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.

Happy birthday Gas Tax, it’s time to retire


Traffic congestion (right) won’t change until we give transit infrastructure (left) a better footing on which to compete.

Today’s apparently the birthday of the Yosemite National Park, NASA, and also the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax.

It’s time to go. Peter Rogoff, the administrator of the Federal Transit Administration said as much yesterday at the American Public Transportation Association annual meeting.

A meeting attendee asked Rogoff, during the Q&A session following his speech, about the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, where gas tax revenues go, and from which payments for road, transit, and bike projects are drawn. Rogoff replied,

We see a lot of governors taking this on. Wyoming raised its gas tax 15 cents. And on any given weekend there are more Democrats drinking beer in my backyard than in the entire Wyoming legislature. All options are being considered. Gas tax has diminishing returns. We can’t simultaneously lower independence on foreign oil and fund transportation systems dependent on the consumption of oil.

Here’s why the per-gallon gas tax is unsustainable: it loses purchasing power because of inflation. If it were sales tax based on the total cost of your fillup, this would be a completely different story, by decreasing driving instead of decreasing gas use (and yes, they are different because as cars become more fuel efficient, driving can remain the same or go up while gas use can remain the same or go down).

So “goodbye gas tax, hello mileage tax?”

Cross-posted to the Center for Permaculture and Appropriate Technology.

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