Pok√©mon Go Provides Opportunities for "Walkable Communities"



















Introduced less than a month ago, the mobile game "Pokémon Go" has taken the nation, and the Charlotte region, by storm. Throughout the region, many parks, courthouse squares, public spaces (including hospitals) are filled with people seeming to wander aimlessly through grass and sidewalks, holding their smartphones in front of them. While it may appear that they are texting, they are actually searching for small cartoon creatures called "Pokémon." 

So how does the game work? Using the internal GPS on their mobile device, the game places the players onto a map of the real world, which is drawn from Google's mapping data. Pokémon are placed at various locations all around the world and players can see clues as to where these Pokémon are located and then they physically travel to those locations to try and catch all 151 of them. Of course, the Pokémon aren't real physical creatures, but rather animated cartoons on the players' screens. The game uses the live camera of a player's smartphone to make the Pokémon appear as if they are located in the real world. So if a player finds a Pokémon and points his or her smartphone camera onto say, a park bench, the little creature will appear on it, and can then be captured by the player.

Public parks and walkable communities were two of the top priorities identified in the CONNECT Our Future Regional Framework for Growth (www.ConnectOurFuture.org). Pokémon Go is bringing activity to local parks and downtown squares, filling the spaces with excited young people and introducing them to the region’s public treasures. In the first days after the game came out, there were dozens of players walking along North Tryon Street during the lunch hour, gathered at pocket parks and along the light trail, hunting Pokémon.  This has been the case in most other jurisdictions, particularly along greenways, in parks, and in downtowns. Crowds of youth and young adults prowl the region’s public spaces, from Gastonia to Indian Trail, looking for rare creatures. Areas which are rich with Pokémon tend to be located at points of cultural and historical importance, which is bringing many people to these locations who may have never paid them any attention.

What does this mean for local governments?  Take advantage of the trend by creatively marketing your downtown businesses, parks, and trails to residents that may not frequent these public places.  Hold events related to the craze and create a map of your local Pokémon Go sites. You may also want your local public works and law enforcement to be aware of the Pokémon Go sites so that they will be mindful that individuals in a given area may be playing the game.  Pokémon Go presents an opportunity to get people walking, enjoying the outdoors and visiting the region's parks, trails and public art displays. Just Pokémon Go with it.

Elements of this article reprinted with permission from Western Piedmont COG.  Thank you to Tom Bell, Scott Miller and Stephen Fox.

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