NECSI Researchers visit Fenway Park Beginning of Red Sox parade in Fenway Park
(photo by Sanith Wijesinghe, on October 30, 2004)

October 30, 2004 - Researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) who use computers to simulate crowds, today had an opportunity to see the real thing in action. NECSI postdoctoral fellow Sanith Wijesinghe was embedded with the Red Sox parade to observe the crowd behavior. The parade, reported by the Boston Globe to have attracted 3.2 million people, was one of the largest crowd events in Boston history.

Just the previous evening, the President of NECSI advised the city to extend the parade route. The city extended the route using a river course that allowed many more people to view the parade. Invited by Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole to advise the city about the parade, Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam, President of NECSI, calculated the maximum capacity of the original route and found it far below the expected number of people.

"There was a great danger of crowd crushing causing injuries or deaths." Professor Bar-Yam explained, "We used videotapes of the Patriots championship parade to estimate the maximum crowd density, and the area of the crowd at that event. We were also sure that the Red Sox parade would be substantially bigger." With this information Bar-Yam and Wijesinghe calculated that the route along Boylston and Tremont Streets would not hold the expected crowd, "The numbers we estimated for the Patriots parade and the Red Sox parade were significantly below the ones reported by the Globe. Still, even these smaller numbers were too high for the space available."