Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2013 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Developing Robust Spatial Measures of the Street Environment for Investigating Livability
Harvey, Chester
Co-Authors: Chester Harvey

The physical environment formed by buildings and trees along a street is an important factor of urban livability. Researchers and professionals in the design and planning fields recognize that human-scale streets akin with the principles of Smart Growth and New Urbanism help foster communities that are enjoyable for diverse users, yet comprehensive objective metrics gauging these factors remain limited. This poster will demonstrate a set of innovative and robust methods using common GIS data to measure the physical characteristics of urban streets. Most researchers studying micro-scale urban form have used manual audits that are time consuming, expensive, and difficult to control for reliability. GIS analysis allows more efficient and precise measurement over broad areas. This new approach combines building footprint, street centerline, and tree canopy data to measure major physical dimensions of street space. Both methods computationally detect the “street walls” formed by building facades to identify the height and width of a street’s cross section. High resolution tree canopy data account for the space-defining influence of street trees. Ultimately, these automated techniques will allow widespread investigation of the relationship between streetscapes and behavioral indicators of livability. In the coming year, I will be collaborating with researchers at the Vermont Complex Systems Center to compare street environment measures from several cities, including Baltimore, with measurements of happiness derived from words used in geolocated Twitter messages.