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Where is Falls Church, exactly?

A couple months ago, Greater Greater Washington editor Dan Reed wrote about how Silver Spring doesn't have actual boundaries. That's not the only place in our region where that's the case: the question of where, exactly, Falls Church's borders are is also an open one.

Unlike Silver Spring, there is an official boundary in terms of the City of Falls Church (which is an independent city not part of Fairfax County):


Map of the City of Falls Church from Google Maps.

But when people say "Falls Church," they have always meant more than the current boundaries of the city (in fact, neither the East Falls Church nor West Falls Church Metro stations are in the City of Falls Church). So, let's start with a bit of history.

In 1875, Falls Church gained township status within Fairfax. In 1887, it retroceded "South Falls Church" back to Fairfax (I touched on this in a 2014 post about the naming of West Falls Church). According to the City's website, "In 1890, the Town Council of Falls Church voted to cede its other majority African American districts to Fairfax County. As a result, over one-third of the land that made up the town was retroceded to the County."

East Falls Church, which makes up the western corner of Arlington County, has its own interesting history. It was part of the Town of Falls Church (while simultaneously within a county, which changed designations as Virginia ceded its portion to, then retroceded it back from, the District of Columbia).

So, from 1875 to 1887, the Town of Falls Church included what is basically today's City, along with South Falls Church and East Falls Church. I found a map of the Town of Falls Church here and georeferenced it onto a current map:


Current City of Falls Church boundaries are in red, overlaying a map of the former "Town of Falls Church." Map by the author using data from Fairfax County GIS and Quora.

For a more modern look at what the boundaries of Falls Church could be, we can start with the most inclusive: postal addresses that use Falls Church. The peach-colored area in the map below represents the five zip codes that use Falls Church in their addresses. While it's the largest area considered, it omits East Falls Church, which has an Arlington address.


Map from Fairfax County GIS with annotations by the author.

On the other extreme, you could strictly define Falls Church as the City, whose boundaries are shown in green above. This is a tidy solution in that it is a formal boundary. But then what do you call the surrounding area?

(For those who are familiar with Falls Church but haven't looked at these boundaries in a while, you'll note the 22043 zip code sticking out. This reflects the the boundary of the City of Falls Church having changed very slightly in the last few years: the middle school and the high school for the City of Falls Church had been in Fairfax County (adjacent to the city boundary). As part of the deal where Fairfax Water bought the Falls Church City water system a few years ago, Fairfax County handed over the school property to the City.)

Could physical features define Falls Church?

In Dan Reed's post about Silver Spring, and in the comments, there was mention of physical attributes (roads, natural features) as boundaries.

With this approach, I-66 (to the north), the Beltway (to the west) and Holmes Run/Columbia Pike (to the south) would be logical boundaries for Falls Church. This is shown in yellow above. (To the east, I selected the Arlington County border which, admittedly, isn't a physical feature.)

I often hear the term "Greater Falls Church" to describe the City and surrounding areas, but I wasn't able to find any formal boundary definitions of such. I checked the circulation information of the Falls Church News Press, which says it targets "…customers in the greater Falls Church area of Northern Virginia." They deliver to the five zip codes above, but provided no additional information on their website. (Their circulation is quite sparse outside of the City.)

The Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, which used to be called the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, has a map of its members that corresponds closely to the northern half of the zip code area:

But other than the formal boundaries of the City, there are no formal definitions of where "Falls Church" begins and ends. So, what do you consider the boundaries of "Falls Church" to be?

Transit


This map shows where the most bus riders live and how close they are to Metro

High population densities are generally considered necessary for frequent and direct bus service. However, not all dense populations have high bus ridership. I recently created a map of the population density of people who commute to work by bus in the DC area.


This map shows the density of people in the region who reported that the longest part of their commute was by bus. The green regions around Metro stations are half-mile walksheds. The darker the red color in the census tract, the more people there take the bus.

