1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map – Archived

We have some new data available online, via the University of Minnesota Data Conservancy. They have an initiative to permanently archive data, which is definitely a good thing, but a lot harder than it sounds, if you want good documentation. We hope to do this with more data as resources permit. The trial effort is documented at A Workflow Model for Curating Research Data in the University of Minnesota Libraries: Report from the 2013 Data Curation Pilot. As part of the trial, we have posted the following:

Title: 1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map from the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Commission, GIS Data Files
Authors: Chen, Wei
Levinson, David
Issue Date: 28-Apr-2003
Abstract: High-quality GIS land use maps for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area for 1958 that were developed from paper maps (no GIS version existed previously). These data were used in the following articles: Levinson, David, and Wei Chen (2007) “Area Based Models of New Highway Route Growth.” ASCE Journal of Urban Planning and Development 133(4) 250-254. and Levinson, David and Wei Chen (2005) “Paving New Ground” in Access to Destinations (ed. David Levinson and Kevin Krizek)  Elsevier Publishers.
Description: The GIS shapefiles were exported using ArcGIS Quick Import Tool from the Data Interoperability Toolbox. The coverage files was imported into a file geodatabase then exported to a .shp file for long-term use without proprietary software. An example output of the final GIS file is include as a pdf, in addition, a scan of the original 1958 map (held in the UMN Borchert Map Library) is included as a pdf. Metadata was extracted as an xml file. Finally, all associated coverage files and original map scans were zipped into one file for download and reuse.
URI: http://purl.umn.edu/160503
Appears in Collections: Data Curation Pilot Project, 2013
1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map - Scanned and digitized by Nexus research group. 100 Single Family Residential 110 Agricultural and Vacant Land 120 Water 130 Marshland 200 Mixed Single and Multi-family residential 210 Multi-family residential 300 Commercial Central Business District 310 Other Commercial 400 Industrial Intensive 410 Industrial Extensive 600 Airport 700 Institutions 800 Cemeteries  900 Park
1958 Twin Cities Land Use Map – From the predecessor organization of the Metropolitan Council, Scanned and digitized by Nexus research group.
100 Single Family Residential
110 Agricultural and Vacant Land
120 Water
130 Marshland
200 Mixed Single and Multi-family residential
210 Multi-family residential
300 Commercial Central Business District
310 Other Commercial
400 Industrial Intensive
410 Industrial Extensive
600 Airport
700 Institutions
800 Cemeteries
900 Park

Pine County withdraws from the NLX Alliance

Updating an earlier discussion about the controversial Northern Lights Express rail line from Minneapolis to Duluth, Ailene Croup sends along this article from the Nov. 21 2013 issue of the Hinckley News (quoted with permission).

