'You Can See November from the Washington Monument'

As always, we're getting some new information and finding some errors, so after this morning's first go-around, let's take a second pass at estimating the number of people at yesterday's rally by Glenn Beck at the Lincoln Memorial.

First of all, as commenter "Raymond Shaw" points out, the actual "dense crowd" number used by the National Park Service is five square feet per person, not ten. I missed a step by not explaining that I started using ten square feet in my original estimates last year to account for the difference in density between the really crowded areas near the front and the less dense areas near the back.

Estimate10 square feet per person5 square feet per person2.5 square feet per person
Maximum:215,000 people430,000860,000
90 percent200,000400,000800,000
75 percent163,000326,000652,000
50 percent108,000216,000432,000
CBS News Estimate87,00087,00087,000
40 percent86,000172,000344,000

If we use those Park Service figures, obviously the estimates double or quadruple, as shown in the amended table above.

I continue to think those numbers are too dense. Five square feet per person means a space 24 inches deep by 30 inches wide; 2.5 square feet per person is one 12 inches by 30 inches.

Just to try to make sense of these intuitively, let's consider standard towel sizes:

Towel typeDimensionsArea
Bath sheet35 in x 60 in15 square feet
Beach towel30 x 6012.5 square feet
"Dense" crowd24 x 305 square feet
Hand towel16 x 303.3 square feet
"Packed" crowd12 x 302.5 square feet
Wash towel13 x 131.7 square feet

So the numbers quoted for the Park Service estimates come down to each person standing on a space a little more than a hand towel for the less dense number, and a bit more than a wash towel for the more dense.

Frankly, if I'm that close to another person for any length of time, I want dinner and a movie.

The pictures we have are apparently from fairly early in the rally, and as I say, I took the conservative approach by only counting what I could see.  We can speculate some, though, by guessing that some further number of people arrived and occupied areas outside my perimeter (more about that below) and use that to make some more estimates.  So let's extend that, speculatively:

Speculative Estimate10 square feet per person5 square feet per person2.5 square feet per person
150 percent323,000645,0001,300,000
125 percent269,000538,0001,076,000
110 percent237,000473,000946,000
100 percent (was "maximum")215,000 people430,000860,000
CBS News Estimate87,00087,00087,000

The one thing we can say for certain here is that the CBS News estimate looks more and more foolish.