Estimating crowds

This topic is often politically charged, but I’m bringing it up in the context of the more benign issue of the Yankee victory parade.

The parade down the “Canyon of Heroes” had an estimated crowd by police of 1,000,000. To me this number seems nearly impossible.

I estimated the parade route to be three miles long (Battery Park to City Hall). Since people can stand on both sides of the street, I decided to just do the math for 500,000 people.

I assume that each person takes up on average three feet of the sidewalk or street. That means that there are 5280 “slots” as it were for people to stand in along one side of Broadway. To fit 500,000 people into 5280 slots, they would have to be standing over 94 deep along one entire side of the street. (94.697 by my calculator).

The NY Times article said that the crowd was sometimes 12 deep. If that were the case, I would estimate the crowd to be in the 120,000 person range, which seems believeable.

The Pasadena Police Department always say that there are a million people along the Rose Parade route on New Year’s Day and that’s not the case.

So, does my math make sense or am I making some sort of basic error in my calculations?

I think you’re probably right. I find it difficult to believe that one in eight New Yorkers went there to celebrate the series.

Maybe they didn’t mean all at once? If people walk up, watch for a few minutes, then leave, do they still count? Also, maybe they’re including people watching from buildings. It still seems pretty high, though.


The article about the parade on said that some people thought there were 2 million people at the parade.

Even if you include people who just walked by for a few seconds (and why would you since they no one is going to try to cut through a parade route to get someplace) and people looking out the windows of surrounding buildings, that would mean that nearly everybody in Lower Manhattan was goofing off during the parade.

Keep in mind that people come from outside Manhattan as well, such as Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, the Bronx, Jersey, etc etc. Of course, I agree that a million is still prolly high, but it always happens that way.

IIRC, the National Park Service no longer does crowd estimations, as they have been criticized for their methods and their numbers questioned. Whenever their is a large gathering and different sources do counting, their numbers rarely mesh.

I had a look at my map of Manhattan and it looks like the distance from Battery Park up to Chambers St. (North end of City Hall Park) is almost exactly one mile. 3 miles north of Battery Park puts you almost at Union Sq.

I think a person probably takes up less than 3 feet of sidewalk space, but 2 million people still sounds ridiculous.

I think the population of Manhattan is on the order of 1.5 million. 8 million is all 5 boroughs.

So, if it’s only a mile long, it’s even more inconceivable that there were a million people along the route. That would require crowds over 200 deep. Even if someone needs less than three feet, you still can’t fit a million people in that small an area.

Remember the people are limited mostly to the sidewalk and a small portion of the street. Try to line up people as close as you possibly can from a spot about 5 feet off the curb until you hit a building. It won’t be that many people.

The Rose Parade route is 5 miles long and mathematicians at Caltech estimated that the crowd is no more than 300,000 people along the route.

To further clarify, the reason they stopped estimating crowd sizes is because advocacy groups would hold protest marches, what have you, around the capitol, and then get pissed when the Park Service would give a realistic estimate that discredited their own self-inflated numbers. (Million Man March, anyone?)

1-2 million New Yorkers seems rather high, though I could easily believe a couple hundred thousand. This site, FWIW, says Times Square gets 500,000 people at New Years. I somehow doubt twice that number turned out for the Yankees.

To estimate crowds correctly, pick the number you want and divide that by the number who fit into a block of the street, and then estimate that to be the number of blocks.

That’s how they get Million-whoever marches.

Here is a hilarious article about crowd estimates of the Cincinnati Riverfest.