The Last Stop

After receiving feedback on our poster and presentation at the midterm, we now have a clearer view of what would serve ARC (the Atlanta Regional Commission) best as the final product we create for them. We also got a better sense of how we can host our platform, add a job distribution, and investigate other projects that interest ARC. They are launching initiatives to improve Atlanta’s public transit system, such as a collaboration with Cambridge Systematics to address transit issues related to the elderly and disabled, and a project called MartaMenu that uses MongoDB to help users plan their trips. Our tool compliments these initiatives by giving users (and ARC) a way to interactively view and access how public transit affects job accessibility.

Our tool, the Atlanta Access to Jobs map, displays accessible jobs from a given origin by walking or public transit. Travel times approximate a typical morning commute. The tool allows users to choose their place of origin, transit mode (walking or public transit), and maximum travel time. Jobs accessible from the chosen origin and meeting the selected criteria are marked by an isochrone (the highlighted region on the map). The map representation shows a single point for each job. The jobs are color-coded as red, blue, and green for low, medium, and high pay jobs respectively.

Check out our tool at http://transit.gatech.edu.

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The entire code for this tool is available on Github at: https://github.com/Moqri/job_accessibility

We have been heavily inspired and borrowed from other open source mapping tools including:

Peter Richardson’s dotmap of US Census: https://github.com/meetar/dotmap

Dustin Cable’s racial dotmap: https://github.com/unorthodox123/RacialDotMap

Robert Manduca’s jobmaps: https://github.com/rmanduca/jobmaps

We are currently working to add more functionality before we finalize the documentation and packaging to deliver the tool to ARC.

Mapping Job Accessibility

During the past week, we worked on mapping different factors involving in job accessibility through public transport based on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Low Poverty Index, which represents the “depth and intensity of poverty in a given neighborhood.” This index is a linear combination of two values: family poverty rate (pv), and the percentage of households receiving public assistance (pa). The Low Poverty Index ranges between 0 and 100, with 0 representing the poorest neighborhoods and 100 representing the most affluent neighborhoods.

Low Poverty Index:

Using this poverty data along with employment data from ARC, we created a mapping tool to visualize the intersection between poverty, jobs, and public transit in Atlanta. The tool shows the Atlanta metro area by census tract with MARTA routes overlaid on top. A slider on the left controls poverty level, and brings into view tracts that have a lower or equal Low Poverty Index as the value set in the slider. The tracts that are visible are colored according to the number of jobs in that census tract. Through this tool, users can get a sense of a neighborhood’s access to public transit and the number of jobs available locally in the neighborhood. The tool can be accessed at http://transit.moqri.com.

The heart of metro Atlanta has fairly good access to public transit. This map shows the central part of the city with the Low Poverty index set to 25, meaning that the tracts that are colored are the less affluent neighborhoods. The darker red tracts downtown reflect the high number jobs available there.

 

While access to public transit is good in the heart of Atlanta, public transit does not extend into much of the outer metro area. Many of the outlying poorer areas that can be seen on this map lack access to public transit. Some, like the census tracts to the north, still have access to many jobs locally. Those neighborhoods to the south, east, and west however, have few jobs, high poverty, and no access to greater job opportunity through public transit.

How well does public transport provide you access to jobs in Metro Atlanta?

Spoiler alert: University of Minnesota’s analysis of transit accessibility in 46 metropolitan cities ranks Atlanta 30th.

This past week, we have been exploring different aspects of transportation accessibility to employment based on demographic factors such as poverty and income level from the US Census and the American Community Survey. Specifically, we are examining the effectiveness of Atlanta public transportation in providing underserved communities with access to jobs. To do this, we are developing an accessibility index, which is a weighted average of the number of jobs a person has access to based on commute time to each job (closer jobs have higher weights). The accessibility index is being built into a tool for transit planners using Leaflet and Graph Builder from OpenTripPlanner .

The following figures shows accessibility, from a point in East Atlanta, by walking and public transportation based on travel time. These maps will help us visualize how adding public transportation infrastructure could change the job opportunity distribution in the Atlanta area, with a focus on creating a more equitable job opportunity landscape for poorer neighborhoods.

Accessibility by Walking

Accessibility by Public Transit

 

Atlanta Public Transit and Ridership Visualization

Public transit is an essential tool for many people to access employment and leisure. It also offers solutions to pressing problems for cities, including traffic congestion and carbon emissions. Atlanta’s public transportation system, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), helps the city tackle some of the problems, but faces its own challenges. Importantly, Atlanta is relatively spread out compared to other urban areas in the United States; Boston, a city of similar size, has a population density of 13,841/sq mi whereas Atlanta has a density of 3,360/sq mi. This means that Atlanta’s public transportation system has to extend much further to reach the same number of people.

Besides the total area that MARTA must service however, it continues to face other, less visible challenges. Perhaps at the forefront of these is economic equity in access to public transportation. A study from the Brookings Institute found that Atlanta receives a relatively low score compared to other American cities when analyzing the accessibility of jobs to the labor force. Largely, this is because many of Atlanta’s jobs lie in the suburbs outside of the coverage of its public transit system. Compounding this are factors of race and economic status. The Atlantic published a piece detailing the problems that America’s poor and minority populations have in accessing public transit, highlighting how important affordable transit is to economic mobility.

We are just starting to dive into Atlanta’s public transit system to better understand it and to explore some of these issues. Using data provided by the Atlanta Regional Commission, we have begun analysis on MARTA bus ridership at the stop-level using CartoDB. Check out some of findings below. You can access the full maps at the links provided:

Key stops 

https://dssg.cartodb.com/viz/9459c4ec-276a-11e6-bcd5-0e5db1731f59/public_map

Key stops shows the MARTA bus stops with the highest number of people getting on and  off the bus. Many of the stops with highest ridership are connected to MARTA rail stations, and presumably are so high because of transfers between the rail and bus systems.

Under-Used Stops

https://dssg.cartodb.com/viz/9be68468-282b-11e6-a895-0e674067d321/public_map

Under-Used Stops shows the stops with the lowest ridership values. We found that in over 800 of MARTA’s approximately 10,000 stops, almost nobody ever got on or off of the bus.

No Contract Renewal for PARKAtlanta

We have continued to work this past week to understand parking and the larger transportation infrastructure in Atlanta. As a refresher, our project centers on helping the City of Atlanta understand and analyze its parking data so that parking resources can most efficiently be used for the benefit of citizens and the City. Most importantly, we have spent the week working with our partners to get a better sense of their needs and concerns.

Something we are quickly coming to learn is that politics play a role in how we are able to access data. Just this Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the City will not be renewing its contract with PARKAtlanta and instead will put the contract out to bid next month. This has directly impacted our project, as the City must get the meter utilization and citation data from PARKAtlanta before it can pass it along to us. PARKAtlanta has not yet made the transfer. The data we expect to receive should be five years worth of:

  • citations – including location, time, and violation
  • parking transactions – including location, time, and revenue
  • meter utilization
  • booting instances
  • towing instances
  • meter maintenance

In the meantime, we have also met with experts from the Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, and City Hall to hear from them and discuss ideas of how public and pedestrian transit can be incorporated into the project. As the political climate around parking continues to adapt, we will continue to adapt the project so that we can best serve the citizens and the City of Atalanta.

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