CategoryPage 2

Stuff I don’t want on the front page.

More evidence of your bicycling culture transition

Low numbers of people in “your” cycling organizations and advocacy groups. From the comments on “Why I’m not a ‘cyclist’ anymore,” a story about moving from a bicycle subculture (United States) to bicycle culture (Copenhagen):

In Amsterdam, 700,000(?) people cycle, only 4,000 are member of the Fietsersbond (cyclist’s union). We always explain this comparing it to the non-existing vacuum-cleaners union. Everybody owns and uses a vacuum cleaner, no-one feels the urge to unite themselves around this.

People riding their bicycles in Copenhagen, Denmark.

TransportationCamp West

TransportationCamp West was an unconference that took place on March 19th and 20th in San Francisco at Public Works SF and other locations (restaurants, the street, online).

I only went on Saturday and attended four topic sessions (view the full schedule with 28 topic sessions). These are the writeups of my notes and links to others’ writeups.

My writeups

Others’ writeups

Barriers to getting going on a bike

Open thread:

Gas prices are still predicted to rise and possibly meet 2008 levels. That means more people will be biking and making more trips by bike than by car.

What are the barriers to sustained (read, will be back next year) biking in the city?

  1. Obtaining a bike?
  2. Knowing how to get places?
  3. Knowing other people who bike?
  4. What do you think?

Photo of Annie in Palo Alto, California, by Richard Masoner.

How to create a map in GeoCommons

GeoCommons (GC) is like Google My Maps but more powerful. Read my introduction to GC.

Tips before starting

  • With GC, I’m still figuring out what I must decide before I choose to add or amend something and what I can edit after I’ve made a change.
  • You cannot edit the data table directly.
  • You CAN replace data – click “reupload” – but the columns must match between original and replacement data.
  • Click Save often when making the map. You never know when Adobe Flash is going to quit on you.

One of the busiest locations in Chicago, for people walking, or riding buses and trains. Also a lot of taxi traffic and medium bike traffic. At Adams Street and Riverside Plaza (er, the Chicago River).

Tutorial

  1. Prepare your data.”We support Spreadsheets (as CSVs), Shapefiles, KML, RSS, ATOM and GeoRSS. We also support WMS and Tile services!” GeoCommons has instructions on how to prepare your spreadsheets for geocoding (if not already geocoded; GC will also work with predefined XY coordinates or street addresses). Ensure fields holding numbers have their type set as numeric in the GIS or spreadsheet program or you may run into roadblocks later on when trying to analyze these fields.
  2. If uploading a shapefile, GC requires the SHX and DBF files as well. The PRJ file will also help GC know how to reproject your data on the fly. GC base layer maps are projected in WGS84, just like Google Maps. Without the PRJ file, your data may not show. [Can the user set projection?]
  3. Upload data.
  4. You need to turn your newly uploaded data from a “pending dataset” to a completed dataset. In this process you will tell GC a little more about your data, including which columns hold the XY coordinates (even though it guesses this). you can also change the attribute names and describe the content of those attributes (you can also change this later).
  5. So click “Next Step” to start this process.
  6. In the “Review Your Geodata” step, you may see that GC has found some additional columns in your dataset. I’m not sure why this is. Delete these columns by selecting the header and clicking Delete Column. Then click Save Changes. You can select multiple columns at a time by holding the Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) keys.
  7. Add metadata; edit attribute names and add descriptions.
  8. You’re done. GC will present you a page with statistics and options to download your data in different formats.
  9. If you want to make a map with more data, follow the process again starting at Step 1. If not, continue.
  10. Make a map! Click “Map Data” or the “Make a Map” button in toolbar.
  11. A map of the world will load. When GC has finished loading your “new layer,” the map will zoom in.
  12. For the pedestrian map, I want to symbolize the data with a single color but changing the size of the circle based how many people were counted there (your data must have this attribute in numeric form – if it doesn’t you may have to reupload your data). Click “Add Data” and then in the Map Brewer box that appears by:
    1. Click on Visual Theme. Click next.
    2. Select the NUMERIC attribute. In the pedestrian data, this is “count.”
    3. Then select whether or not you want colors or sizes. You can not change this later. You would just delete the layer and add the layer again (using your already uploaded dataset).
    4. Select what type of classification you want. This is entirely up to you and how you want the map to look and based on what data you have. You can change this later.
    5. Choose your shape and color.
  13. Add more data by clicking Add Data button. I think my map would be more useful and interesting if it also showed where the train stations are, a major destination category for people who walk downtown on weekdays. I will symbolize by a solid color. Instead of visual theme, which I chose for the ped counts, I will just choose Points, Lines & Areas. At this time, GC doesn’t allow custom icons.
  14. Re-order layers by dragging them up and down in the layers box. Click on the boxy “handle” to the left of the layer.
  15. Change the layer names by single clicking on the layer name. Press Enter when you’re done.
  16. Change the map name by singe click on it. Press Enter when you’re done.

