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Maximize Your Halloween with New Urbanism

by Paul Knight. Average Reading Time: about 3 minutes.

Note: The article below was a cooperative effort between myself and Kevin Clark.

Traditional neighborhood design promotes a number of positive attributes for a higher quality of life including physical health, economic and social opportunities, and more candy. That’s right, traditional neighborhood design is also better for trick-or-treating. For those looking to score big on Halloween night, you may want to by-pass the suburbs and head straight for your nearest new urbanist communities.

Candy lovers know that all you need is a costume and a bucket to satisfy your sweet tooth, but in order to maximize a Halloween outing one must focus on the numbers including route efficiency, candy distributors per block (typically dwelling units), and “candy density” (candy pieces per acre). These metrics will not only save you energy, they will also help maximize your time. As any ghoul or goblin knows, time is candy.

Navigating neighborhoods in the dark can be challenging. Even the Harry Potters on October 31 would find it difficult to work their way through a neighborhood of cul-de-sacs, having to double-back more often than a rousing quidditch match. As an alternative, gridded streets allow for maximum route efficiency by maximizing route options. Cowboys and Princesses alike can easily navigate an orthogonal grid and hit every front porch with a light on at a very high speed. In the suburban model, gated subdivisions and long driveways leading to a stoop increase the length of travel and thus increase the time spent per house. Therefore, what kids really want is a nominal front setback and straight in-and-out leadwalk to the front porch so they can get to the next house quickly but still have time for a “thank you.” Thus, the most efficient routes for trick-or-treating are found in the gridded and interconnected streets of traditional neighborhoods.

The number of houses or “targets” is greatly increased in an urban setting as well. While Power Rangers can only hit single-family homes in suburban areas, traditional neighborhoods feature easily accessible duplexes, townhouses and multifamily dwellings, too! These higher density products equate to exponential opportunity for a huge candy-grab in a short walk. If the suburban model has one family on an 80 foot wide lot and an urban model can produce 10 units or more on that same lot, the number of potential Milky Ways increases ten-fold for the same energy expenditure! Wookies everywhere rejoice!

In addition to seeking out neighborhoods with efficient street networks, you can also ask your parents to help you with these useful metrics for determining if you live in a candy-friendly neighborhood:


Potential Candy Score (Candy Pieces) = Target Neighborhood (Acres) x Houses-Per-Acre x Families-Per-House (accounting for duplexes, etc) x % Candy-Giving-Families x Candy-Pieces-Per-Family

Candy Density = Candy Pieces / Target Neighborhood (Acres)

Trick-or-Treating-Time = Route (ft.) / Child’s-Average-Walking-Speed (ft./min.)

Let us see how these metrics work in a side-by-side comparison of two neighborhoods:

Conley Creek Subdivision:

Potential Candy Score (Candy Pieces) = 42.00 Acres x 2.23 homes-per-acre x 1.00 family per house x 80% Candy-Giving Families x 1.25 Candy-Pieces Per Family = 93.66 Candy Pieces

Candy Density = 93.66 Candy Pieces divided by 42.00 Acres = 2.23 Candy Pieces per acre

Trick-or-Treating Time = 10,890 ft divided by 150 ft/min = 72.6 minutes

Glenwood Park:

Potential Candy Score (Candy Pieces) = 25.25 Acres x 10.40 homes-per-acre x 1.10 family per house x 70% Candy-Giving Families x 1.35 Candy-Pieces Per Family = 272.97 Candy Pieces
(Note: Candy Family percentage is decreased in urban areas, but pieces per family is increased due to likelihood of retail establishments giving more)

Candy Density = 272.97 Candy Pieces divided by 25.25 Acres = 10.81 Candy Pieces per acre

Trick-or-Treating Time = 6,213 ft divided by 150 ft/min = 41.4 minutes

As expected, the quantitative metrics fall in favor of the walkable, mixed-use communities. Trick-or-treating in Glenwood Park has the potential to yield three times more candy with a candy density of almost 5 times that of Conley Creek Subdivision. Additionally, all that candy could be yours in just over half the time. Less time on the trail with a bigger score means much more candy and much more time for candy consumption as well. Plus, mixed-use communities are home to retail shops, which are often open late on Halloween to take part in the festivities. Since these shops are trying to drive business, they will likely be more generous in candy-giving (none of the one-piece rule).

After all that candy, in a mixed-use community the dentist is probably just around the block.

Update October 31, 2012 5:45 pm: Halloween is strong thanks to the old urbanism of Providence, RI!

13 comments on ‘Maximize Your Halloween with New Urbanism’

  1. Lynn Clark says:

    If only I had known about candy density when I was a young ghoul! I’ll be sure to teach my children these key metrics in the future! Happy Halloween :)

  2. Cindy van Empel says:

    Aha, the effects of New Urbanism reach into every aspect of life! Has anyone alerted the ADA?

  3. Dennis Madsen says:

    Note: Also works in “old urbanism” neighborhoods, like the nearby East Atlanta and Ormewood Park. :D

  4. [...] for lack of transportation. Costumed candy-begging kids are a great indicator of urban planning and smart density, but we probably won’t be seeing much of the “Trick or Treat test” of city and [...]

  5. Five Fingers says:

    Where’s the app or Google map? Anyone?

  6. Chris Holt says:

    Great analogy! One that even the youngest amongst us can relate to. Thanks!

  7. Gene Kansas says:

    “Time is candy”…love it. Great article…now, if we could only get kids to read.

  8. David Tomes says:

    Thanks for the great research. Perhaps the candy industry should become New Urbanist advocates

  9. [...] URL of this post Good article on why new urbanism is good if you're a trick or treater: Maximize Your Halloween with New Urbanism [...]

  10. [...] Creek Subdivision, Conley, GA, analysed by Paul L. Knight and Kevin Clark in terms of [...]

  11. [...] article is another venture in holiday-themed discussions of urbanism by myself and Kevin Clark. Enjoy! *** For centuries, [...]

  12. [...] times more candy yet take half as much time to obtain the candy as the Conley Creek Subdivision.  Check out the Maximize Your Halloween with New Urbanism. [...]

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