Vince, and I figured it varies quite a bit and decided to test our theory for our final project in Paul Hess’ PLA 1654: Urban Design Research Methods class, which is probably one of my top three favorite classes ever, including undergrad classes in Waterloo.
The goal of the assignment is to let us, students, use a research method that we’d studied in class to gather data that would be relevant and perhaps important for Urban Designers.
We decided to use a basic environment-behavior research method and did a literature review of environment behavior-research methods to begin things off.
We picked two locations: King Street West, and Bloor Street West. We had proposed to do 75 observations (25 at 9:00am, 25 at 12:00 pm, and 25 at 5:30 pm) on 2 days for each location, but our prof told us we were being unrealistic and should aim for something lower. So we settled on 80 observations (40 at 9:00am and 40 at 12:00pm) over 4 days (doing one observation per day) for each location.
We approximated a 20-meter distance for each location with an obvious start point and an end point. Our exclusionary criteria included children, mothers with strollers and the Handicap.
We also had a set of seven other subject specific observations we were recording on our observation sheet:
- whether they were listening to music
- whether they were using a cell phone
- whether they were carrying something
- whether they were alone, in pairs or groups
- type of shoes they were wearing
- general age range; and
- their gender
We’re not quite done the project, but here is the preliminary finding from my set of observations and from some discussions between Vince and I:
(I did the observations for the Financial District… hot men in suits! oh yeah!)
- the frequency of which women walked by was a lot lower compared to men
- people walked marginally slower at lunch
- there were a lot more people walking at lunch
- more people smoked and walked during lunch
- those who listened to music/talked on their Cell phone walked slower
- the weather didn’t make much of a difference in walking speeds
- pedestrians walked faster in the Financial District than the Annex
And because no one is perfect, a few flaws with the research design:
- the path network that runs underground in the Financial District was never taken into account
- because of the tall buildings no sunlight reaches the pedestrian realm, we could have picked a location with better sun access in the Financial District
We’re doing a presentation on December 6th and then handing in the final paper on the 15th so I’ll put more stuff up as we approach the deadlines.
And no time for everyone’s favourite: Tips for doing outdoor research:
- If you’re doing the research in late fall, wear something warm, because conducting research takes a long time. Alternatively pick a location where you can move in doors if the cold gets unbearable.
- If you’re working alone bring some music to make the time go by faster.
- Don’t loiter on private property.
- If you need to start at a specific time be sure to take into account travel time on the TTC (it varies from day-to-day).
- Print an observation sheet with options to circle. Circling is a lot easier with mitts than writing.
- Try to blend in, you don’t want the subject to know you are observing them.
- Take time out from doing the research bit to enjoy the scenery! ;)
This is just a glimpse of what I’ve been up to in the past few weeks. We are also looking at the public participation methods used in the City of Toronto’s Coordinated Street Furniture project. I’ll write about that one another day.