Taginterview

How Chicagoans commute map: An interview with the cartographer

Chicago Commute Map by Transitized

A screenshot of the map showing Lakeview and the Brown, Red, Purple and Purple Line Express stations.

Shaun Jacobsen blogs at Transitized.com and yesterday published the How Chicagoans Commute map. I emailed him to get some more insight on why he made it, how, and what insights it tells about Chicago and transit. The map color-symbolizes census tracts based on the simple majority commuting transportation mode.

What got you started on it?

It was your post about the Census data and breaking it down by ZIP code to show people how many homes have cars. I’ve used that method a few times. The method of looking up each case each time it came up took too long, so this kind of puts it in one place.

What story did you want to tell?

I wanted to demonstrate that many households in the city don’t have any cars at all, and these residents need to be planned for as well. What I really liked was how the north side transit lines stuck out. Those clearly have an impact on how people commute, but I wonder what the cause is. Are the Red and Brown Lines really good lines (in people’s opinions) so they take them, or are people deciding to live closer to the lines because they want to use it (because they work downtown, for example)?

The reason I decided to post the map on Thursday was because while I was writing the story about a proposed development in Uptown and I wanted  information on how many people had cars around that development. As the map shows, almost all of Uptown is transit-commuting, and a lot of us don’t even own any cars.

What data and tools did you use?

I first used the Chicago Data Portal to grab the census tract boundaries. Then I grabbed all of the census data for B08141 (“means of transportation to work by number of vehicles available”) and DP04 (“selected housing characteristics”) for each tract and combined it using the tract ID and Excel’s VLOOKUP formula.

Read the rest of this interview on Web Map Academy.

What I like best about bicycling in Chicago

In an interview with a student reporter I gave this past weekend, I was asked to say what I like best about bicycling in Chicago.

I didn’t want to give an answer that would have been true about bicycling in any other city – the question was about here and not about riding a bike. My first answer may seem to disparage Chicago (maybe it won’t be printed…) but a few questions later I told the reporter I wanted to revisit this question.

My new answer put bicycling in Chicago in an extremely positive light and I was being entirely truthful:

What I like best about bicycling in Chicago is the existence of many and diverse subcultures. I mentioned that you can find a group of people who like riding fixed gear bikes, or find a group of parents who ride with their children, or even a group of cargo bike owners (actually, this subculture hasn’t taken off yet – I need to work on that). There are also group rides for every occasion, including one on Sunday for May Day, the Haymarket Ride to Union Park

I felt relieved that I was able to eventually answer this question. I didn’t want to leave the interview telling the reporter that I didn’t like anything about bicycling IN Chicago.

The 2010 Perimeter Ride rolls out after a late dinner at Superdawg. Photo by Eric Rogers.

My television interview about dooring data

Last week you heard me on WGN 720 AM talk about bicycling in Chicago and my bike crash map.

This week you’ll get to see me talk about bike crash and dooring data on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program. It comes after a rule change announced on Sunday: the Illinois Department of Transportation will begin collecting crash reports for doorings. Previously, these were “unreportable.”

WTTW reporter Ash-har Quraishi came over to my house Thursday to ask me about what kind of information the crash data I obtained from IDOT includes and excludes.

You may have heard me on the radio this morning in Chicago

Here’s the audio clip of my interview with WGN 720 AM producer Rob Hart about biking in Chicago and the bike crash map I made. It aired this morning – I had no idea until someone left me a comment on a Flickr photo that they heard me.

Listen now: Steven Vance on biking and bike crashes in Chicago on WGN.mp3 (will play in your browser).

I am too nervous to listen to this. I’m sure I said something wrong or misspoke.

Biking in Chicago is fun and you should do it. You don’t need special gear or equipment and you can buy a cheap bike at Working Bikes in Pilsen, at 2434 S Western Avenue.

Transcript

[ding, ding]

A little bell may be what comes to mind when you think of riding your bike, but the reality is more like this.

[sounds of traffic]

A busy street full of cars, trucks, and buses. With drivers who are looking at something else.

Me: There’s a lot of driveways. A lot of drivers are making right and left turns and if you ride too close to the curb they will probably not see you, so you have to ride sometimes outside the bike lane if you want to be noticed.

Steven Vance ditched his car 5 years ago. He rides his bike all over the city and he says sometimes it’s a white knuckled experience.

Me: It can be. It does take a little bit of resolve. Sometimes your nerves will get frayed, but I think the benefit outweighs the cost.

After a newspaper [Bay Citizen] in San Francisco mapped out bike crashes on its website, Vance decided to plot bike crashes in the Chicago area on his.

