The Leonard Lopate Show

Maps and How the Worlds Looks

Monday, February 25, 2013

Simon Garfield tells the history of maps from the early explorers’ maps to the satellite renderings on our smartphones. He explains how maps reflect the best and worst of what makes us human. His book On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks is full of fascinating tales of cartographic intrigue, outsize personalities, and “pocket maps.”

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A Crazy But Rational Solution To Our Electoral College Problem

Friday, February 15, 2013

On three different occasions, the candidate with the most votes didn't become president of the United States. We call this "The Electoral College Problem." Here's a solution. Simple. Mathematical. Rational. (With one small "but ...")

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Transportation Nation

Snow Plow Tracking Site Too Popular for Its Own Good

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow plows in the Boston area, February 9, 2013. (Photo by John Byrum)

Snow was still dumping down on Boston Friday evening when the city had to pull down its public website for tracking snow plows. Within a couple of hours of snowfall the site had over a million requests from users. Boston's total population is 625,000.

"[The site] couldn't handle all the traffic," said John Gulfoil, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Menino. "It was hurting our efforts to actually track our own plows," he said.

The city had built the GPS-enabled tracking website so the public could watch along in real time as plows made their way around the city street by sodden street. 

After the blizzard of 2010, New York City was trapped in piles of snow. Cars, buses, even ambulances were abandoned in streets that went unplowed for days.  stranded on unplowed streets and citizens crying foul that they couldn't tell when and where the cleanup was coming. In the aftermath, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, "there was a discrepancy between information coming into and out of City Hall and what people were actually experiencing on the streets." He vowed to track each plow using GPS in the future. (More on that below.)

The blizzard this past weekend that hit Boston hardest, brought with nearly three feet of snow and the first real test (that we are aware of) of a GPS-managed snow plow fleet in a major snowstorm.

Boston has had a private GPS tracking system in place for smaller storms since. This was the first time the public was able to watch the plows move in real-time along with city officials.

The catch is that the same GPS system that populated the dots on the public website map also powered the Department of Public Works operational maps at its command center. The flood of interest from the public was clogging the servers and preventing plow fleet managers from doing their jobs. 

The Department of Public Works mustered private contractors to join the city fleet in removing more than three feet of snow from city streets. The GPS tracking system has been in place for years and helps hold the drivers accountable because managers can see where they are. "They can't hide," as Gulfoil puts it. “Hopefully next time there’s a major storm we’ll have all the bugs worked out,” Gulfoil said.

New York City had a similar website in place, though with much less snow to contend with -- and citizens out sledding and such in higher numbers -- the PlowNYC website proved less popular and less problematic. Keith Mellis of the NYC Department of Sanitation didn't have traffic numbers immediately available. "We had no interruption," he said. "It works." 

You can see where plows went in NYC hour by hour on this visualization of the PlowNYC data extrapolated by plow-watcher Derek Watkins.


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Transportation Nation

DC Bike Share Visualizer Shows How Neighborhoods Use CaBi Differently

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare released its latest batch of customer trip data -- and the fine folks at Mobility Lab turned it into an interactive map. What's interesting about this visualizer is that it sorts trips by neighborhood cluster.

Instead of seeing all the trips everywhere -- which is beautiful --  you can see how a given station connects to the areas around it. The more rides between two stations, the thicker the red line. Click on most downtown stations and it looks like a starburst of rides.

Trips on the National Mall tend to stay on the National Mall or head over the Jefferson Memorial.

Bike Share trips on the National Mall, Washington D.C. 4th Quarter, 2012.

Mobility Lab has also set the map so you see the direction of trips, including "unbalancedness" between stations. That's when trips tend to be in one direction more than another. It's not so surprising that more people ride downhill on Connecticut Avenue from the Van Ness station to Dupont Circle. But it is interesting to see how many more people ditch the heavy bike share bikes at the bottom and return by some other, presumably less tiring, means. Of the 203 trips between those two stations in the 4th quarter of 2012, 82 percent of them were downhill.

(Read TN's article on how DC rebalances bike share stations here.)

Trips from Van Ness bike share station in 4th quarter 2012

Michael Schade over at Mobility Lab has pulled out a few more interesting data points. Alexandria, Virginia, joined CaBi last year. Most of those bike share trips appear to be heading to or from the two Metro stations.  So Schade concludes bike share in Alexandria is being used to solve a last-mile transit problem.

See his full analyses and more maps here.

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NYC's Top Dogs: Mapping Names & Breeds in the City

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

If you own a dog in New York City, odds are it’s a mutt named Max.

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Krulwich Wonders: Miss Piggy's Version Of Global Warming: What About Me?

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Here's a new way to think about global warming. An interactive map plots how temperatures have changed in any region on the planet since the early 1950s.

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Best of the Year: Our 2012 Editor's Picks

Friday, December 21, 2012

Whether we were stepping back to look at the big picture on housing foreclosures nationwide, or getting micro by visiting a 105-square foot studio apartment in the West Village, 2012 was a year of finding fresh angles for the news, and unexpected ways to tell you about it.



Area of Expected Flooding Rises for NJ

Friday, December 14, 2012

New flood maps for New Jersey predict water levels to climb several feet higher than previous estimates when major storms strike the state.



Brain Fodder Vol. 2

Friday, October 05, 2012

This week: a singing planet, scientific proof that lots of things really do taste like chicken, a love letter to a map, and lots more...

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Map | City Council Prepares for Redistricting

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The New York City Districting Commission unveiled its first draft of how City Council districts may be redrawn for next year’s election.

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It's A Free Country ®

Map: Is Your Favorite Sports Team for Romney or Obama?