To create the map, I used the Census's 2014 American Community Survey's data on how many people in each census block group reported that they made the longest part of their commute to work by bus. It's important to recognize some limitations to this data: in particular, it completely excludes non-working individuals who still make many or most trips by bus. Furthermore, it excludes anyone who uses a bus to get to a Metro station that's too far to walk, and then uses Metrorail for a longer trip to their job.

In addition to the ACS data, I plotted half-mile walksheds around Metrorail stations, using a GIS shapefile provided by WMATA's PlanItMetro blog back in 2014 (unfortunately, this shapefile predates the Silver Line and so doesn't have walksheds for those stations). These walksheds allow us to compare areas of high bus ridership to the areas in which residents have a reasonably short walk to a Metro station.

In some places, lots of people take the bus even though they live near Metrorail

It is interesting to note that some of the highest bus-rider densities in the area are in DC's Mid-City, the neighborhoods from Shaw to Petworth that are in the vicinity of Green and Yellow Line stations. It is likely that these area's proximity to downtown and the fact that they are served by very frequent bus routes (the 14th Street, 16th Street, and Georgia Avenue lines) makes the bus a more convenient, as well as cheaper, alternative to Metrorail.


Chart by Dan Henebery.

But more predictably, most big groups of bus riders don't live near Metrorail

Unsurprisingly, the high density of bus riders along the Silver Spring-to-downtown Metrobus lines continues north of the Georgia Avenue-Petworth station, where the corridor is not served by rail. As can be seen in the above chart, the 14th Street and 16th Street lines are Metro's busiest bus lines, and the Georgia Avenue line is its fifth-busiest.

Other than in Mid-City, though, the areas of highest bus rider density tend to be in corridors that are not well served by Metrorail. Within the District, high densities of bus riders can be found along the H Street-Benning Road line—Metro's third-highest-ridership bus line—in the largest area of the original L'Enfant City without Metrorail service.

Like bus riders in the northern Georgia Avenue/14th Street corridor, many of the bus riders East of the River live in areas not well served by Metrorail. A cluster of bus-riders on Massachusetts Avenue in the vicinity of American University is also some distance from Metro stations. The lack of major bus routes in this area suggests to me that they are mostly students riding university shuttles.

Outside of the District, lower population densities, a less transit-friendly built environment, and less-frequent bus service naturally leads to lower population densities of bus riders. However, high densities of bus riders are found along the Columbia Pike corridor in southern Arlington County, which has been the site of proposed rail lines since the original laying-out of Metro.

The Langley Park area, at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard on the border between Prince George's and Montgomery Counties is also home to a large cluster of bus riders. Metro's sixth-highest-ridership bus route, the circumfrential Greenbelt-Twinbrook line, runs along University Boulevard in this area, which is also served by a number of other Metrobus and RideOn bus routes. The new Takoma-Langley Transit Center, serving these routes, is scheduled to open at the University Boulevard/New Hampshire Avenue intersection in the next several months, and the area is also slated to be home to several Purple Line stations.

It is interesting to note that the White Oak/Calverton area, at the intersection of Columbia Pike and New Hampshire Avenue in eastern Montgomery County, is home to perhaps the highest density of bus riders outside the Beltway. This area is also an employment center, with the FDA's White Oak research campus on the site of the old Navy Surface Warfare Center.

Development


Maps of where our region's jobs are, what types of jobs they are, and what they pay

When we talk about the densities of neighborhoods, there is a tendency to focus on how many people live in an area. But it can be equally important to talk about how many jobs are there, and what types. The maps below show where the jobs in our region are as well as how much they pay.

Part of the reason people focus on residential population densities is that US Census data makes them easy to find. The Census doesn't directly report data on job densities, but its Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program combines data from Census surveys and data reported by states to produce a list of all the employers in the country, along with their locations and how many people they employ.

