Get more candy on Hallowe'en with New Urbanism

trick or treat map
© Zillow

On this Erev Hallowe'en it's appropriate to look again at the serious issue of how urban design affects a child's yield while trick-or-treating. Real estate site Zillow has been analyzing this important factor in real estate values:

Zillow’s research team has been data crunching around the clock to nail down the winners, introducing a new and improved methodology that allowed us to identify areas with the greatest share of population under the age of 15, and where homes are closest together. After all, trick or treating is way more fun with other kids and when you can get the most candy in the shortest amount of time.

They look at house values, crime data, density and population age. "This data combines to give us the safest cities to trick or treat, where trick-or-treaters can get the best candy, in the least amount of time."

best trick or treating© Zillow

Visit their site to find the hottest neighborhoods.

There is also the original research into this was done in 2012 by urban planner Paul L. Knight in this thesis Maximize Your Halloween with New Urbanism. He notes that candy yield is a function of urban density and pattern.

ccs© Paul Knight

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.

Of course any good study has to have a formula:

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.

So the more houses per acre, the more residential units per house, the more yield in candy. And if you divide the Candy score by the net acreage, you get the Candy Density. See examples tested on Paul L. King's website; after testing and proving his theory, Paul concludes that " the quantitative metrics fall in favor of the walkable, mixed-use communities." He notes also that mixed use communities are more likely to have a nearby dentist.

The Halloween Door Density

Often, good science pops up in more than one place at the same time. Urban planner Brent Toderian asked in Huffington Post Does Your Neighbourhood Pass 'Trick-Or-Treat' Test?. He notes that it's not a new idea at all.

In city planning and design, there's an old saying about the "Trick-or-Treat Test." It's often brought up in the context in suburban home design: Can kids easily find the front door to your house, or must they poke behind the huge multi-car garage, past the parking asphalt, to ring your bell?

He goes on to describe the attributes of a good trick-or-treating community, noting that they " also tend to be great neighborhoods for families everyday:"


  • Tree-lined streets designed for walkers more than speeding cars.
  • Enough density and community completeness, to activate what I call "the power of nearness" - everything you need, nearby.
  • Good visual surveillance through doors and stoops, windows (and I don't mean windows in garages), porches and "eyes on the street."
  • Connected, legible streets that let you "read" the neighbourhood easily -grids tend to be good for this, but other patterns work too.

All of these are great for trick-or-treating, and equally great for walkable, healthy, economically resilient communities year-round.

Tags: Holidays

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