I had the thought yesterday or maybe it was the day before that. Sidewalks, their width and culture of a city.

My basic thought is that the wider the sidewalks in a city, the more interesting the city. New York and Berlin have wide sidewalks and are very interesting cities. San Francisco is also an interesting city and the sidewalks are not as wide as Berlin’s and New York’s. This follows as San Francisco is not as interesting as either of this cities.

Austin, though, has terrible sidewalks. At least the parts I have visited. In one area, the sidewalks disappeared and my wife and I were almost hit by a car. Other parts of Austin that I visited were quite interesting.

This small modicum of data made me change my hypothesis to the amount of foot traffic. The more foot traffic a city or section of a city has, the more interesting that city or city section is. People like to look at each other, no? The most popular shows have little activity in them and it’s just people sitting around talking, giving the viewers plenty of time to just stare at other people.

Foot traffic, it’s all about the foot traffic. The more a city has of it, the more interesting it will be. The more interesting a city is, the more people will flock to it. The more people flock to it…you get the idea

Population Density vs. Time

As I am in NYC now, I have been riding the subway a lot, which has made me think about something I used to think about a lot when I lived here. Last night we saw a show at the Ohio Theater in Soho. After the show, we walked to Prince St. to hop on the NRW line to 42nd St. There we transferred to the 1 line. Exiting at 157 St. we walked to 161st. The trip took one hour, give or take. At most the trip was 12 miles in distance. So our average speed was 12 m.p.h. Kinda slow. If I traveled that slowly getting around the Bay Area, I would never get anywhere.

What I used to think about was population density and how that governs travel time, not necessarily distance governing travel time. The population density of Manhattan is 66,940.1/mi². The population density of Oakland is 7,126.6/mi². San Francisco‘s population density is nearly 16,000 people per square mile. Not nearly as high as Manhattan.
Could there be a way to measure how quickly one moves through a certain number of people? Could a baseline or a constant for that be determined to then determine how effectively different urban populations move around? Each city or suburb for that matter could then compare their “commute times” to this constant.

If on our commute back home last night, we traveled 12 miles, we traveled through 12 x 258.7 = 3104.4. 258.7 came from taking the square root of Manhattan’s population density. This is assuming that all 66,940.1 people are evenly arranged in a grid pattern and taking the square root determines how many people are in one straight mile of the side. So let’s say that going through Manhattan for those 12 miles we traveled through 3104.4 people miles.

If we were to go through Oakland for twelve miles, we would travel (12 x 84.42) 1013.04 people miles. Through San Fran – roughly 1505 people miles. How long this would take in SF or Oakland? Not sure. Depends on traffic, earthquakes, freeways melting etc. And in Manhattan the time depends on flooding of subways, trains derailing etc.

If we traveled 3104.4 people miles in Manhattan in one hour, that is 3104.4 people miles/hour, or 3104.4 pmph. If in Oakland, we took 60 minutes to go those 1013.4 people miles that would be 1013.4 pmph or about 1/3 as slowly as in Manhattan. When I get home I must measure how long it takes to travel 12 miles.

It would be nice to be able to collect data on this-different cities, times of day, population densities. I am sure that someone is already doing this.
Number aside, the pros of the subways here outweigh the cons. No money spent on gas, car insurance, parking, maintenance, tires. No looking for parking, worrying about getting your car scratched. Yes, you gotta walk more and sometimes the subway is hot, but think of the reading you get done.