Thursday, September 17, 2015

Small changes, big impact in Kenney Park

A photo of the plaza in Kenney Park with no chairs, tables, or people.Can a few chairs and tables dramatically change how people use a space? Spoiler alert: Yes. And here’s how we found that out:

Kenney Park, which is right outside Davis Square, became the test site for our first experiment with movable furniture. In August, brightly colored chairs and tables that can be moved around the park were set up. After setting up the furniture, which is clearly marked and has anti-theft materials, we compared park usage data to some pre-furniture numbers we had.

It turns out that the movable chairs and tables made Kenney Park more “sticky,” meaning that people were likely to stick around longer once the furniture was in place. After installation we also found that:
  • More people were coming to the park. We saw a 20% increase.
  • There were 40% more people sitting in the park. 
  • 68% of people sitting said they preferred the movable chairs.
    A photo of the Kenney Park plaza with people sitting on chairs at tables.
For fans of tactical urbanism (we know you’re out there!) these numbers are expected. Tactical urbanism champions making small, inexpensive changes to a space that will make it better for users. Recent planning studies and observations of public space showed that comfort plays a large role in whether residents remain in and enjoy public places. Movable furniture gives residents both a comfortable place to sit and the opportunity to arrange seats and tables to fit their needs.

We’ll keep tracking the use of the seating and tables in Kenney Park to decide if we should get similar furniture for other parks around Somerville. Do you think it would affect how much time you spend in your neighborhood park?

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