Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Maps


Another way to see the US: Map of where nobody lives

There are more than 300 million people living in the United States today, but America is such a huge country that we still have staggeringly vast areas that are completely devoid of humans. This map illustrates those places. Everything colored green is a census block with zero population.

Map by Nik Freeman of

The eastern US is pretty well populated except for a few spots in mountains and swamps. But the west is a different story. It's covered with enormous stretches of land that are simply empty.

And Alaska's emptiness makes even the western contiguous states look densely populated. Those green areas near the Arctic Circle look bigger than most other states.

Map by Nik Freeman of

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Here's where they cleaned the streets in 1898

In 1898, streets in downtown DC got cleaned by hand every day, while many streets in Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, and what's now NoMA got cleaned 3 times a week.

Georgetown BID head Joe Sternlieb has this old map hanging in his office. It shows the street cleaning system for the "City of Washington," which at the time was distinct from though by 1898, there wasn't still a formal distinction between the city and the surrounding Washington County that had made up the rest of the District.

The city did "daily hand cleaning" of roads for a few blocks around the White House, while downtown roads got "daily hand cleaning under contract." Other streets got "machine cleaning" 3, 2, or 1 time per week.

Today, many of the BIDs do have people doing some form of daily cleaning, such as picking up trash, while city cleaning is at most once a week. But probably the street sweeping trucks are more sophisticated today.

Oh, and there were public dumps ringing the city, along Rock Creek, in Columbia Heights, Near Northeast and along the Anacostia. Some of those sites seem to be on the grounds of schools today (such as Francis-Stevens and Meyer), while it looks like the one to the northeast of the city is where the NoMA Harris Teeter is today.

What do you notice?


Support us and you might get a Metro map hat

Have you become a Greater Greater Washington supporter yet to help us afford our new Associate Editor? Michael Perkins has offered to make a Metro map hat for the first person to give $250 or more.

Left: Another such Metro map hat on Veronica Davis. Right: The hat on a table. Photos by Veronica Davis.

Can you become a "Greatest supporter" by contributing $250 for a year or $25 a month? If you're the first one to do that after this post goes up, Michael will make you a hat to keep your head nice and warm! If you're not the first, or if you can only afford to give us a smaller amount, you still will get the very warm feeling of supporting a website that provides you with a lot of thoughtful content and an engaged community to discuss it every day. Thank you for your support!

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Everywhere you can get on intercity transit in America, in one map

This map, from the American Intercity Bus Riders Association, attempts to show all the major intercity transit routes in America. It includes Amtrak, Greyhound, and several other bus carriers.

Map of Amtrak and intercity bus lines, from AIBRA.

It's probably impossible for this kind of map to be 100% accurate all the time. In all likelihood there are some missing links, and missing carriers. But it's still quite an impressive undertaking, and a useful tool to bookmark.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Map: How much snow does it take to cancel school?

This map shows approximately how much snow it takes to cancel school in various parts of the United States.

Map from Reddit user atrubetskoy.

On Reddit, the map's author explains the methodology:

[It's from a] combination of a /r/SampleSize survey, threads, NOAA maps and some other local news sources.
So while it may not be the most precise or reliable data, it's still an interesting general look at snow closure patterns around the country.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Anacostia has changed a lot since 1892

Ghosts of DC posted an 1892 Map of Rural Anacostia earlier this week. I've made it into a graphic illustrating some of the other physical changes to the neighborhood and its surroundings in the last 120 years.

What first struck me about the map when I saw it was how close the banks of the Anacostia River were to the neighborhood. My knowledge of DC history is minimal, so I did not know that between 1882 and 1927 the tidal marshes along the edge of the Anacostia were filled in, creating what would today appear on a map as Poplar Point.

Clusters of single family homes were developed and remain intact in places such as north of today's Good Hope Road (in the Fairlawn neighborhood) and around Morris Road. In the next ring of development, south and east of here, small apartment buildings become the predominant land use. And over time (as early as 1900 with the development of the Nichols School, which is now the Thurgood Marshall Academy), larger footprint buildings sprouted up on and around today's Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road.

Future development plans suggest that the next phase of growth will follow a similar trajectory, with moderate densification of the main commercial corridors and substantial expansion into previously undeveloped land, in this case Poplar Point.

A version of this post originally ran at R. U. Seriousing Me?


What if the NYC Subway map looked like the DC Metro's?

Washington's Metro subway map, with its thick lines and bullseye transfer stations, is iconic. What would New York's subway map look like in Metro style? Chris Whong shows us.

Image by Chris Whong.

Whong redrew the Manhattan and Bronx part of the map with the 45° angles, station symbols, and simplified diagrammatic design of the Metro map. The many lines take up a fair amount of space, which is one reason New York doesn't actually make a map this way. But it's actually quite readable.

In fact, New York has had diagrammatic maps in the past, particularly the famous Massimo Vignelli map New York used from 1972-1979, which confined lines to 45° and also eschewed a lot of other information like the street grid, which is part of the current NYC map.

Portion of the Vignelli map.

Whong's full map is below:


See Washington area traffic pulse throughout the week

MapBox animated a map of Washington-area traffic for the week of Thanksgiving, using data from INRIX.

On their blog, Eric Fischer writes, "I was expecting the greatest congestion to have been on the Wednesday evening before the long Thanksgiving weekend, but it looks like Tuesday was when the roads were actually the busiest."

I'm not sure this is actually so unexpected; the roads in this map are all ones commuters use heavily. Tuesday was a regular work day for many people, plus a lot of people would be traveling out of town on top of that. Wednesday the federal government dismissed early and many people just take the day off or their employers don't expect them to work.

It would be interesting to see a similar map of roads between metro areas and whether the same pattern held or not. Or how the Tuesday in this animation compared to the Tuesday before. Within a metro area, does commuting (where most people are going somewhere within a few hours) actually dwarf holiday travel?

What else do you notice on the animation?


If you're parking, be especially careful on these blocks

DC has created maps of where parkers get the most tickets downtown and citywide (but it's mostly downtown).

Map by DDOT.

The red lines show places with 4-5½ tickets per foot of curb space, followed by yellow (3-4), gray (2-3), blue (1-2) and green (0-1). Clearly, M Street between Connecticut Avenue and 20th Street is the hotspotany idea why?

What else do you notice in this map?

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