Visualizing St. Louis City Commutes

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STL City commute

Sometimes we stumble upon something that’s just interesting. I’m not sure what’s to be learned by watching this visualizing of work commutes into St. Louis City, but it’s pretty cool. And while it’s fun to watch, there’s some real information present as well if you pause and click.

What you’re looking at above are commutes to St. Louis City of more than 20mi. This excludes St. Louis County from just outside I-270 to the city limits. The GIF below shows commutes into St. Louis City from 5-80mi. This includes commutes within the city of that distance (in yellow).

STL City commute_5

The GIF below is set to show commutes of 5-100mi from St. Louis City. This then includes commutes within St. Louis City as well.

STL City 5mi commute

The really cool thing is that the visualization can be seen for any county in the U.S. Mark Evans used data from the American Community Survey and Google Maps to show commutes from each U.S. Census tract. St. Louis City is below, but you can check any county by visiting the Commute Map on Mark’s I Love Big Bytes blog. There’s more information at an accompanying blog post.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.01.27 PM

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  • kjohnson04

    One thing it does illustrate is the need for commuter lines into St. Louis. We need our own version of the LIRR/Metra in St. Louis. Metro is missing an opportunity to capture regular riders through a robust commuter network. But they have refused to make inroads to build out a commuter framework outside of the meekly ‘express’ bus routes that only meekly cover St. Louis County (but not Madison/St. Clair in IL) or the complete failure to serve St. Charles County, where a good portion of the workforce is now.

    • Metro hasn’t refused anything- the funding doesn’t exist. LIRR, Metra, and other commuter rail systems were built by private companies back when railroads were a good investment, and then taken over by the state when they weren’t anymore. We would have to start from scratch, and it would cost billions that Metro doesn’t have. The state won’t kick in anything, and the feds only do matching, so we’d have to raise local sales taxes to cover the bonds. That would require a public vote. A referendum to raise sales taxes in St. Charles County to build rail infrastructure would be slightly less popular than killing all their firstborns.

      Transit funding isn’t magic, and there’s no conspiracy or weak-willed administrator keeping us from getting a better system. It’s just votes and dollars.

      • Adam

        But apparently plenty of funding for highways until recently.

        • Yup. Because the sorts of people who vote in state and local elections largely overlap with the sorts of people who drive: whiter, older, better educated and wealthier than the general population. Demographics isn’t exactly destiny, but it’s a big part of it.

          This is a general problem in American politics, not just transportation or even taxation. Local and state level issues are generally decided in off-year, weird month elections, and those electorates are overwhelmingly conservative. This is why we have a Democratic president, but Congress is Republican, as are 31 state legislatures. The kind of people who are pro-transit (and also pro-other left wing causes) only turn out in presidential elections. But when it’s an off-year April referendum on raising the gas tax to support transit, they disappear.

          So we could have a vote on expanding Metro, but the electorate is going to be mostly made up of old white people from St. Peters, Ladue and Des Peres. (This is the same reason I’m not sanguine about merging the city and county, since that election would be required to happen in a weird month.)

          I don’t have an answer to this. If you do, I suggest calling the DNC, because they’ll probably give you a reward.

          • Adam

            But how many times have transit initiatives been on the ballot vs highway expansion initiatives? And who is lobbying for transit the way the construction industry lobbies for highways? It’s already a skewed playing field before the voter even gets to the ballot. And given recent results—Prop A passing and amendment 7 failing—I’m not sure it’s so clear cut. Perhaps if the number of measures proposed to fund transit were nearer to the number proposed to fund highways the results would be more equitable.

          • There’s something of a chicken and egg effect: nobody expects transit ballot initiatives to do well, so they don’t get proposed as often.

            Construction lobbyists actually aren’t the problem in this case, they make money whether we’re building roads or rails or banana stands, they really don’t care what the state builds as long as it builds something.

            Prop A and Amendment 7 had different electorates: Prop A was just St. Louis County, Amendment 7 was state-wide. The county is much wealthier and more liberal than the rest of the state, and Prop A was a much smaller tax. Apples and oranges.

          • matimal

            If only those “sorts of people” actually paid for the roads they use.