After creating my pedestrian map, I had some suggestions for GeoCommons, the people who collected the pedestrian count data, and my own map.

  • GeoCommons should add a map preview image for better sharing on Facebook and other websites that look for this.
  • GeoCommons should allow maps to be private after creation – I think after you click save, they are added to a gallery (I could be wrong).
  • The data collectors should add more locations, particularly around Union Station and the two Clinton CTA stations (also between CTA and Metra stations).
  • The data collectors should add “date collected” to the data table
  • The data collectors should extend survey hours to better match commuting patterns. A majority of the collections end at 5:45 PM while Metra’s rush hour ends just before 7 PM (this is when train departure frequency drops).
  • I should add ridership data to the train stations so we can see which CTA and Metra stations are most used.

Converting Google My Maps to KML and GPX

Convert your routes that you made in Google My Maps to GPX so that you can view them on Garmin GPS devices, or upload them to MapMyRide.

  1. Access your My Map. Your My Map must have lines or routes in it. It appears that a My Map with only points doesn’t convert correctly.
  2. Click on View in Google Earth. Your web browser will download a KML file. It may automatically open in Google Earth, but this is not necessary.
  3. Visit GPS Visualizer to convert your KML file to GPX
  4. Select GPX as your output.
  5. For the input, choose the KML file you just downloaded from Google My Maps.
  6. Click Convert. Your file will be uploaded and your GPX file will be presented for download on the next page.
  7. Download your GPX file from the link on the page.

You can now transfer the GPX file to your GPS device, or upload it to MapMyRide. I confirmed that MapMyRide successfully imports the Google My Map I converted following these instructions.

Ideas for CTA’s incoming 5000-series train cars

Update: Stay current on this topic at Grid Chicago. Latest post was on July 25, 2011, about the latest rail car order
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is not exactly seeking feedback from the public at this time about the Bombardier-built 5000-series train cars it’s testing now. But this is our one chance to make these trains eve better.
  • No beige. This is not the 1980s.
  • The seats shouldn’t define individual spaces if they’re going to be longitudinal. Seat cups mean “If you fit into one, then you fit into one. If you take up 110% the width of one, you now take up two.” But if they were benches like in New York, people would only fill exactly as much space as they take up.
  • The end caps should be a different color plastic, not something intended to look like the aluminum siding from afar, which then up close is clearly nothing more than a plastic approximation. Even without redesigning the endcaps, the dye color being darker and some reflective striping (to make them not vanish into the night if the car has no lighting), would make them look ultra modern.
  • Remove the modesty panels. They serve little purpose in this day and age.

If you have ideas, leave them in the comments or email the Chicago Transit Authority.

Written in conjunction with Better bicycle storage on trains.

Photo by Jeff Zoline.

ThinkBike tidbits

The entirety of bicycling in the Netherlands, as learned from the ThinkBike workshop, in bullet form.

HH is Hans Heinsbroek, Consul General, Chicago, Illinois

HV is Hans Voerknecht, policy expert at Fietsberaad, Dutch bike research center

  • 13,000 km of dedicated paths constructed with red-brown asphalt (dyed, not painted) -HH
  • 10x more distance in bike paths than highways -HH
  • 80% of Dutch people ride a bike more than one time per week -HV
  • In NL, there are 18.5 million bikes for 16.5 million people. -HV
  • Girls 12-16 cycle 7km daily. -HV
  • 40% of Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) customers arrive by bike (NS is national railway operator, used for cross-country and rush hour transit). -HV
  • 80% of Dutch ride bike more than once per week -HV
  • 18.5 million bikes for 16.5 million residents -HV
  • We focus on bike safety education for young people because, at least until they turn 18, it is and will be their primary mode of transportation -HV

ThinkBike – Arjen Jaarsma’s comments

Arjen Jaarsma is a consultant in sustainable mobility with Balancia in Amsterdam.