Me: I saw that, and I thought, “You know what, I think I can do that.” I asked the Illinois Department of Transportation for the data and they promptly sent it over and I, as quickly as possible, put it online.

The diagonal streets are the worst, he found, and that includes Milwaukee Avenue.

Me: You could find Milwaukee just by the number of dots representing the crashes. You didn’t need a label to say that this was Milwaukee Avenue. You could tell simply by the string, the constant string of dots.

 

Interview with Bay Citizen on bike crash map

Thank you, Tasmeen, for asking about my bike crash map that your newspaper inspired me to create.

Read the interview.

Read about the bike crash map for Chicago.

View the bike crash map for Chicago (2007-2009).

It’s not this sunny yet, but today it was 49°F in Chicago. This photo was taken on Milwaukee Avenue, where the most people bike, and where the most people have bike crashes.

I Love Riding In the City

The magazine Urban Vélo features cool people in every issue who filled out this form. I don’t want to miss any opportunity to become famous in print! Here are my answers to the form:

Your Name

Steven Vance

Location

Chicago, IL

Occupation

Blogger.

Where do you live and what’s it like riding in your city?

I live in Bridgeport, a cool neighborhood a couple miles south of the Loop. I love riding in the city, but preferably at night when fewer people are driving. Weekends are annoying because the traffic changes – shopping is the name of the game and it makes for a different transportation environment. I want the city to construct protected bike lanes.

What was your favorite city to ride in, and why?

Portland, Oregon. Because there were so many other people riding. Riding a bike to get around was the normal thing to do – I didn’t get honked at or told to ride on the sidewalk. The grocery store I visited had their bike parking with 10 feet of the entrance. I was riding with a crowd of other bike people biking at 1 AM on a weekday.

(Dang it, now I’m wondering if New York City was my favorite city to ride in. NYCDOT has been throwing down bike lanes left and right in all boroughs for 4 years straight now. But I think Portland wins out because of its calm.)

Why do you love riding in the city?

It’s a lot easier than riding in the suburbs.

Or just say whatever you want about riding in the city… Poetry anyone?

If you need a ride, I’ll give you a seat on the back of my Yuba Mundo. No charge.

I submitted this photo with my application.

As far as bicycle magazines I know about go, they can be compared to conditions of the city like so:

  • Suburbs – Bicycling Magazine – boring, bland, the same every month. Thumbs down.
  • Urban – Momentum Magazine – diversity, families, becoming a more popular and convenient place to live. Thumbs up.
  • Hyperlocal – Urban Vélo – getting down to the nitty gritty, who lives here? who lives there? who does what? Thumbs up.

Invigorating Bridgeport

I recently started a blog called Bridgeport. About three weeks ago.

My intent is to use it as a platform on which to promote local businesses. I didn’t know what to write about it until a journalism student at Columbia College asked me some questions about me and the blog for a class assignment.

A chic Chicagoan rides by Bricks Realty, a local Bridgeport business on Morgan Street.

How long have you lived in Bridgeport and how do you like it?

I’ve lived in Bridgeport for 2.5 years in December 2010. I like it less than I liked living Pilsen because I’m a little further away to where I went to school and where I used to work. I also like the obvious Pilsen identity and numerous taquerias (I’ve documented my visits to 24 taquerias to judge their burritos).

When did you start the blog?

I started the blog on October 6th, but the first entry didn’t appear until the next day. I work in the middle of the night often.

Why did you decide to start blogging about Bridgeport?

I started blogging about Bridgeport because I feel that we have a lot of great local businesses that don’t get the same attention that businesses in the Loop, Lincoln Park, or Wicker Park receive. The level of awareness Chicagoans have for businesses and attractions in Bridgeport seems very low. I think people will come to Bridgeport to enjoy one neat place they read about, and then leave. There are diverse products and services available in Bridgeport – there’s more than just a restaurant known for its brunch and organic food.

What do you blog about?

So far I haven’t blogged about much. I’ve posted a couple events, like a store sale at Blue City Cycles, or an open house at Bubbly Dynamics where the public is invited to meet local craftspeople and see their work. I went to that open house and met all the craftspeople to introduce them to the blog. I plan to feature them in a future entry.

Do you run any other blogs?

I write often in another blog about urban planning and Chicago. It has a silly name, Steven can plan, but once you launch, you don’t really have an opportunity to change the name without confusing readers. (I just counted the words, 70,826 of ’em!)

What is your background in (ie major/job)?

I graduated from UIC with a master’s degree in urban planning this past May. I worked at the Chicago Department of Transportation for almost 3 years ending in September this year. I’m looking for new work, but I also just love blogging and taking photos.

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