Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Happy 517 Day: Lansings of North America

Happy 517 Day! 

Did you know that Michigan's Lansing is not the only Lansing to lansing? Multiple Lansings lansing in many locations across the American and Canadian lansingscape. The well-traveled among us have vacationed in sunny Lansing, Florida. Perhaps you've seen the beautiful vistas of the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing, Iowa. Done some shopping in the hip neighborhood of Lansing, Ontario? Sat in a field in Lansing, Arkansas?

Whether you are celebrating by hitting the river trail or getting lost in the Frandor parking lot, I hope you have a nicest 517 day in the capital of all Lansings.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Lansing's Changing Grocery Landscape: Food Deserts

A "food desert" is a geographic area where residents' access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is limited.

In 2008, the U.S. Farm Bill requested that the USDA measure the extent of "food deserts" and discuss the consequences and causes. In the intervening years, the Economic Research Service has published maps of these so-called "food deserts"—that is, places which lack access to fresh food and produce. You can see the nationwide map and read more about it here.

Residents in a number of Lansing neighborhoods must travel quite far from their home to access fresh food, often requiring a reliable car or use of CATA and other transit.

The most recent analysis took place in 2019: the USDA determined which census tracts were both low-income and had low-access for food stores. Those locations are pictured in red above. 

Generally these are census tracts wherein people need to travel more than one mile to find a market that serves a wide variety of foods and accepts food stamps, among other requirements. These cannot be membership-only stores (like Sam's Club or Costco). The USDA determines what qualifies as a "supermarket", which doesn't necessarily include all places you can get food.

The map above includes all supermarkets on OpenStreetMap--the ones that qualified under the USDA rules are bordered with a yellow mile buffer, those that don't are still included as blue dots.

From 1909 to 2010, Lansing had a large public market downtown, near Cooley stadium. This market was demolished in 2010 to build the newer mixed-use version of the Lansing City Market, which failed to retain grocers and farmers over its lifetime, leaving downtown folks needing to drive to grocery stores in other locations. 

Recently, a couple of large grocery changes have occurred: 

Meijer opened the Capital City Market in the heart of the stadium district, creating an opportunity for those living downtown. 

In Edgemont Park, just south of the River Forest neighborhood, Valuland closed, leaving the residents on the northwest side needing to drive to Waverly for their grocery needs. A Valuland that served Colonial Village/Moores Park also rebranded then closed.

Food access is constantly evolving. I am curious to see if Lansing will be able to close these other holes in our food landscape and ensure access to fresh food for all Lanstronauts. The next USDA "food desert" map will likely look much different.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Hot and Cold: Michigan's warmest and coolest days

 Michigan has a number of geographic features influencing the weather we experience. Lake effect snow is well documented and anyone who lives in the north can attest to the (relatively) mild summers along Grand Traverse bay. People in Grand Rapids experience snow flurries while Lanstronauts have power lines collapse.

Here is a visualization that looks at the timing or the extremes of weather. The coldest or warmest day is mapped out in bright colors. Data comes from the National Weather Service's daily normals. Location data from OpenStreetMap.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Map That Moved 2,000 People: Redlining in Lansing

Redlining is a discriminatory practice began in American cities in the 1930s-1960s, where federally-backed banks denied mortgages to people of color preventing them from buying homes in certain neighborhoods. The word comes from the fact that maps were drawn up for major US cities and had certain "undesirable" neighborhoods circled, literally, in red ink--therefore, "redlining".

In the state of Michigan, 11 cities had redlining maps, including Lansing.  

You can see in the above map, red areas that were considered "hazardous", yellow are "declining", blue are "desirable" and green are "lending areas". In Lansing, most of the redlined areas were heavily populated by people of color.

Redlining is illegal today, but it exacerbated racial disparities in the United States. The effects of redlining linger still, and researchers have studied health disparities, food deserts, academic differences, and economic insecurity in neighborhoods that were redlined.

Here is a story map that looks at the history of redlining in Michigan and specifically looks at what Lansing's 1940 redlining map looked like. It's a very interesting look at our city's history and which buildings and neighborhoods (one of which no longer exists) were impacted. You can see the accommodations and businesses that were demolished to expand the GM plant and build the Ransom E Olds freeway.

Redlining had a huge impact on the landscape of our city, being largely responsible for the division of Lansing into two parts and creating what is referred to collectively as "the south side".

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Pokémon GO and walkability in Lansing

Lansing has 2,800 pokéstops and gyms within its boundaries. It's a great place for gaming! Most Pokémon GO players remember when the game started with Lanstronauts wandering downtown and rushing to LCC after someone yelled "Hey, I got a Blastoise over here!" Mayor Andy Schor even designated Wentworth park with a PoGO sign!

How many of those pokéstops and gyms are safe for your average pedestrian? Cities like Lansing are divided into walkable "islands" when high speed motorways and arteries carve out pavement rivers through their middle. Some people are comfortable walking around with cars coming by at high speed, but many people would prefer traffic calming measures or pedestrian designated areas like a park or the Lansing River trail for a walk, ride, or roll. For example, one of the highest pokéstop-dense locations is downtown, which is surrounded by daytime traffic, making it more convenient to Poké Go and drive. 

Let's find a nice place to walk and play! We can divide the city into pedestrian islands and analyze which have the most points of interest. Here's a map with some of the highest density areas that are walkable and you can catch pikachu with every hat imaginable!

Friday, December 3, 2021

Lansing Mayoral Election: 2021

Follow up to Lansing Mayoral Primary: in Lansing, the top two candidates run in the general. Despite pockets of interest in candidates in various areas of the cities, incumbent Schor took the election. 

Dunbar only topped Schor's votes in two precincts (East Side) and nearly tied in one (West Side). This was not enough to overtake Schor, as he kept his strongest areas (Moores River Drive and Groesbeck) and won the vast majority of Lansing votes.

Final tally: of 87,000 registered voters, 17,622 votes were cast. 11,328 for Schor, 6,290 for Dunbar, 4 write-ins.

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.