Public Lab Research note


Balloon Mapping Public Space Usage at a Pop-Up Park in Philadelphia

by manetomapping | October 08, 2014 20:09 | 1,208 views | 0 comments | #11252 | 1,208 views | 0 comments | #11252 08 Oct 20:09

What I want to do

In 2013 the City of Philadelphia turned a parking lot surrounded by a traffic circle (Eakins Oval) into a public pop-up park (The Oval). I want to know 1) how people are using the space and 2) if balloon mapping is a viable option for analyzing public space usage.

My attempt and results

We did three balloon flights over from between 11:00 and 2:00. We took a census of who was using the space every 30 minutes. We recorded hundreds of images mostly from an altitude of about 250 feet.

The first flight the images were very washed out. There was a high contrast between the light color that the parking lot had been painted and the surrounding alley of trees on either side. This made it difficult to get any detail about activity occurring on the lightly colored parking lot, where most of the activity was going on.

The second flight the images were better, but the altitude made it hard to match the images with the usage surveys we performed on the ground. The images were incredibly beautiful, but did not provide as much information about activity as we had hoped.

The third flight was also washed out.

Questions and next steps

Would a combination of balloon mapping and pole mapping provide more human-scaled information? Are there better ways of analyzing movement? Would taking moving instead of still images be better? What is the best way to analyze the moving images?

Why I'm interested

There is a lot of interest in how to activate public space. Cities are spending a lot of energy on making and improving public spaces. I want to know what works for whom.


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