New, Interactive Website CommonSpace Launched to Connect Philadelphia Friends to Social Fun, Seeks Consumer Input

Geographic Technology Discovers Local Treasures, Promotes Sustainability, Community-building and Environmental Responsibility

Sep 02, 2010, 09:30 ET from CommonSpace

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- On Thursday, September 2, 2010 a consortium of Philadelphia-based partners announced a new, beta interactive platform that encourages community-building and sustainability by exploring local, social fun in Philadelphia:  CommonSpace, a pilot program, is seeking consumer feedback for development from now until October 15, 2010 and encourages consumers to help "build" the system by testing CommonSpace and providing feedback at the site. The application's goal is to make it easy for users to find hidden treasures in local neighborhoods while connecting with friends through environmentally friendly transportation methods. To give feedback, users are encouraged to visit and click on the "Feedback" tab or take the online survey.

Borrowing from the urban planning concept of a "walkshed," the area that is accessible to pedestrians within a given time period, CommonSpace, which is currently exclusive to Philadelphia, enables users to calculate their personal "transit-shed" and find local activities and events within that area, while encouraging walking, biking and public transit.

The step-by-step application enables users to enter their location, their mode of transportation, the length of time they are willing to travel and preferred entertainment like restaurants, shows, cultural events or shopping.  By adding additional users at different starting locations, their modes of transportation and their travel times and entertainment interests, the application automatically calculates the common space for all people in a given group.  The application then displays an interactive map showing the social activities available in the users' common space.  Users can then add the destinations of their choice to a plan, which they can share with others via a hyperlink, or use to generate a Google Maps walking, biking or public transit route.

As an increasing number of communities promote more healthy lifestyles and sustainable environments, web tools like CommonSpace demonstrate how geographic technologies can help people make the most of the amenities around them.  CommonSpace assists to make communities healthier, as well as more socially and environmentally responsible.

"The application enables users to make social plans and have fun, but we also see CommonSpace as a new generation of applications that leverage publicly available geographic data in new ways to promote more accessible communities and help city dwellers discover local treasures that they might not otherwise have been aware of," said Robert Cheetham, Azavea's President and CEO.

The platform is built on a combination of OpenStreetMap data and transit data from SEPTA, the Philadelphia regional transit agency.  Azavea, an award-winning geospatial analysis (GIS) software company that designed CommonSpace, also used an experimental, next-generation version of its DecisionTree technology, code-named Trellis, in order to distribute the geographic data processing across many servers and enable the web site to respond quickly and support large numbers of visitors.  Once a user selects a starting address and mode of transit, tens of thousands of possible routes are mapped behind-the-scenes using transit and street data.  The results are generated on-the-fly and appear on a Google Maps base map.

CommonSpace may expand the application to more locations, incorporate additional data that impacts walkability, or create a smart-phone version. Current data providers include the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe Festival; Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance's; Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation's; Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia; and  CommonSpace relies on data providers to make the site useful and relevant. The project will continue to seek unique local attractions and venues such as Philly Beer Week and neighborhood festivals to incorporate into the offerings, as well as solicit feedback and input from Philadelphians using the site to guide its future.

The website is the result of a partnership with the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, NPower Pennsylvania, Azavea and the William Penn Foundation.  

"We are excited about CommonSpace because it will help shoppers find new local businesses in their own backyards and plan their trips in a more sustainable way," said Leanne Krueger-Braneky, the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia's Executive Director.

About Azavea:  Azavea is an award-winning geospatial analysis (GIS) software development firm specializing in the creation of location-based web and mobile solutions, as well as geospatial analysis services to enhance decision-making. Azavea is committed to working on projects with a strong social value component in order to promote the emergence of more dynamic, vibrant, and sustainable communities. Each of Azavea's projects, products and pro bono engagements showcases this commitment. Azavea is a certified B Corporation. For more information, visit

About The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia:  The Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Greater Philadelphia is a nonprofit network of local triple-bottom-line businesses and social entrepreneurs. SBN is a membership organization of over 5,000 locally-owned independent businesses who are committed to building a more socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable local economy. For more information, visit

About NPower Pennsylvania:  NPower is a charitable organization that provides technology services and support to other charitable organizations. NPower's mission is to ensure all nonprofits can use technology to better serve our community. NPower PA was founded in 2002 with support from Microsoft and a matching grant from the William Penn Foundation.  Starting with 30 member organizations our first year, we are now providing affordable, high -quality technology services to over 375 member organizations in the greater Philadelphia community.

About the William Penn Foundation:  The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children's futures, and deepen connections to nature and community.  In partnership with others, we work to advance a vital, just, and caring community.

SOURCE CommonSpace