Using this data, a Harvard graduate student named Robert Manduca created an interactive map of jobs across the US, color-coded based on sector of the economy and pay (the image above shows jobs by sector, but if you click for the interactive version, you can toggle to see jobs by pay). The data is arranged by Census blocks, with one dot per job located randomly within its Census block.

On the maps that show what sectors jobs are in, each dot's color correlates to a job type: red for manufacturing and logistics, yellow for retail and hospitality, blue for professional services, and green for healthcare, education, and government.

Zooming in on the Washington region, we can see some interesting patterns. Of course, downtown DC and walkable areas around Metro in Arlington and Alexandria are hotspots for jobs.


The Ballston-Rosslyn corridor in Arlington.

But the area also has a number of large job clusters in areas farther from the core and Metro as well. Notably, though, these job clusters are quite different in different parts of the region. In Virginia, jobs outside of the region's core are mostly concentrated in a few major clusters and along freeways. For example, near Dulles Airport, along the corridor where Phase II of the Silver Line will be:


Jobs clustered around the intersection of the Dulles Toll Road and Fairfax County Parkway. The airport is just to the west.

In Maryland, though, there seems to be a much less sharp distribution. There are a few large clusters, particularly in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Bethesda, and along US 1 in Prince George's County, but there is also much more of a low-density distribution of jobs outside these clusters than is seen in most of Virginia.

The region's stark east-west economic divide is also very visible on these maps. On the maps of incomes, yellow dots are for jobs that pay $1250/month or lower, orange for $1250-$3333/month, and purple for over $3333/month.

The large clusters of higher-paying jobs, and particularly of professional, government, education, and healthcare jobs are nearly all west of the Capitol.


West of the US Capitol.

East of the Capitol, we see much larger concentrations of manufacturing and logistics jobs, and fewer jobs in general.


East of the US Capitol.

Housing


These two maps are the guides to your neighborhood's future. Here's what you should know about them.

At over 600 pages, the DC Comprehensive Plan is massive document, and few people actually read through the text. It has two maps, though, that are very easy to understand. They are, arguably, the pieces of the Comp Plan that are most often cited in decisions about development, and it's important that you know about them.


Photo by Euro Slice on Flickr.

What is the Comp Plan again?

DC has a giant planning document called the Comprehensive Plan. Most of it is super dense and complicated, but its goal is to lay the foundation for many city-wide decisions, in particular decisions on land use.

Partially because of its size and obscurity, many people just focus on two maps that exist as part of the Comp Plan: the Future Land Use Map (FLUM), and the Generalized Policy Map.

The FLUM

Shown below, the FLUM is intended to guide land use decisions for the District. It colors blocks or parts of blocks with various broad land use categories, like "moderate density residential," "high density commercial," "federal government," etc. Each of those categories are given specific descriptions in the legend, even as specific as including numbers of stories.

Does this sound like a zoning map? I can see why you'd think so, but in fact the language in the Comp Plan clearly states that this is NOT a zoning map. Instead, it is supposed to translate the land use policies in the Comp Plan text to a map, and act as a guiding document for the zoning commission when zoning changes are proposed.

The colors represent a combination of what land use currently exists on the ground, and what planners predict for the future. In the end, when a governing body in DC is asked to interpret policies embedded in the various chapters of the Comp Plan, that body is supposed to refer back to the FLUM to clarify and guide their interpretation.

This map is cited often at the Zoning Commission and was at the center of a recent court case limiting development near a Metro station.

The Generalized Policy Map

This map is similar to the FLUM in its purpose and scope. Rather than designate land use by color and description, the Generalized Policy Map is supposed to guide neighborhood policy decisions by highlighting a few general strategies. For example, it colors certain corridors of the city as "Main Street Mixed Use Corridors," signaling a certain policy framework that encourages said growth along that street.

The map's stated purpose is "to categorize how different parts of the District may change between 2005 and 2025," managing that change using the categories in the legend.

There are some reasons you should be worried about these maps

There's one big issue with both of these maps: they tend to preserve the status quo—more specifically, the status quo of 2006, which is when the Comp Plan was created.

