How important are the park size and shape to a park system’s performance? An exploration with big data in Tucson, Arizona, USA

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Parks are essential for high-quality urban life. However, few studies have assessed a city’s park system performance from spatial planning and design. We analyzed the spatial distributions of visits to 141 parks in Tucson, Arizona (USA), using cellphone geolocation data and GIS spatial analysis. We developed two easy-to-use and easy-to-adapt metrics (visit/day and visit/month) to compare visits across different park types and during different days and seasons. Principal results include: (1) on average, each Tucson resident paid 2.02 visits to parks in 2019; (2) for each 100-m2 park area, river/linear parks and other types of parks can attract 9.8 and 2.6 visits, respectively, on an annual basis; (3) smaller parks are popular during the weekdays, whereas larger parks attract more visits over the weekends; and (4) park perimeter is another critical design variable in addition to park size in explaining park visits. We conclude that big data on park visits can provide a robust quantitative assessment of a city’s park system performance, and targeted planning and design interventions can elevate the performance. The assessment framework presented in this study can be instrumental in guiding park management decisions, including resource allocation, and making connections to public health and economic development goals and initiatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-291
Number of pages11
JournalSocio-Ecological Practice Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Landscape features
  • Park visit
  • Placemaking
  • SafeGraph
  • Sonoran desert
  • Urban green infrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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