Pine County Board, at Tuesday’s regular meeting, voted 4-0 not to pay membership in the Northern Lights Express (NLX) Alliance. Commissioner Steve Chaffee did not attend the meeting.
The motion to give notice of withdrawal from NLX came from Commissioner Mitch Pangerl and was seconded by Commissioner Matt Ludwig.
Pangerl said he wasn’t in favor of the county paying for a vote on the NLX. He said NLX is a lobbying group for the train and decisions for the train have been handed over to Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
The “loop” to the casino will be the only track owned by the State of Minnesota, he said. It will take the train to Grand Casino, a private entity, and take private land to do it.
“We have a list of signatures, of over 1,200 people in the county, not to be in the Alliance and not to support the train.” Pangerl added that businesses would be bypassed by the train going through Hinckley, but they would have to pay for it with taxes.
“If you want to do anything with economic development, take the money out of it. It would be better for the future of Pine County,” he said.
Several points made by Ludwig dealt with the stakeholders’ meeting held in Hinckley, Nov. 7, 2013. Six alternative routes to the casino were viewed and discussed to narrow down the preferred route, where new track would be laid from the main line outside Hinckley.
Ludwig said he was at the stakeholders’ meeting two weeks ago and Hinckley City Administrator Kyle Morell was seated at his table. Morell told their round table group the city of Hinckley did not want the train stop, they did not have room for it.
Ludwig said he had a discussion with MnDOT officials at that meeting and voiced his concern about crossings being closed in the northern part of the county. “They said they didn’t want to create any hardships but crossings are expensive.” He also asked MnDOT what would happen if they wanted to close a crossing and the township or county did not want it closed. They responded that they did not know what would happen.
Commissioner Steve Chaffee not being involved in the discussion, because much of the NLX issue is in his district, was a point of concern for Ludwig.
Commissioner Curt Rossow asked if there was talk of the promised stop in Sandstone at the stakeholders’ meeting. Pangerl and Ludwig said there was no discussion of a stop in Sandstone.
County Board Chairman Steve Hallan said he would ask for a roll call vote. First he commented that the late Commissioner Doug Carlson “would never, ever vote for a train to go to the casino. And, if that’s what it’s come down to, I won’t either.”
He said he “hung in there for a long time” because he thought there was some potential of economic development for Hinckley.
“The citizens of Hinckley have apparently decided they don’t want anything to do with a station in Hinckley. So, if they’re saying we don’t want any part of this, then I don’t think I can support it. So if this train gets built to the casino, it’s not the casino’s fault. Everyone else was given an opportunity to step up to the plate and they didn’t,” Hallan said.
Would the county have a better chance of “mitigating” issues such as crossings by themselves, was Hallan’s questioned. He wondered if the $6,000 the county owed for 2014 NLX membership would “buy us any clout. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know.”
Ludwig said what he understood, from the stakeholders meeting, was the study showed they had to “pick up the casino” in order to commit money for the NLX. He said “big government” would make the decision about crossings.
“It’s been obvious for some time, this board has been split on this issue,” Hallan added.
Both Pangerl and Hallan said they knew the project would not be supported by the late Commissioner Carlson if there was no cleanout/repair station in Sandstone and a stop in Hinckley.
County Attorney John Carlson was asked about the procedure to give notice to withdraw from the NLX. He said the joint powers agreement would allow withdrawal with no further input at the NLX meetings. With a vote not to participate and withdraw funding, the NLX Alliance could eliminate the county’s position on the board.
Hallan asked if it was better to vote not to participate.
Pangerl said his main concern was spending the county funds. “You can’t ban a commissioner from a meeting.” He restated that his motion was to withdraw funds and participation in the NLX.
“I don’t agree with tax dollars to pay for a vote,” Ludwig said. He was not concerned whether the county remained an active member.
The motion was changed to pull funding.
Attorney Carlson said the joint powers agreement calls for members to give 90 days notice before they withdraw funding or remove themselves. If the NLX budget has been approved for the upcoming year, the withdrawing member must pay that year and they have no stake in funds that are unspent.
With Commissioner Carlson’s passing and the election of a new board member, Pangerl said the county wouldn’t meet the 90 day requirement. There are other instances where the NLX policies haven’t been met such as Douglas County voting though not being a paying member. He said the Alliance should be asked to consider the circumstances. Pangerl said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to put the new board member, Ludwig, in a position of making a decision to fund membership on NLX without background on the project.
Pangerl’s motion was not to fund the NLX Alliance in 2014 and the Alliance can determine if Pine County’s member stays onboard.
Ludwig said he was comfortable with the amended motion.
The roll call vote was 4-0 in favor of not funding.

Driven to Decline: Interstate Highways, Suburbanization, and Urban Decay

Driven to Decline: Interstate Highways, Suburbanization, and Urban Decay:

This was a National History Day Senior Group Documentary by some South High School students in Minneapolis (including Becky Norling-Ruggles, Frances Matejcek, Grace Palmer) that won 5th place at a national competition.

Streets.MN writer David Levinson and some others have brief cameos.

What’s a City For?

This post originally appeared in  Symposium Magazine.

What’s a city for? We say a city exists to increase accessibility, to enable people to reach things they care about. The thing they care about reaching most, outside of their immediate family, is the workplace.

There are 8,760 hours in the year. In the United States, those who work full-time do so for about 2,000 hours (40 hours a week for about 50 weeks a year, discounting vacation and holidays). Fewer than half the people work (while the rest are children, retired, stay-at-home parents, unemployed, or independently wealthy) so the average person works about 800 hours. This means about 9 percent of urban time is used for work.

