Responses of parking lot usage to the Covid-19 pandemic


A team of students led by Dr. Jim Heffernan of the Nicholas School of the Environment, used remote imagery and object identification tools to determine changes in parking lot occupancy in the Research Triangle region during the Covid-19 pandemic’s acute and post-acute phases. Students used open-source geospatial data to select parking lots with a range of characteristics and apply existing vehicle identification algorithms to estimate occupancy rate during pre-pandemic, acute pandemic, and post-pandemic periods. Students evaluated performance of those algorithms based on field observations, manual identification of vehicles from aerial photographs, and gate entry data. Comparisons across parking lots will help identify features associated with greater or lesser changes in parking lot use. Finally, students generated data visualizations to communicate changes in parking lot usage. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to help inform better urban land choices that can improve the social character and economic activity of cities, while reducing environmental problems such as urban heat islands and runoff.

Project Lead: Jim Heffernan

Project Manager:  Ben Weintraut

View the team’s project poster here: Team 15

View the team’s video presentation here:



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