Monday, August 20, 2012

In a town with two football teams, local fans are divided. Turns out the same goes for the team owners and their politics.

Comments [39]

It's A Free Country ®

Map: The Biggest Presidential Campaign Donors in NYC

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Which New Yorkers have contributed the most money to the 2012 presidential race, and where are they?

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It's A Free Country ®

In Wisconsin's Democratic Stronghold, Activists Weary but Resolved

Thursday, July 26, 2012

If there's one place you'd expect to find an enthusiasm gap for Obama supporters, it'd be in Madison. But after running into weary and cynical voters in Colorado and Iowa, Wisconsin voters sounded remarkably resolved for another contest.



Map: NYPD Finds Most Guns Outside Stop-and-Frisk Hotspots

Monday, July 16, 2012

Using data from the New York City police department, WNYC mapped all street stops by police that resulted in the recovery of a gun last year.  The digital map shows an interesting pattern — the areas where the NYPD finds guns are not necessarily the places where the police are devoting the most stop-and-frisk resources.

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Transportation Nation

Boston T Exec: I Was Surprised Apple Dropped Transit Directions

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Transit info on the current iPhone, via Google  (photo by Kate Hinds)

When Apple V.P. Scott Forstall unveiled the company's new operating system last week, he was breathless with enthusiasm. "Next is Maps," he said. But not included: Transit directions. Bay Area BART trains? Not there. DC's Metro? Not there? Boston's T? Not there.

"I was, first off, kind of surprised," said Joshua Robin, innovation director for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. "For the last couple of years, it's been a huge benefit to our riders to have transit as an option."

iPhones have been relying on Google Maps, which do include transit directions. But now that Apple is working on its own system, it dropped transit. Pro-transit groups started a petition to get Apple to reconsider.

Apple isn't commenting, beyond what Forestall said at the announcement: "Instead of trying to build those ourselves, we are going to integrate and feature and promote your apps for transit right within the Maps app in iOS 6."

So for a while at least, you'll have to download them yourselves.

(From the Marketplace Morning Report)

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The Empire

MAP: The Drastic Shifts in New York's Sixth Congressional District

Monday, June 18, 2012

New York's sixth congressional district, in Queens, like the rest of the borough, was once dominated by Jews and Catholics.  But redistricting this year made Asian Americans almost forty percent of the district, giving an Asian American candidate, Grace Meng, a shot at being New York's first Asian American elected to Congress.  

But first, she'll have to beat Democratic two candidates with deep roots in Queens politics in next week's primary: City Councilmember Liz Crowley, and state Assemblymember Rory Lancman. Click over this interactive map to see how the district has changed in just ten years.  The winner of the June 26 primary will face a Republican in November.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Was the Wisconsin Recall Election a Bellwether for the Nation?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

In Wisconsin, it was a race for the left and right corners of the political spectrum. Will the rest of the country follow suit?

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Transportation Nation

MAP: Where To Find Bike Share in Lower Manhattan

Friday, May 04, 2012

As we've been reporting, New York City DOT is quietly presenting almost final maps of bike share stations.  (We've made an interactive map, showing how many bikes will be at each station, below.)

The City DOT isn't making it easy  -- to see their almost final maps of bike share stations, you have to physically attend a community board meeting.  Jim O'Grady did that -- took a bunch of cell phone photos of slides presented by the DOT -- and we've converted them into a map.

(We're missing a segment, one slide -- so sorry, the area just east of City Hall down to the river. We'll update as soon as we can.)

Some notable highlights:

* You can get pretty close to the World Trade Center -- about a block away -- but not in the security zone.

*There's one near Stuyvesant High School.

*There's one at the Wall Street Ferry dock, and a whole bunch by the Staten Island Ferry.

*There's one next to the Stock Exchange -- but it hasn't yet been approved by the Department of Homeland Security, which controls the area.


We'll be attending as many of these future meetings as we can -- if you go, send us photos! -- and continuing to map them, until the city DOT puts out its own maps.  These maps have yet to get final community board and city sign-off, though we've heard a generally positive reaction from community boards.

The New York Times has this map of midtown bike stations.

Here are the upcoming community board meeting:

  • Manhattan Community Board 1: May 3
  • Manhattan Community Board 2: Transportation Committee, May 8, Full Board, May 24 (DOT presentation not yet scheduled)
  • Manhattan Community Board 4: May 2 (vote on resolution on tentative map)
  • Manhattan Community Board 5: May 31
  • Manhattan Community Board 6: May 17
  • Manhattan Community Board 7: not yet scheduled
  • Brooklyn Community Board 2: information not yet available
  • Brooklyn Community Board 3: Full Board, May 7, Transportation Committee  May 8
  • Brooklyn Community Board 6: May 17 (tentative)

The program is slated to start in July -- with an annual pass costing $95, a weekly pass $25,  and a day pass for $10.  That gets you 45 minutes per ride, with an escalating scale upwards after that.

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Few Fatal Vehicle-Bike Crashes Lead to Arrest, Data Show

Monday, April 09, 2012

Last year, 21 cyclists were struck and killed but only two drivers were arrested. And about 40 percent of the time a driver is involved in a fatality – a pedestrian, cyclist, other motorist or themselves – not even a ticket is issued.

Comments [32]

Talk to Me

The Jane Hotel's Connection to the Titanic Draws a Crowd

Monday, April 09, 2012

New York City has no shortage of sites that have a direct connection to the Titanic. One of them is the Jane Hotel, where the Titanic's surviving sailors went for a memorial service in 1912. Check out our map of this and other Titanic landmarks in New York City.

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