Urban Research Alley Lights Project

In the second half of the urban research class we partnered with Tom Schenk, the Director of Analytics at city of Chicago DoIT. He was particularly excited about having “feet on the ground” in the city of Chicago to quantify assumptions about the city and validate numbers in their 311 databases. In a previous partnership the city worked with the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) Fellowship to investigate the relationship between alley and street light outages and crime. They found that street light (all out) outages are associated with an increase in crime in the block of the outage, but no relationship between crime with either alley light or street light (one out) outages. (http://dssg.io/2014/02/06/cdot-streetlights-crime.html). One hypothesis for the lack of correlation with crime at the block level is because the outages are relevant only to the microenvironment around that light, once you got to the next light your risk decreases. The city does not know how far alley lights are spaced from each other or to the sidewalk so our class was tasked to find these numbers. The students chose to compare the alleyways in Hyde Park, an older neighborhood, with South Loop, a newer neighborhood in the city. The students found that the average distance from sidewalk to first alley light was 37 feet in South Loop and 85 feet in Hyde Park. The average distance from lamp to lamp was 73 feet in South Loop and 100 feet in Hyde Park.