Wilson and Muchan Park will be presenting their work Diagnosing Globalism in New York, London, and Shanghai in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 29th, 2014.

Global cities are generally considered increasingly homogenized places as technological
advances in communication shorten our perception of distance. Many observers have faulted
this trend for erasing cultural and social distinctions between cities. However, there is a shift in
globalization occurring because urban decisionmakers have begun to understand the costs of
homogenization and the need to compete with other global cities for talent

The event is presented by the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, the Center for the Southwest, the Department of History, and the Office of the Provost.

Click through to the UNM Department of History for details.