Meet the "Blocks of New York."
Conducting an interview with a sidewalk sounds like a good way to get yourself an apartment with padded walls, or at least a bunch of stares. But that hasn't deterred the fine folks at Placemeter from trying something of the sort.
The New York start-up that tracks street activity via smartphones perched in windows has filtered its data into individual street profiles it's calling Blocks of New York, modeled on the hit blog that interviews far-less-interesting Humans:
Humans of New York is a project that started out of a truthful observation: most New Yorkers don’t ever get to know the people they cross paths with every day. We realized it was the same for the neighborhoods and places New Yorkers frequent in the city on a daily basis. We want to know more about the street blocks we’ve been crossing everyday for ten years without giving a second thought to it. We want to know how many people pass on a sidewalk everyday and what pattern they follow.
So far Placemeter has released two profiles on Medium. The first looks at a stretch of 7th Avenue between 36th and 37th streets in Manhattan (pictured above). Here's what foot traffic looked like on the street from January 20 to 27, the week leading up to the great blizzard that wasn't:
There's enough here to keep urban wonks from their day jobs for quite some time, but let's focus on the orange circles that show a daily dip in pedestrian activity around 1 p.m. Sure it's lunchtime, but this is a tourist-heavy area with plenty of food vendors and shops along the street. Placemeter call the dips "interesting behavior that is unattributable to anything we would expect" and says it plans to look into the mystery:
One of the most interesting things about working with sensor data is testing it against hypotheses and trying to figure out explanations and theories about the causes of certain artifacts, whether they really occurred or represent technical glitches.
The second Blocks profile looked at 3rd Avenue and 60th Street. The pedestrian patterns here are pretty regular: lots of people heading out during the morning rush (about 2,300 on weekdays at 9 a.m.), nearly the same number heading back in the evening (about 2,155 on average), and a decent amount of foot traffic even after midnight (especially on weeks). Put together, the data look a little like an EKG reading:
Who says the streets aren't alive?