The Future Geographers of Detroit Haven’t Yet Made a Map

DETROITography

In May, I had the honor and privilege to collaborate with the Detroit Future Schools program at the Boggs School to present a series of activities about data visualization. Our main goal was to visualize and understand patterns and relationships.

I ran the mapping activity where 2nd and 3rd graders identified where they lived, how far that was from school, and if they had any classmates who lived nearby. Many of the students didn’t realize they had a classmate who lived very close or similarly, how far some of their classmates lived from the school.

My favorite response to the map was:

“That doesn’t even look like Detroit.”

It is all too easy to get wrapped up in data, boundary lines, and “accurate” depictions of reality. Children can quickly…

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Map: Children’s Neighborhoods in Detroit

DETROITography

children-nhoods

When the Skillman Foundation launched the “Good Neighborhoods” Initiative in 2006 they focused on the areas of Detroit that had high numbers of children and high rates of poverty. I assume that they utilized 2000 Census data and wanted to check if there was any significant shift. While I run a test of statistical significance of Detroit’s child population, it is a very simple analysis to see that there are still large populations of children in the “good neighborhoods.” The Far Eastside and University District areas are the only that appear to have high numbers of children that are not within a Skillman Good Neighborhood.

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Map: Detroit’s Ubiquitous Places – Church and Liquor

DETROITography

Inspired by Nathan Yau’s work at FlowingData on pizza place geography and grocery store geography, I wanted to see how Detroit’s ubiquitous locations compared. Driving along Van Dyke where there was church after church (many abandoned) interspersed with liquor stores gave me the idea of examining which type of location dominated Detroit’s landscape.

church_liquor_dotIt takes forever to scrape the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) website for active liquor licenses, so I relied on a 2012 dataset that I generated a while back. I then utilized data from Data Driven Detroit with Churches from 2011. The data is not perfect, but unless you have someone actively monitoring every liquor license and every church there is going to be significant change. Notably, the number of liquor licenses have been decreasing since 2009. The next step was to set up a grid that was generally half a square mile squares.

church_gridThere are…

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State of Detroit – Detroit’s Food Landscape

DETROITography

IMG_7920The team at the Chicago Design Museum approached me to contribute some maps and data visualizations to their upcoming “State of Detroit” exhibit. It grew into a collaboration that built off of my research focus on food access in Detroit while also addressing some of the “Detroit is Empty” misconceptions.

IMG_7919The installation has a cool sliding feature so you can view different map layers together.

Visit the exhibit from now until August 30th, 2015. More. . .

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Map: Can Detroit Really Be Compared to Any Other City?

DETROITography

detroit-cities3

Can Detroit really be compared to any other city? No doubt everyone has tried comparing crime rates, economy, and poverty levels in Detroit with other troubled cities. A few groups have even tried fitting different city land areas into Detroit’s 139 square (land) miles. It always seems that Detroit has too much or too little of something for a city to city comparison to make much sense. Rob Linn had similar thoughts and instead of comparing land area or other commonly compared attributes he analyzed infrastructure density (feet of street per resident) as a method to debate the misguided “rightsizing” push. Rob found that Detroit had a high rate of “feet of street per resident” which caused some areas of the city to appear more vacant when in reality they had healthier infrastructure density.

The 2010 Census population for Detroit was 713,777, closer to San Francisco’s. Imagine San Francisco’s southern edge…

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Map: Detroit’s Second Great Fire

DETROITography

mcm-fire

Detroit’s “Great Fire” of 1805 is solidified in the history books as a defining moment for the city. With only the brick chimneys remaining, Detroit residents dug in and rebuilt their city. Justice Woodward drew up his inspired hub-and-spoke street plans (1806) to bring Detroit on par with cities like Paris and Washington D.C. Following the “Great Fire” Detroit saw continued progress and became one of the most well-known cities in the world for its industry.

However, Detroit has had a more recent “Great Fire,” one that began in the 1970s and is most often seen on display during Devil’s Night. As Detroit’s population declined and crime increased, both dedicated residents and criminals took to setting abandoned homes on fire. A news segment from 1975 features an interview with two Detroit residents talking about how they decided to torch an abandoned house on their block because it…

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Is Detroit’s Data More Open?

DETROITography

image (3)

Almost half the “datasets” that the City of Detroit released are simplified duplicates of larger datasets or visualizations. In truth the city released about 46 datasets, about half of the “over 90” datasets that were announced. Out of the 46 actual datasets released, only 28 are new datasets that couldn’t already be found at the old City of Detroit GIS page, Data Driven Detroit (D3), or DetroitData.org. This is still an incredible gain for open data. I just don’t understand the reason behind inflating the numbers.

After years of a substandard webpage with download links to GIS files, the City of Detroit entered the modern open data era with a Socrata data platform supported (read: free) from their new Socrata Foundation. The city has been trumpeting that it has released over 90 datasets to the public. This would be an incredible feat in a formerly bankrupt government with multiple departments spread…

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Map: Where Are All the People in Detroit – Occupancy and Foreclosure

DETROITography

det-occupied2There is a common media narrative that Detroit is empty, a blank slate, a blank canvas where anything can be done. However, this false narrative doesn’t account for the nearly 700,000 people who do live in the city. I pulled all of the “occupied, partially occupied, and possibly occupied” properties out of the Motor City Mapping (MCM) data and the above map is the result.

I found 203,723 occupied structures, which is an 81% structure occupancy rate and a total of 54% of properties with occupied structures. This doesn’t necessarily account for parks or large unused former industrial properties. The map however gives a far different picture than the common media narrative of an empty Detroit.

det-occupied-foreclosures2This year the Wayne County Treasurer identified 61,912 properties in Detroit for foreclosure in 2015. Loveland Technologies found that 35,669 of these properties (63%) are occupied according to the MCM survey data. More from…

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Map: Will the M1 Rail Streetcar Serve Detroit Residents?

DETROITography

m1rail_pop

The impact of the M1 Rail 3.3 mile-long streetcar has been an ongoing debate and a number of community organizations have voiced concerns that the M1 Rail does little to serve actual residents of Detroit. The M1 Rail project essentially says the same thing. M1 Rail is looking to serve the “choice rider” to facilitate getting around Downtown and Midtown’s attractions. The private funders joined forces after seeing the failure of public transportation during the Super Bowl in 2006. It is safe to say that the M1 Rail was not conceived of as a transportation option for residents, but rather for visitors.

“[…] the project will affect pedestrians, people in wheel chairs and bike riders. Ironically, the project will also impact bus riders, most of whom will have relatively little use for the trolley.“ (source)

The residential density along the M1 Rail is minimal at best compared to…

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