Tuesday, November 2, 2021

I-496 aka Ransom E Olds Highway

In 1958, Lansing decided to construct highway 496 through the center of their city. Like many cities before them, and many after, it was seen as a pathway to success. These highways often cut through low income neighborhoods, a factor complicated by racial segregation. In Lansing, this effectively severed all of the south side neighborhoods from the city center.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Lansing Area Free Stands

 Lansing Area Free Stands: A network of Lansing-area volunteers manage stands of free produce, boxed goods and hygiene products. For more information or to become a volunteer, you can join their Facebook group.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Lansing Mayoral Primary 2021

 This Tuesday, August 3rd, Lansing voters held primaries for mayor and city council and voted on various proposals.

The mayoral race this year is flush with talent. Andy Schor seeks re-election but was also challenged by two former city council members and other local activists.

Defeating an incumbent is always a challenge no matter how you slice it; let's look at the votes by the numbers. This year voters went about 49% for Schor, 51% against. In many places, including central Lansing, voters preferred other candidates. Schor has a stronghold in Moores River Drive (his neighborhood) and Groesbeck.

However, just because Schor didn't carry the most votes doesn't mean he will lose in the general on November 2nd. The areas in which Schor's opponents did well do not overlap; a coalition would be necessary to unseat our mayor.

Below is an overview of how Schor and the top three challengers performed.

Schor made a strong showing across the south side and most areas outside the core of the city.

Dunbar, an organizer and city council member, made her strongest showing near Moore Park and downtown; notably this is where she is executive director of the South Lansing Community Development Association. Overall, she garnered less than half the votes Schor did (2,561 to 6,191).
Spitzley, a long time city council member, showed mostly on the South West side, but was unable to carry enough votes to appear on November's ballot.
Sheikh-Omar, a Lansing resident and activist, attracted the attention of those across the north side, but also did not carry enough votes to continue in November.

If you aren't yet registered to vote, you can do so up to and including election day in Lansing. More information here. All voting results data collected from the Ingham County Clerk's office.

Thank you and congratulations to all the hard-working candidates. See you all in November!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Michigan COVID-19 Vaccine Spotter

 As vaccine eligibility in Michigan opens up, one website has implemented a creative solution to the often frustrating and chaotic attempts to find a vaccine appointment.

The Michigan COVID-19 Vaccine spotter is a tool to help track down COVID-19 vaccine appointment openings at your local pharmacies. It automatically scans many pharmacy websites and shows any available appointments minute by minute.

If you are eligible under Michigan's guidelines you can quickly find a location in your area. Currently all Michiganders aged 16 and older with medical conditions or disabilities are eligible, and all Michiganders age 16 and up are eligible starting April 5.

There is a cool map option to help visualize availability. There might be a wait in your area but if you are willing and able to drive, an open spot might be an hour drive away. 

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.