Are we measuring the right things? Last night I attended a d.talks event on suburbs and tomorrow. One of the presenters posited that we shouldn’t measure units per acre to calculate density. ” We should be calculating based on people per acre and then we would see that lower income areas have truly higher ratios. Another panelist suggested that we consider density, as Teddy Cruz challenges, as a function of human interactions.  Isn’t the metric, number ?/area attempting to measure community? The proxy is easy to calculate by official because it is just arithmetic.

Understanding that community flourishes in the conversations and informal understanding of our neighbours, we should begin an exercise in sociological urbanism and tactical urbanism. In East Village in Calgary, the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation is counting mothers with strollers as a proxy for perceived safety. This makes contextual sense because EV has a history and the redevelopment has been bumpy. As moms come from across the region to walk the pathways and take in St Patrick’s Island they change the brand, the culture and the ecology. If we are already observing (really just counting) mothers couldn’t we create a behaviour crib sheet where observers select from a list , talking, walking, sitting, alone, in group (2,3,4), jogging, playing, reading..? The list would measure interaction with the built environment and interaction with others. The value to planners and developers is in the unexpected interactions and the aha’s of place use.


The data could present new opportunities and save significant time and expense trying to stubbornly create conformity.

Maybe CMLC is already doing this but as in all things there are lessons that can transfer to other area of our life. What am I measuring and what relevance does it have to my mission? Is scale needed? Is the interplay between people more important? Can we solve a problem together? How do we move this forward?

As always, more questions than answers.


Make Today Remarkable, by observing how you and others interact in a public space,


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