He talked little about bicycling. This is all he said about it before he moved on to talk about making cities sustainable:

  • Electric bicycles go up to 25km/h
  • “You’ll notice that helmets are not worn – cycling is normal and safe”
  • In the Netherlands, for vehicles that travel 25-40km/h, riders must wear helmets

We’re in the age of sustainability – the current generation of young people is more likely to read their news online, travel by train instead of plane.

Arjen has an interest in the low carbon city with net zero emissions (emissions are compensated within the city’s own boundaries).

He believes that living with no collisions [sometimes called “vision zero”] and without traffic congestion is possible.

Amsterdam has many strategies in play that will help it become a low carbon city: use of solar power, bicycling, and rising popularity of electric vehicles.

Also of note is Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City and Masdar City.

Arjen forecasts: In 2090, 90% of people will live in low-carbon city.


Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo by 350.org climate campaign.

How to convert GTFS to GIS shapefiles and KML

This tutorial will teach how you to convert any transit agency’s General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data into ESRI ArcGIS-compatible shapefiles (.shp), KML, or XML. This is simple to do because GTFS data is essentially a collection of CSV (comma separated values) text files (really, really large text files).

Note: I don’t know how to do the reverse, converting shapefiles or other geodata into GTFS data. I’m not sure if this is possible and I’m still investigating it. If you have tips, let me know.

Converting GTFS to GIS shapefiles

Instructions require the use of ArcGIS (Windows only) and a free plugin called ET GeoWizards GIS for any version of ArcGIS. I do not have instructions for Mac users at this time.

I wrote these instructions while converting the Chicago Transit Authority’s GTFS files into shapefiles based on a reader’s request. “Field names” are quoted and layer names are italicized.

  1. Download the GTFS data you want. Find data from agencies around the world (although not many from Europe) on GTFS Data Exchange.
  2. Import into ArcGIS the shapes.txt file using Tools>Add XY Data. Specify Y=lat and X=lon
  3. Using ET GeoWizards GIS tools, in the Convert tab, convert the points shapefile to polyline.
  4. Select the shapes layer in the wizard, then create a destination file. Click Next.
  5. Select the “shape_id” field
  6. Click the checkbox next to Order and select the field “shape_pt_sequence” and click Finish.
  7. Depending on the number of records (the CTA has 466,000 shapes), it may take a while.
  8. The new shapefile will be added to your Table of Contents and appear in your map.
  9. Import the trips.txt and routes.txt files. Inspect them for any NULL values in the “route_id” field. You will be using this field to join the routes and trips table. It may be a case that ArcGIS imported them incorrectly; the text files will show the correct data. If NULL values appear, follow steps 10 and 11 and continue. If not, follow steps 10 and 12 and continue. This happens because ArcGIS inspected some of the data and determined they were integers and ignored text. However, this is not the case.
  10. Export the text files as DBF files so that ArcGIS operates on them better. Then remove the text files from the Table of Contents.
  11. (Only if NULL values appear) Go into editing mode and fix the NULL values you noticed in step 9. You may have to make a new column with a more forgiving data type (string) and then copy the “route_id” column into the new column. Then continue to step 12.
  12. Join routes and trips based on the field “route_id” – export as trips_routes.dbf
  13. Add a new column to shapes.shp called “shape_id2”, with data type double 18, 11. This is so we can perform step 14. Use the field calculator to copy the values from “shape_id” (also known as ET_ID) to “shape_id2”
  14. Join routes_trips with shapes into routes_poly based on the field “shape_id” (and “shape_id2”)
  15. Dissolve routes_poly on “route_id.” Make sure all selections are cleared. Use statistics/summary fields: “route_long,” “route_url.” Save as routes_diss.shp
  16. Inspect the new shapefile to ensure it was created correctly. You may notice that some bus routes don’t have names. Since these routes are well documented on the CTA website, I’m not going to fill in their names.

