Wednesday, March 6

Colorful Commutes

This post isn't about road rage. No...

I’m a closet GIS geek. I love maps. I love showing data with maps. I’m a spatial genius, but that doesn’t translate well to other aspects of life. So when I came across this article on The Atlantic Wire this morning showing a map that WNYC created using Census data to show US commute times I was ridiculously excited.


 
This new shiny story bumped the one I was going to post today (either an exposé on The Gorge Loop or the roll-out of my “transportation philosophy”). And since it’s not Friday I don’t think I can justify celebrating with three posts in a single diurnal anomaly.
What’s interesting to me about this is that there are some obvious patterns on the map. Urban areas have concentric rings around then, as you’d expect, but a city like Denver has longer commute times than a city like Lexington. I think the obvious explanation would be sheer numbers of people—congestion—versus geography. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that, but based on my first-hand knowledge of both cities I can attest to the drastic difference in traffic congestion between say Wadsworth Boulevard in northwest Denver and Man O War Boulevard in Lexington. MOW got nothin’ on Wads.


Denver, pop: 2.5 million (metro area), Density: 4,044/sq mi


Lexington, pop: 472,000 (metro area), Density: 1,042/sq mi

As you can see, the Denver metro area has over five times the population and four times the density of metro Lexington. But in both cases, you can see the obvious commute pattern of people living on the fringes of the urban area and commuting into the cities. Commute times go up as you get further from the urban core until you reach a travelshed and people begin moving away from one city toward others.
Actually, this map is a fantastic tool for showing travelsheds. This is even more obvious in this map:



Notice the darker swath between Denver to the north and Colorado Springs to the south. In this area people are obviously travelling to one city or the other, while people closer in are more likely commuting toward the geographically more proximate urban area.
Anyway, this was too interesting to pass up.

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