Average work travel for those who work runs less than an hour round trip, say, about 240 hours per year. Less than a third of that is due to congestion delay, 80 hours. That’s about 0.9 percent of urban time. What all this rough arithmetic says is that transportation planning focusing on work trip congestion is concerned with only a small share of urban life.

To be sure, this remains meaningful because the ease of the work trip bears on choices of housing and jobs. Furthermore, the peaking of work trips is the time of the worst congestion – the point when people see the transportation system “failing.” But most people spend most of their time doing things other than being “stuck in traffic,” and we should consider that as well.

Excerpted and adapted from The Transportation Experience: Second Edition, by William Garrison and David Levinson (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Why we engage in ‘security theater’

This post originally appeared in  Symposium Magazine.

The politics of security are difficult. If you are in favor of security, you must be in favor of more spending on security, or on anything that will “keep us safe.” If politicians or bureaucrats oppose a proposed security measure and something happens, they will be blamed. Security ratchets up quickly. Ratcheting down can only really be by attrition.

Although the increase in security spending post–9/11 exceeds $1 trillion over ten years, the Department of Homeland Security has systematically failed to study the costs and benefits of proposed security measures, most notably radiation scanners. Other Western countries have had similar spending increases.

The problem is not just the total, which is large and might be spent in other sectors. The problem is the allocation within the security sphere. If you have $1 trillion to spend, what is the best way to do that to maximize security? The idea of opportunity cost rises again and again, and is never properly dealt with.

Rather than assessing both the probability of an outcome and its cost if it occurs, the agency has dealt with risk qualitatively, imagining worst-case scenarios and engaging in what the legal scholar Cass Sunstein calls “probability neglect.” The artifice of travelers removing shoes and belts, unpacking suitcases, pouring out liquids, while agents frisk grandmas and children at security checkpoints has been called “security theater” because it aims to give travelers the impression that something is being done to improve security, when there is no evidence any of this has made a difference.

The vector of attack from 9/11, hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings, has been unrepeated not because TSA has ensured safety. Instead, secured cockpit doors and the willingness of passengers to take action in the event of a threat on board has prevented this from occurring. Other attack vectors that remain are receiving less protection because so much money is spent in response to the previous attack. While the TSA monitors security, the lines leading up to security are managed by the airport or airlines themselves, and the latter give priority to certain passengers (e.g., first class), even though they pay exactly the same amount of security tax as everyone else.

This has some analogy with HOT lanes; the key difference is that the car in the HOT lane pays more money to go faster, while in this case, first class passengers only paid more money for a better seat on the plane. Security is not just an issue on airplanes. Inter-city buses and high-speed rail sometimes have security measures, though rarely as stringent. Intra-city public transit generally does not, because it would quickly become unworkable. As a consequence, these other modes are much more vulnerable, as shown in the Madrid attacks (2004), London attacks (2005), or the Tokyo Sarin gas attack (1995).

Security is the enemy of efficiency. Just as with safety, we want perfect security. That goal is unattainable, and security providers should rationally trade off between value of time and value of life.

Excerpted and adapted from The Transportation Experience: Second Edition, by William Garrison and David Levinson (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Why time is money on the road

This post originally appeared in Symposium Magazine.

In my post yesterday, I described how my team and I set up an experiment to assess the conversion of HOV lanes to HOT lanes – basically, a move that asks drivers to decide how much they want to pay to drive at peak times. We recruited subjects who live along the I-394 corridor in Minneapolis and had a daily route of at least 20 minutes so that the alternative commutes would make sense, assuming they were shorter.

The other conditions were that the I-394 route had to be a plausible alternative for them; the drivers had to commute on a regular basis; they had to work near downtown Minneapolis, and they had to drive a car alone. We obtained permission to install a GPS unit in their vehicle, and they had to follow our instructions about which route to take during which weeks.

We then gave them three sets of alternative routes. One was the HOT Lane on I-394; the second was the general-purpose (un-tolled) lanes; and the third was a parallel arterial, which depended on where they lived, and which would be most feasible. We asked them questions every week about what they were doing and gave them two weeks of free choice to establish their baseline preference. After that, we divided the next six weeks into three two-week periods in which they drove on each of the three alternatives. For the final two weeks, travelers were again free to pick a route, allowing us to see whether their behavior changed after the experience.

