Senatorial Transport Index 09

As per usual, the Transport Politic has provided an innovative insight into the world of transportation.  This week he has developed a Senatorial Transport Index for 2009, measuring how progressive senators are regarding transportation issues.  For further explanation of how these ratings were measured you should click on the link to get the breakdown of what votes were measured.

What is interesting to me is the curious correlation or lack thereof of votes to urban density.  I understand the role of party affiliation and how that affects the votes of various senators, but states with high urban density are most likely to get federal public transit funding, especially regarding high speed rail.  It makes all the sense in the world that the senators from Wyoming do not support such funding, but that the senators from Texas are lukewarm is odd; especially given that the state is home to three of the eight largest cities in the country (Houston, Dallas and San Antonio) and six of the 21 largest.  The truly perplexing state is Arizona, given that 81.4% of it’s population lives in the Phoenix and Tuscon metropolitan areas.  However, Phoenix is built on the American dream of sprawl, roads and now foreclosure.  At the same time, only politics can explain the “good” behavior of the senators from Montana, Vermont and West Virginia.  Although we can all hope that senators truly have the nation’s best interest at heart and realize that what is good for the country may be good for their constituents, even if the money does not flow directly.

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radical cartography subways

The above image comes from the fantastic website Radical Cartography.  The project artists there create wonderful maps of everything from subway systems (including Boston) to North American rail to census data.  The above map is of North American Subways, and the creators explain thus:

At a glance, many metros seem to be comparable in scale, but what separates New York from Baltimore is density: station-to-station distance, line overlap, and linkages.

Most systems are organized as a hub with spokes; the two notable exceptions are New York and Mexico City, both of which are more like nets.

This particular map is telling because, as the creators point out most systems work to funnel workers toward city centers but do an abysmal job of getting people from one place to another on the periphery without going through and back out of the center of the core.

The map is fascinating as it is telling about how people not only get into respective cities but what life is like once they are there.  My bias is to believe that subways are a sign of an active downtown and that people potentially live in the urban core.  This clearly true of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago and an interesting sign about life in Houston or Cincinnati or Phoenix.

However, cities without transit will not improve their downtown areas just by building subway lines (though it certainly cannot hurt).  Cities like Phoenix and Vegas were built around highways and an automobile driven life, and do not have the urban density necessary to support a strong subway system.  It is no coincidence that New York and Mexico City lead the pack of urban transit systems, they are both incredibly dense cities.   In order to make subways or elevated lines or lightrail lines work again it must be part of a comprehensive urban planning project, where areas are rezoned to produce dense urban centers for both residential and commercial purposes and where people have incentive to live their lives relying on public transportation first and automobiles second.

(H/T to my partner at eartotheground for the link)