Let’s journey back a hundred years in time to the downtown streets of Seattle, Washington. On a clear day, you can see the Olympic Mountains from the fish markets along Railroad Avenue. Eddie Carlson, who will one day bring the 1962 World’s Fair – and the Space Needle – to Seattle, is now just a boy of eleven years old. Between 10:00-11:30am on a fair-weather day, 370 pedestrians walk down Westlake Avenue, the future site of Westlake Center…
We can easily visualize the hustle and bustle (or lack thereof) on each downtown block thanks to this foot traffic map created by Seattle’s Kroll Map Company in 1922. Created for the Building Owners and Managers’ Association of Seattle, the map was produced through a manual count of pedestrians on April 26, 1922.
The pedestrian foot traffic map centers on downtown Seattle, from Sixth Avenue and Western Avenue on the eastern and western boundaries, to Pine Street and Yesler Way on the north and south. A close-up of Kroll Map Company’s Seattle Birdeye View Map, produced just a few years later in 1925, gives us a better look at what was happening in that area at the time:
Pike’s Place Market is marked on the map as Public Market, now over a decade into its young life. Large buildings are starting to form the downtown skyline, including the LC Smith Building (now known as the Smith Tower), which at the time of this map, was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.
In order to create the foot traffic map, four separate counts were taken from the center of each block at different times during the day: 10:30-11:00am, 11:00-11:30am, 2:30-3:00, and 3:00-3:30pm. The total number of pedestrians counted on each side of the street is recorded on the map for each block, with the morning totals on the left and the afternoon totals on the right. In the center of each block is the average number of total pedestrians (averaged between the two sides of the street).
For additional visual effect, the shading of each block is graduated in size in accordance with the average number of pedestrians.
As you can see in the image above, Second Avenue saw a greater amount of foot traffic than First Avenue did just one block away.
Overall, the map demonstrates how much busier one half of the neighborhood is than the other for pedestrians, with the area bounded by Union and Pike between 1st and 4th Avenue seeing the most foot traffic. The Kroll Map Company may have had particular interest in the creation of the pedestrian traffic map, as it was located within the boundaries of the map at this time with location on 2nd Avenue between Marion and Columbia (that block saw 3,783 pedestrians during the count).