Click on the screenshot to see various steps in the tutorials.

Converting GTFS to KML

After you have it in shapefile form, converting to KML is easy – follow these instructions for using QGIS. Or if you want to skip the shapefile-creation process (quite involved!), you can use KMLWriter, a Python script. Also, I think the latest version of ArcGIS has built-in KML exporting.

Converting GTFS to XML

If you want to convert the GTFS data (which are essentially comma-separated value – CSV – files) to XML, that’s easier and you can avoid using GIS programs.

  • First try Mr. Data Converter (very user friendly).
  • If that doesn’t work, try this website form on Creativyst. I tested it by converting the CTA’s smallest GTFS table, frequencies.txt, and it worked properly. However, it has a data size limit. (User friendly.)
  • Next try csv2xml, a command line tool. (Not user friendly.)
  • You can also use Microsoft Excel, but read these tips and caveats first. (I haven’t found a Microsoft application I like or think is user friendly.)

Proposed changes to 31st Street Harbor

Copied directly from the 31st Street Harbor Traffic Impact Analysis (PDF), prepared for the Chicago Public Building Commission by AECOM.

See Exhibit B on page 12 for a drawing and list of proposed changes. They’re exciting. When designing for the lakefront, the stakes are pretty high.

The only mention of “bike” or “bicycle” is misnaming the Lakefront Trail as the “Chicago Lakefront Bike Path.” Can’t anyone get this right? According to the LEED Strategy document, though, the project aims to get 1 point for a “bicycle storage/changing room.”

Stay on top of construction updates with this blog.

The 31st Street Harbor project is one of two new harbors being designed for the Chicago Park District along Chicago’s lakeshore. Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the 31st Street Harbor will incorporate extensive new community amenities and a new 950 slip marina. These include over two new acres of green space located on a peninsula of land formed by a 1,200 foot long breakwater sheltering the new harbor, providing exceptional views of the Chicago skyline to the north. The breakwater will also create new underwater habitat and provide opportunities for fishing.

Photo shows the new breakwater and pier under construction. See Exhibit B.

The existing surface parking will be removed and relocated within a new parking structure covered by an accessible green roof that allows park users improved views of the lake while reducing impervious surface. Landscape plantings will include native plants selected to provide food and cover for the twice yearly bird migrations through the City, while also reducing maintenance and irrigation demands. A new fully accessible play area that connects the green roof area to the beach will replace an older existing playground, while improvements to pedestrian and vehicular circulation will improve connections to the neighborhoods in Bronzeville to the west. Located atop the green roof will be a new LEED Certified community center and restaurant, providing sorely needed facilities currently missing along the south lakeshore.

The marina itself will include approximately 950 new slips ranging from 35’ to 80’ in length, on site covered storage in the parking structure, fuel dock, marina store, dedicated shower facilities, and a public access boat ramp. Additionally, youth sailing programs and storage for small craft including kayaks will be provided, allowing this facility to make boating economically accessible to a very large portion of the community.

Breakwater and pier construction panorama at the beach in August 2010.

As part of these improvements, additional parking accommodations in addition to the new parking structure are being planned. Approximately 200 new parking spaces will be incorporated along the Fort Dearborn access road north of 31st Street, serving 31st Street beach. A new surface lot west of Lake Shore Drive and immediately south of 31st Street will be constructed with a capacity of over 150 spaces.

The existing attractions of Burnham Park near 31st Street will remain, including 31st Street Beach, the beach house, and the Burnham Skate Park.

Parking options:

  • 31st Street Harbor Parking Garage (310 covered spaces)
  • Surface Lot on Fort Dearborn north of 31st Street (202 spaces)
  • Surface Lot off Moe Drive south of 31st Street (161 spaces)
  • Total: 573 spaces

[Currently this beach has 188 auto parking spaces, a difference of 355% compared to the proposed quantity. It currently has about 14 bike parking spaces and needs more but I cannot find evidence that this number will increase when the new harbor opens.]

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