Updated ClearStreets, alternative to Plow Tracker, brings new features and mobile-friendly design


ClearStreets’s new look. 

Last January I told you about ClearStreets, an alternative to the City of Chicago’s Plow Tracker website. The main difference is that Plow Tracker shows the current location of snow plows while ClearStreets tracks where they’ve been. Both sites have been updated today in time for our first winter storm, but since the world is ending tonight, you better look at them quickly.


Photo of mobile-friendly Plow Tracker by Dan O’Neil.

Plow Tracker has been updated to better display on mobile devices, at a different URL: http://m.cityofchicago.org/plowtracker. If you load it on a desktop browser, it doesn’t appear correctly.

During my conversation with lead creator of ClearStreets, Derek Eder, I told him that I believe there’s a weak relationship with the focus of Grid Chicago – sustainable transportation. The updates don’t change that, but we had a good discussion about the future of ClearStreets, and the implications and potential it has, as a platform, for other ideas and apps where that relationship could improve. Also, I’ve been exploring technology and transportation with this blog for some time as I’m a programmer myself. Continue reading Updated ClearStreets, alternative to Plow Tracker, brings new features and mobile-friendly design

Census releases commuting to work data for 2011: walking, biking, transit continue to rise


A higher percentage of Chicagoans are walking to work. Photo by Joseph Dennis. 

The Census Bureau has started releasing data from the 2011 American Community Survey. This survey is conducted annually and will collect every 5 years the same amount of data the decennial census collects every 10 years. So far, only 1-year estimate data is available. 1-year estimate data for a year should only be compared to any other year’s 1-year estimate data (3-year and 5-year estimates, with larger sample sizes, will be available by the end of the year). The table below shows commuting patterns for Chicago, from the S0801 table: Commuting characteristics by sex.

View this table in a High Chart from Derek Eder.

1-year estimates, ACS 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Notes
Workers 1,162,550 1,209,122 1,230,933 1,260,741 1,271,744 1,168,318 1,199,278 Major decline from 2009 to 2010.
Walking 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.8 5.9 6.5 6.3 Steady but slow increases.
Bicycling 0.7 0.9 1.1 1.0 1.1 1.3 1.4 Steady but slow increases.
Transit 25.3 25.4 26.7 26.7 26.5 26.5 27.6 Ups and downs.
Car, Drive Alone 53.4 52.6 51.2 50.5 50.8 50.2 49.9 Steady but slow decreases.
Carpool (2+ people) 10.7 10.7 10.4 10.3 9.9 9.4 9.0 Steady but slow decreases.
Taxi 1.6 1.5 1.4 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.5 Maintained.
Worked at home 2.9 3.6 3.7 4.2 4.2 4.7 4.3 Increases, then maintained.

I find it interesting that as “driving alone” decreased, the people who stopped driving alone didn’t necessarily switch to carpooling (where they could share the costs of driving), but switched to other modes of transportation.

It should be noted that the American Community Survey and the decennial census questionnaires ask the respondent to choose the longest distance mode they took to work, “typically”, for the week prior. This means that if you bike 1 mile to the train station and then take the train 10 miles to work, you should only select “transit”.

New plow tracker-style website hits the web in time for today’s snow storm


Snow plows already rumbling in West Loop. Photo taken this morning by Seth Anderson.

The City of Chicago’s Plow Tracker, debuting for last week’s snow storm, has some competition from Derek Eder and Forest Gregg, a programmer and a University of Chicago graduate student, respectively. Gregg is also the author of SVO: Powering your vehicle with straight vegetable oil.

Gregg found the data feeds that were powering Plow Tracker and worked with Eder to build a site that shows where snow plows have been, intimating which streets may have been plowed. Visit ClearStreets to see if a plow has traversed your street. The site is from a new organization called Open City. Continue reading New plow tracker-style website hits the web in time for today’s snow storm