The study’s aim was to ascertain what we call the “Value of Travel Time Reliability.” This is how much of a premium drivers are willing to pay to have a low variation in their travel time. The advantage of the HOT Lanes is that they don’t just offer a lower travel time, but more importantly, they offer a much more reliable or predictable travel time. Indeed, they vary much less than the congested general-purpose lanes.

Depending on how we measure variability, we got estimates of value of time ranging from $9 to $20 an hour – in other words, the premium a driver is willing to pay for speed. As for the “price” of reliability, we got values ranging from $3.80 to $18.23 an hour. Other people have tried to estimate a reliability ratio using a variety of methods, and the numbers vary widely. But they tend to be on the order of 1.0, indicating that a driver considers avoiding a minute of unpredictability is as valuable as avoiding a minute of expected travel time.

Why HOV lanes often don’t work

This post originally appeared in  Symposium Magazine.

In my article, I outlined a series of experiments that I and my team have run over the years that explain how people make decisions – some rational, some not – about their daily transportation habits. Today, I’m writing about one of the most popular traffic innovations in congested areas: High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) and High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.

HOV lanes are designed to expedite buses and cars that carry multiple passengers (and oddly, motorcycles). But there is often insufficient demand by drivers to fully utilize HOV lanes, while general-purpose lanes remain congested during the peak periods. This is inefficient.

If we simply opened up all lanes to all vehicles, we would lose the time saved for HOV vehicles and bus passengers. It would also make it difficult to restore HOV status to the lanes in the future — and people are more averse to losses than they are open to seeking gains. So the city of Minneapolis implemented a solution to transform the HOV lanes to HOT lanes on the I-394 corridor.

HOT lanes allow vehicles equipped with transponders to use what were the HOV lanes for a price. This toll varies with traffic conditions, but it aims to ensure that the HOT lanes maintain lower travel times than the general-purpose lanes. Travelers in a hurry might be willing to pay a premium to guarantee they can avoid congestion. Other travelers won’t.

Joined by Kathleen Harder and graduate students Shanjiang Zhu and Carlos Carrion (now a post-doc at the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology), I ran experiments to see how effective this switch really was. The aim was to use each commuter’s actual origin and destination but making sure they experienced alternative routes rather than staying bound to their usual route. We found out that there is a way to “price” an efficient commute – and I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Understanding trade-offs and public trust

This post originally appeared in  Symposium Magazine.

I’ll start my posts this week by making some general points about how people view trade-offs when it comes to public dollars — not just for transportation, but infrastructure, more generally. This topic was the subject of recent interviews run by Chris Riback on “Conversations with Thinkers,” which you can view here.

First, we need to understand that cities and municipalities make trade-offs in different ways. We all have different priorities. Minneapolis, where I live, has just built a new baseball stadium for the Twins, a new college football stadium for the Golden Gophers, and is about to replace the Metrodome for the Vikings, for example. This shows how important sports are to us, and that there is political will to achieve this (even to the point of violating local democratic checks). At the same time, we are underfunding many other things, including maintenance of our crumbling roads.

So if the government directs money to priorities that are different from what we think they should be, there is an erosion of trust in government. Citizens think the government has priorities that are different from what they think they should be, and they think government doesn’t spend their money well. We need a mutuality of trust for citizens to understand when it’s time to spend money on some shiny new object that they want, and when it’s time to invest, say, in resurfacing roads or rehabilitating bridges.

Of course, this leads to the fundamental issue of taxes. People don’t like to pay them, even if we save much more money up front by investing in infrastructure than by paying for repairs later on. Nationally, we have lost something like 20% of the numbers of transportation construction workers since the start of the recession as federal and state dollars for investments have been pared back. So we have to address the question of what we can afford given these constraints on finances.

Transportation Innovations from Around the World

The Week: Transportation Innovations from Around the World

Barry Schulz and Stephen Goldsmith on right-sizing buses, congestion pricing, and Oyster cards.