For example, If you look at the Generalized Policy Map, a vast majority of the District is marked as "Neighborhood Conservation Areas," which do not forbid but do generally discourage new development from taking place. What that means is that in 2006, planners sectioned off a huge majority of the city as "let's leave it be" sections. If you look at the map closely, the most obvious concentrations of "Neighborhood Enhancement Areas" (where change is encouraged and expected to take place) are in Wards 7 and 8.

The FLUM is not much better, and truly acts more like a "Current Land Use Map." Look at your neighborhood; you'll notice that most of the land use designations match what exist today, and in many cases aren't too different from what existed in 2006. The map and Comp Plan in general are supposed to last until 2020.

If used more intentionally to plan for and accommodate the growth happening in the city, both maps COULD be great tools to help guide where residents and the city want to incorporate growth. Unfortunately, neither functions that way right now.


Photo by Daniel Lobo on Flickr.

Recent events have made these conservative maps more powerful

I've looked at these maps a lot, and even now as I read some of the language in the FLUM I'm struck: the text sounds like a zoning map even though the FLUM says it is not a zoning map. Each color in the legend gives ranges of stories (like 4-7 stories) for each of the land use categories. That really sounds like zoning. This makes it easy to interpret the map (incorrectly) to say that development in those areas should strictly fall within that range.

Many groups use such arguments when they go before the zoning commission, and now those arguments carry significantly more legal weight. The recent court case at 901 Monroe Street in Brookland created a legal precedent that the numbers of stories in the legends of these maps can be used to restrict new projects.

There's an opportunity to make changes to these maps

As we have been writing about, the Office of Planning is organizing an effort to amend and update the Comprehensive Plan. As a part of that update, groups are allowed to submit recommendations for what they'd like to see changed in the Comp Plan. This includes the maps.

Take a look at your neighborhood on these two maps. What suggestions do you have? If your neighborhood was to incorporate more residents, retail and jobs, how would you do it?

Transit


How much of a workout would you get walking from one Metro stop to the next? This map shows you.

How realistic would it be for you to walk rather than take the Metro? This map of the DC Metro system includes number of miles between stations, how long it'd take to walk that distance, and the number of calories you'd burn if you did:


A zoomed in look at Wells + Associates' map. Here, you can see the short distances between some stations and the longer ones between others. Images from Wells + Associates.

The map, created by Wells + Associates, with data from Google Maps, tells commuters just how realistic it might be to leave a station and walk rather than take a train.

Between each station, there are three numbers: the first one, which is blue, says how many minutes it'd take to walk; the middle one, which is purple, says the distance between them in miles; and the third one, which is green, says how many calories you'd burn if you made the walk.

If you're using Metro in downtown DC or in Arlington, where many stations are less than two miles apart,making the final leg your commute by foot or bike may just save you time, reduce stress, and burn off a few calories before you settle down at your desk.

In other places, like on the far east end of the Green Line where the Suitland and Branch Avenue stations are 2.8 miles and a 55 minute walk apart, and on the west end of the Silver Line, where the distance between the Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations is a whopping 6.9 miles apart, that isn't exactly a realistic choice.

In cases like these, if driving isn't an option, biking or waiting might be the only feasible option.

Would you be less likely to wait out that final 8, 10, or 20 minutes for the next train if you knew your destination was just a few blocks away?

Politics


This map shows what percentage of our region's population is registered to vote

Most of us have at least a vague understanding of the political leanings of the communities we live in, but we tend not to know what fraction of our neighbors actually vote. I recently made a map showing what fraction of the population is registered to vote in legislative districts throughout the region.

Each district or ward is color-coded based on the percentage of residents who were registered voters in 2014; the darker the color, the more people who were registered. I only included Maryland and Virginia legislative districts that contain part of Prince George's, Montgomery, Fairfax, or Arlington counties, or the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, or Fairfax.

