And you thought Google Street View was only good for catching embarrassing candid photos. It is also being used to find out which cities are the greenest, at least when it comes to having tree-lined streets. For the cities they’ve checked so far, Seattle comes in at number four world-wide and number two in the United States.
The “they” in this case is MIT Senseable City Lab in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
Trees in cities are more than just pleasant backdrops. They help cool and clean the air, provide shade for people, create homes for wildlife, and turn rainfall into a benefit rather than something immediately directed to storm sewers.
For city planners, and even people who just want to make their neighborhood a nicer place, trees are an economical and pleasant way to improve a place. Imagine the cost of the machinery required to do the same job. Even if it succeeded, it probably wouldn’t look as pretty. Trees are easier to install and operate.
Even though satellites can see every city, they can’t see past tall buildings, and collecting data means sorting out confusing shadows. Hence, Google Street View. The researchers analyzed the images for fifteen cities, so far. Seattle’s position may be challenged, soon.
The maps are interactive and zoomable, so you can dive down into the street level and compare city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, or street to street. Check out our green neighborhoods that live up to their names: Green Lake, Greenwood, Maple Leaf, Magnolia, and Madrona. You probably won’t be surprised to see a few less than green places like Harbor Island.
The climate in our corner of the world helps, which may be one reason that the number one city was Vancouver, B.C. As the research expands, it will be interesting to see how Bellingham and Bellevue compare.
- Treepedia [MIT]