The Just Spaces project has created a mobile web-based tool to gather data about public spaces and events, which can spur informed discussions.

 

We believe the tool is critical for UCD and other public space owners and managers to better understand the current status of public spaces and lay the foundation to answer the critical questions: Who is using our spaces? Who is not using our spaces? What kinds of interventions (e.g. programming, operations, design, regulations, security), if any, impact who does and does not use our spaces? 

 

The tool has three features that make it unique from any other product.
1) Collect and store data from observational and intercept surveys based on researcher- designed templates.
2) Compare demographic results to Census data for user-defined geographic areas that allow the user to see “who is not using a space” or simply see how respondents compare to the demographics of a user defined area. 
3) Open source design, so users can build improvements to the tool. Just Spaces is open source under the MIT license, which means that the code that powers the site is freely available for all to use without restriction. If you'd like to tinker with the code, or even stand up your own version of Just Spaces, you can fork the repository here and follow the setup instructions in the README. The code for Just Spaces was written by DataMade using a number of other open source tools, including Python, Django, and PostgreSQL.

 

We’ve created a FAQ about the features. 

The Just Spaces Tool

Just Spaces Beyond the Tool

For UCD the Just Spaces endeavor has been about much more than technology. It has been an opportunity to take stock of our work, convene stakeholders, listen to the community and our own employees.

We relocated a parklet in front of a laundromat to invite residents who may not frequent food establishments to use these spaces in both message and practice. We created a community vendor program for the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll to formally engage and provide access to this signature event for neighborhood entrepreneurs. We reprogrammed our movie nights to include more films with directors and casts that are majority people of color and have welcomed record audiences to the series. Finally, we partnered with the Powelton Village Civic Association to create a historic signage program to highlight the role of notable women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community in the history of Powelton Village. We have also contributed to the public discourse in Philadelphia and beyond through presentations at Walk/Bike/Place, Philadelphia Urban Consulate, the American Society of Landscape Architects, publication in Traffic and Transit, and an event in collaboration with Urban Consulate.    

Using the Tool

To use the Just Spaces tool, please fill out this short form. You will receive an email within 1-2 business days with unique login information. Each user should submit the form separately, but multiple user accounts may be created for a single organization/agency.

The tool allows two different types of surveys: observational surveys and intercept surveys. Observational surveys allow you to collect data simply by observing users of public spaces or attendees at an event. Observational surveys follow the format of the Gehl Institute Public Life Data Protocol. Intercept surveys involve asking people questions, which can provide insights on peoples’ opinions as well as providing demographic information that might not be possible from observational surveys. We have provided a couple sample templates with recommended and vetted questions, but both types of surveys are customizable to fit your needs.

 

Navigating the Tool

“Create new survey” page: You’ll first need to set up metadata such as survey name, survey location, and type of study (intercept vs. observational). You can assign a survey to a study (for example, you might have a “study” for each public space or event series). Additionally, you can choose from one of our pre-set templates here. You can then add survey questions from pre-set questions, or you can create your own.
“Edit survey” page: You can add or delete questions, or change the wording on any surveys you’ve already created. Then, you will need to publish a survey before you can run it. Once you publish a survey, it cannot be edited.
“Run survey” page: This is the data collection mode. From this page, you can conduct any published surveys.

“View collected data” page: You can display the results of any survey data you’ve collected here. For several demographic variables, you can also compare survey results to a different geography that you specify on a map. For example, if you conduct a survey at a park in Philadelphia, you can compare the demographics of park users to demographics of the city as a whole, or compare to a specific neighborhood. To create a neighborhood, you’d just have to select on the map which Census block groups to include. From the “View collected data” page, you can also download survey results as a CSV.

 

Tips and Best Practices for Data Collection:

  • Run surveys for data collection during times when a space experiences “typical” usage. For example, holidays, special events, and weather events might impact people using a space. Unless you are specifically trying to gauge the effect of these events, stick to typical times.
  • Be aware of differences in public space usage or event attendance at different times of day or day of week. There may be differences between day vs. night or weekday vs. weekend attendance.
  • For observational surveys, running surveys as a snapshot in time is often the easiest way to collect data. Instead of sitting at a site for a full hour, running the survey at the top of the hour can provide a representative snapshot of who’s using a space.
  • For intercept surveys, try to survey people who are demographically representative of the overall group of people using a space. If you only approach people who look like you when running surveys, your results may be biased.