Because it was easiest to find data on registered voters for electoral districts, I decided to use lower house state legislative districts in Maryland and Virginia and wards in the District of Columbia for the map. (DC is split up geographically into eight wards, each of which has a representative on the DC Council.)

It is worth noting that while this data tells us what percentage of residents vote, it does not take into account the fact that not all districts have the same population of eligible voters. Unfortunately, I was unable to find data on the number of eligible voters, or of citizens eighteen or older, tabulated by legislative district.

One thing I think is noteworthy is how much the the percentage of residents registered to vote varies across the region. In Maryland's District 47B, only 28% of the population is registered to vote (granted, the district does include the immigrant-heavy area of Langley Park), while in DC's Ward 6 (which includes Capitol Hill), 86% of the population is registered to vote.

As a Prince George's County resident, I was also surprised to find that the percentage of registered voters is generally lower in northern Prince George's County than anywhere else in the DC area, since I had thought of the northern half of the county as more politically engaged than the south. However, the large immigrant communities in the northern county, and the associated larger numbers of non-citizens, are probably part of the reason for this effect.

Zoning


This map illustrates DC's new zoning rules

Zoning is the legal framework that shapes just what can be built where in most cities, and DC just enacted a new zoning code. It's pretty detailed, but we're in luck: the the District's Office of Zoning made this interactive map to illustrate where different zones are, what they mean, and why they're organized it that way.


Click to explore DC's new zoning map, including its quick descriptions of each zone.

The map is one of many the zoning office has published to explain the changeover. If you click the image above, you'll see a sidebar that shows the eight categories that define how land in DC can be used: Residential; Residential Flat; Residential Apartment; Neighborhood Mixed Use; Mixed Use; Downtown; Production, Distribution and Repair; and Special Purpose.

Clicking on the individual colored areas will bring up will bring up the specific "zone district," one of the three parts of zoning that regulate the use and shape of a building. The others are the rules that apply everywhere in the city and processes that give the regulations flexibility, like Planned Unit Developments. But zone districts are the rules that shape specific neighborhoods, and it's usually what people are talking about when they mention zoning.


Residential Flat (RF) is one of three types of Residential zones. Below, you can see examples of the others. Photo from DC's Office of Zoning.

By breaking down the official map into the big categories and color coding them, you can see patterns. For example, the yellow and orange shapes show areas where only houses, flats, or apartment buildings can be built. At a glance, over half of DC's residential land is zoned exclusively for detached single-family housesthat's conservative, since most other zones also allow single-family houses.

Image from DC's Office of Zoning.

The new code organizes zone districts for residential use by building type: single family houses (R), flats in small apartment buildings and subdivided rowhouses (RF), and large apartment buildings (RA).


Residential Apartment (RA). Photo from DC's Office of Zoning.


Residential (R). Photo from DC's Office of Zoning.

Zooming in on Historic Anacostia, the map below shows the denser RA and RF areas closer to Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. SE, with the area uphill restricted to townhouse, duplex or detached houses by their R-3 zone designation.

It might also look like there's a lot of land across the city that's zoned RA. But looking closer, a lot of this land is for campuses like those of American University, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, or built out with low-rise garden apartments in areas like McLean Gardens and Congress Heights.

Commercial zones saw a bigger change

The new code has no purely commercial zones. The downtown zone districts (D), meant for the dense core at the center of the city, don't exclude apartments. Some even incentivize residential buildings by letting apartments be denser.


Downtown (D). Photo from DC's Office of Zoning.

Farther out, medium-density commercial areas are now called Mixed Use (MU), to reflect that the code encourages both commercial and residential in those areas. That's not new, but the name of old districts like "C-2-A" suggested otherwise.


Mixed Use (MU). Photo from DC's Office of Zoning.

A good example can be found around Mount Vernon Triangle and Northwest One: it's mostly zoned D and MU, and many of the new residences built there are not in residential zone districts.

