Placemeter’s live map tracks pedestrian and bike activity in one of the city’s busy intersections.

In week leading up to Winter Storm Jonas, pedestrian activity in Central Park was low. On the Sunday afterward, it jumped back up, as New Yorkers headed there to frolic in the snow. Times Square and Union Square, meanwhile, didn’t see too much of a drop in foot traffic during the blizzard, according to Placemeter, a start-up that uses algorithms to extract data about urban life from video feeds and sensors around the city.

Previously, the company tracked pedestrian movement around the city after it had already taken place. But now the Placemeter team has created a map that makes it possible to do so in real-time for a busy intersection at Union Square. Unlike a graph or a chart showing that activity over time, a real-time map allows people to actually see a flurry of activity as it’s happening, David Fine, the product marketing manager at Placemeter, tells CityLab.

“It gives a visceral sense of what’s happening on the ground,” he says.

The data for this map comes from a camera overlooking the intersection of Broadway and East 17th Street, as well as a few sensors placed around the area. Together these devices count each person walking or biking and detect the direction they’re moving.

In the map, each of these people is represented as a red dot. Through the day, these dots can be seen scurrying across the Broadway and East 17th Street sidewalks, whizzing past in the bike lane, strolling into Chipotle for a bite, or walking into Geox for some shoe shopping.

Thomas Richard and Godfrey Yeung, the former Placemeter interns who created the map, included the total daily count of people passing through each of these spots along with a comparison of that number against a three-week average (in the panel on the right). The Chipotle there, for example, has seen around 64 percent less foot traffic today than that three-week average—possibly because of the news about its food-safety concerns.

Tracking these fluctuations live can be pretty handy for a number of people, Natalie Kunstadter, the content marketing manager at Placemeter, tells CityLab. “A transportation or public transit industry professional might be interested in when the peaks and valleys in activity are so that they can line up their rapid bus transit schedules or optimize subway times,” she says. Retailers can also benefit, she adds, by measuring how many people are walking into their store against how many people are walking by, and adjusting their hours, staff, or advertising strategies accordingly.

Right now, the map is only available for this one intersection. But if it were available for a whole city, it would be a pretty cool way to show walkability in action.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  2. Equity

    The Problem With Research on Racial Bias and Police Shootings

    Despite new research on police brutality, we still have no idea whether violence toward African Americans is fueled by racial prejudice. That has consequences.

  3. Four New York City police officers arresting a man.
    Equity

    The Price of Defunding the Police

    A new report fleshes out the controversial demand to cut police department budgets and reallocate those funds into healthcare, housing, jobs, and schools. Will that make communities of color safer?

  4. photo: A 59-year-old-man named Al sits outside his house in a low-income neighborhood in Miami in April.
    Equity

    What Happens When the Eviction Bans End?

    States are reopening courts to eviction hearings even as coronavirus-driven job losses continue, setting the stage for “a housing crisis of unparalleled magnitude.”

  5. photo: Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks to reporters on June 1, after a weekend of widespread protests against police violence.
    Equity

    What Mayors Are Saying About the George Floyd Protests

    As demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd spread across the U.S., city leaders offered a range of responses to the unrest.

×