Saturday, September 12, 2020

Street Suffixes: Lansing's Streets, Boulevards, Avenues, And Other Roads

When I was in sixth grade social studies, my teacher told us that streets always go east and west, and avenues always go north and south. Many cities have that system, but not every city does: by convention, Manhattan has avenues running north-south and streets running east-west, but the opposite is true in places like Denver where streets run north-south and avenues run east-west. Other cities do it in other ways: Washington, DC, famously has avenues cutting diagonals across the city. Tuscon has "stravenues" that fulfill that function. Generally, cities will have avenues intersecting streets, and I was curious about how Lansing's roads were named. 

Lansing's longest street, Cedar, is north-south, and our longest avenue, Grand, is east-west; however there is no obvious directional pattern to how our avenues and streets were chosen or planned, other than that they intersect with each other and have buildings on both sides. Streets and avenues may be more predicted by where they are than which direction they carry traffic: most of the roads in the city center are given the suffix "street"..

When the most common street suffixes are visualized, some patterns do emerge: boulevards are split as they are in most cities. Places, courts and lanes are typically dead ends. Drives and circles are both located in areas that loop and meander. Roads are mostly found outside the city center and are mostly north-south and east-west. Here's the whole set layered on top of each other:

Looking for cool grids? You need only look to Eaton county: our highway and road system neatly divides the county into a series of rectangles, highways going east-west and roads going north-south. Ingham county has no such pattern.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

What if the Beirut Explosion had happened in Lansing?

On August 4th, 2020, the port city of Beirut experienced two large explosions, tragically hamstringing its people and infrastructure. Using data publicly available on OpenStreetMap, we can imagine what an equivalent explosion would have been like in our area.

Within 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) of the blast, buildings were all but destroyed, leaving a crater. If the explosion had happened at our capitol building, nearly 1,100 buildings, many residential, would have been leveled in the blast. In Beirut, almost 200 people were tragically killed.

Within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of the epicenter, windows were blown out and facades destroyed. Pieces of buildings caused more damage and injuries as the heat and movement carried debris out from the city center. If the explosion had happened in Lansing, over 35,000 buildings could have experienced some kind of damage, including most Lansing neighborhoods.

Within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the epicenter, people felt aftershocks and saw smoke rising into the sky. People as far as Okemos, Holt, Dewitt and, Waverly would be able to see the damage and feel the blast.

Lansing is much larger than Beirut in terms of area, but has one third of the people; the population of the city of Beirut is much more concentrated in a smaller space than Lansing, making the destruction more devastating.

The United States has promised financial support although we have not committed an amount yet. Consider a donation to an organization like Doctors Without Borders that is doing work on the ground in the affected areas.

Friday, July 10, 2020

EIG: Poverty in Lansing since the 1980s

"In the span of just a few weeks, the U.S. economy went from 'recession proof' to facing one of the largest single-quarter contractions since the Great Depression. From mid-March to mid-April, 26 million workers filed for unemployment, surpassing the nearly 23 million jobs created over more than ten years of economic growth."

So begins the Economic Innovation Group's May 2020 report on urban neighborhoods in the United States.

Lansing metro is among the areas analyzed--the report maps our city in terms of its change in poverty rates comparing a range of dates, including 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2018. On the original EIG site, you can click a tract to see the rates for various years.

With neighborhood names and landmarks superimposed over the map we can get a clearer picture of which areas are hardest hit. Areas along the Cedar St corridor and north of the highway in the Eastside neighborhoods were already experiencing high rates of poverty in the 80s and have worse rates in the present day. There are some areas that were hit hard by the recession in the 2000s and haven't recovered (Tamarisk, Glencairn, Potter-Walsh); others have been hit by the most recent recession (Creston).

A few cities have seen "turn arounds" and others have seen areas that were in deep poverty both in the 1980s and now. Lansing has neither of those; we've seen some areas stabilize and others fall slightly.  Tracts are categorized as newly becoming poor, persistently in poverty, in worse poverty, or having been in poverty but "turned around". Interestingly, nationally, most neighborhoods' conditions worsened, only a small minority were in the "turned around" category.

The entire map, which looks at urban areas around the country is available online here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

People for Bikes Michigan Rankings

Every year, the organization People for Bikes rates cities based on how bike friendly they are. The organization rates small, medium and large cities based on their several factors, including safety, ridership, network, reach, and acceleration. Michigan's medium and large cities are ranked below; Lansing came in near the middle:
A fascinating part of their process is their transportation network analysis. They begin by marking streets as high stress (highway 496, or a fast street with narrow bike lanes like Aurelius) or low stress (residential roads, or the Lansing River Trail network). Then it determines which amenities are available via bike, such as employment, recreation, and services like health and grocery. You can see Lansing's network stress analysis here.

Here you can see what happens when we place that network over needs and services, such as education, health, recreation and so on.

You can compare Lansing to other medium-sized cities online (Ann Arbor for example has a much higher rating and much more connectivity; it has a similar population size and area to Lansing). Lansing has relatively poor connectivity to a large number of areas--many neighborhoods are are locked off from city amenities by highways, trunks and primary roads without safe bike alternatives. Downtown is well connected, and there are a few areas on the South East side that are moderately well connected and walkable or bikeable. Most neighborhoods require a car to get to important places. The River Trail does a great job of connecting many areas to Downtown and the larger Michigan network, but there are lots of neighborhoods where people cannot access the river trail without driving to a trailhead or crossing busy roads with high speed traffic.

One other things to consider is city size: when small cities are included, the ranking shakes up quite a bit. Many smaller cities are doing a good job of ensuring access to city amenities.

This year, Lansing's rating is 1.8 (last year we also earned a 1.8, in 2018 we had a 1.7). Shout out to the Lansing Bicycle Co-op, the Lansing Bike Party, TCBA and all of the other stakeholders working to make Lansing a better place to bike. Also, Lansing recently renewed the biking millage, and you can see some improvements going up on our current trail. Let's see what we can do to raise it and make us an even more bike-friendly city in the future!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Live Tracking of COVID-19 in Michigan

As of March 20, there are 549 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan and three confirmed deaths. Ingham now has 7 confirmed cases (as of March 20). The difficulty in sharing a static image of a map is that this situation is changing very rapidly. Michigan Public Radio has created a web map being updated live with State-confirmed cases. You can find the tracker here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Summer Food Service Program

The Michigan Department of Education has published an online site locator for their Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP, despite its name, is not only available in summer--children who need access to nutritious meals during the coronavirus-related school shut down are encouraged to take advantage of this program. Use the site locator to find a food service program site near you.

The map is available online at:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Post Primary Fever

Now that the elections are done and Michigan's Democratic delegates have gone to Joe Biden, it's interesting to see where each candidate polled strongly. Even in a medium-sized city such as Lansing, opinions were wide ranging. Let's see how people in the city voted based on location. You can see that Sanders is very popular near East Lansing and on the East Side, but Biden took the West and South sides.

Interesting too are the "protest votes" that went to candidates that had already suspended their campaigns. Tulsi Gabbard, who is still officially running, earned less than one third of the votes that Buttigieg, who has suspended his campaign, earned.