H Street NE was one of several areas used to have "overlays" added to modify the standard zone districts in a geographic area. Sometimes those modifications were the same across commercial and residential properties, but often they laid out custom rules for every single zone district the overlay touched. To figure out what was allowed on a given property, you'd first look in one chapter of the code for the "base zoning," then flip to another chapter for the overlay.


H Street's old zoning.

Now, each of the existing combination of zones has been given its own subsection. Small commercial strips like H Street fall into distinct moderate-density neighborhood mixed use (NC) zones, meant to create a special character for individual neighborhood main streets, like Georgia Avenue and Carroll Street in Takoma.


Neighborhood Mixed Use (NC). Photo from DC's Office of Zoning.

Now, the overlay and base zoning information is all in one place, from the statement of purpose to technical restrictions. The same is true for the Special Purpose customized zones, used meant to give big areas like Uptown Arts on U and 14th Streets (ARTS), or at Walter Reed (WR) unique characteristics.


H Street's zoning under the new code.

Zoom in on the map and click on a parcel, and the map will show a quick description of the site's zoning. This little chunk of Howard University's campus is one of the few remaining industrial (PDR, short for Production Distribution & Repair) zones in DC's northwest quadrant.


Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR). Photo from DC's Office of Planning.

None of these have industrial uses anymore; this lots is a development called Wonder Plaza, with fast-food eateries and no heavy machinery.

Perhaps this PDR designation was just kept by inertia; I'm not sure I would have noticed that without this map.

For me, the new organization of the code and the Office of Zoning's map help with understanding not only what someone could build on some plot of land, but also how earlier planners shaped the the city and what might need to change. What does this map help you see?

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that over half of DC's residential land is zoned exclusively for detached single-family houses. That isn't the case; over half the land is zoned exclusively for single-family houses, but not detached single-family houses.

Transit


We know where most of DC's population lives. Does Metro run through those places?

The maps below show where DC's most densely-populated pockets are, as well as where its Metro stops are. It turns out they aren't always the same places, or in other words, DC isn't building enough around transit.


Highest density census tracts comprising 50% of DC population, with Metrorail overlay. Map by John Ricco, overlay by Peter Dovak.

Back in July, John Ricco created a pair of maps showing that 50% of DC's residents live on 20% of the land, and a quarter of the population lives on just 7% of the land. Peter Dovak, another Greater Greater Washington contributor, did me the favor of overlaying John's maps onto the Metro system.

Looking at the map above, which shows where 50% of the population lives, there are some obvious areas of overlap between density and Metrorail access, including the Green/Yellow corridor through Shaw, Columbia Heights, and Petworth. The southern area of Capitol Hill also has multiple Metro stops and is relatively dense.

But what stands out are the dense places that aren't near Metro. The northern end of Capitol Hill, including the H Street corridor and Carver Langston, as well as the areas to the west around Glover Park, a few tracts to the north near Brightwood, and two larger areas east and west of the Green Line in Ward 8, near Congress Heights and Fort Stanton Park.

All of these places show that DC's growth isn't being concentrated around its transit (its transit isn't being extended to serve dense areas either, but that's harder to do).

Of course, Metro is far from the only way to get around. Residents of high density, Metro-inaccessible neighborhoods rely on buses and other modes to get where they need to go; specific to northern Capitol Hill, for example, there's also the DC Streetcar). Also, some areas next to Metro stops are low density due to zoning that restricts density or land nobody can build on, like federal land, rivers, and parks.

Still, it's useful to look at where DC's high-density neighborhoods and its high-density transit modes don't overlap, and to understand why.

25% of DC's population lives close to metro... mostly

Really, the S-shaped routing of the Green Line is the only part of Metro in DC that runs through a super dense area for multiple stops.

Looking at the map that shows 25% of the District's population, the Green/Yellow corridor helps make up the 7% of land where people live. But so does Glover Park, Carver Langston, and a tract in Anacostia Washington Highlands near the Maryland border—and these places are a long way from a Metro stop.


Highest density census tracts comprising 25% of DC population, with Metrorail overlay.

There are historical reasons for why things are this way

According to Zachary Schrag in The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro, Metro wasn't meant to be an urban subway; it was always meant to be a regional rail system. It explicitly bypassed the relatively few people in DC's high-density areas, in favor of speeding up rides for the greater number of through-commuters. Apparently, DC had little say in that decision, which is evident in the map.

On the other hand, the citywide streetcar plan was meant to bring rail access to many more DC residents—partly because, well, it was to be built by DC's government, for DC's residents, which Metro was not.

The first version of this post said that a tract was in Anacostia, but it's actually in Washington Highlands.

Transit


Worldwide links: Does Seattle want more transit?

Seattle is about to vote on whether to expand its light rail, stirring up memories of votes to reject a subway line in the late 60s. In San Francisco, people would love to see subway lines in place of some current bus routes, and in France, a rising political start is big on the power of cities. Check out what's happening around the world in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by VeloBusDriver on Flickr.

Subway in Seattle?: Seattle is gearing up for a massive vote on whether to approve a new light rail line, and a Seattle Times reporter says the paper is, on the whole, anti-transit. Meanwhile, lots of residents haven't forgotten that in 1968 and 1970, voters rejected the chance to build a subway line in favor of a new stadium and highways. (Streetsblog, Seattle Met, Crosscut)

Fantasy maps, or reality?: Transit planners in San Francisco asked residents to draw subway fantasy maps to see where the most popular routes would be located. They got what they asked for, with over 2,600 maps submitted. The findings were also not surprising, as major bus routes were the most popular choices for a subway. (Curbed SF)

Paris mayor --> French president?: Sometimes labeled as the socialist "Queen of the Bohemians", Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has quietly moved up the political ladder, and she's now a serious candidate to be France's future head of state. Hidalgo did the unthinkable by banning cars from the banks of the Seine, and her ability to make change at the local level makes her believe cities are, in many respects, more important than the countries they inhabit. (New York Times)

How romantic is the self-driving car?: In the US, driving at age 16 was a 20th century right of passage. But what happens when we take the keys away? What happens to people's love affairs with cars if cars drive themselves? Does turning 16 mean anything in terms of passage into adulthood? In this long read, Robert Moor wonders how the self-driving car will affect the American psyche, and especially whether older drivers will ever recover. (New York Magazine)

Pushing back on art in LA: Local activists in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles, are pushing back against artist spaces they feel are gentrifying the neighborhood. Research shows that the arts aren't necessarily a direct gentrifying agent, but planners do watch art spaces to analyze neighborhood change. (Los Angeles Times)

Quote of the Week

We've had this concentrated population growth in urban areas at the same time that people have been doing an increasing percentage of their shopping online. This has made urban delivery a more pressing problem.

- Anne Goodchild on the growth of smaller freight traffic in urban areas. (Associated Press)

Roads


Does the US highway system have high cholesterol?

Similar to how veins and arteries pump blood to and from our hearts, our infrastructure moves people and materials around the country. In this video, Metrocosm's Max Galka took 24 hours' worth of highway traffic and visualized it to look like the human circulatory system.

Max made the visual using the raw data that the US Department of Transportation used for its July summary of traffic volume trends across the country (it puts one out each month). Here, you're seeing traffic volume counts for every hour of every day at about 4,000 traffic counting stations nationwide, which adds up to about 14 million datapoints in all.

Max noted the following when we emailed about his map:

For the most part, the traffic is concentrated just where you would expect, in the most populous areas: New York, LA, Chicago, Florida, Texas. But if you look at the map, you will notice that there is one spot where many of the major routes converge, which I was surprised to discover is Nashville.

I was also surprised by the pattern of traffic across the day. Rather than spiking at rush hour in the morning and again in the evening, the volume of traffic on the interstate grows steadily throughout the day, peaking at 4pm and falling off from there.

What do you notice when you watch?

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