Why has a site called the Cincinnati Transit Blog not weighed in on the results of the recent election in Cincinnati? Why no comment about the probably impending doom of the streetcar plan? Nothing at all about the wild efforts to save the project?
If these statements strike you as odd, I hope you’ll explore my eight-part series on the streetcar project. There’s really a lot of meaning to unpack from the way the City, the public, and politicians have been talking about this project, the ways people have thought about it, and what it would actually mean for people trying to go somewhere.
When I was 16, I was struck by a car, or more precisely, a man, a human inside a huge machine, who decided on an impulse that he would use his machine to hurt me. I was passing in traffic when he cut me off purposefully and too quickly. I went flying, breaking my collar-bone, my bike, and my sense of invulnerability. I say again he decided. He got into his huge machine that day and he decided to treat me just as he treats the other machines in his insane video-game world: with brute force and the constant threat of violence. He decided to show me as he surely showed so many others that no one would unjustly move before him. He won his way with force, and I scared him shit-less with reality. He could so easily have killed me, so likely as far as he knew in the first moments of our collision did, that he drove off, never leaving his damned machine until forced out by an equal threat. The car in front of him stopped his mechanical flight. He got out, human now, screaming, unable to identify with what he’d just done to another person, screaming, ranting and denying. Saving his name before himself alone among the witnesses, he threw me, bleeding, the best of his accumulated bluster, blaming me, distracting us all from the thoughtless brutality he’d not really meant to commit.
Shocked, I was taken away in an ambulance and treated. I never did see his face again, and I never learned his name from the bungled police report, at first out of thoughtlessness and now, six years later out of real fear of what I might do if I ever found him.
It’s almost impossible that he could have recognized what he’d done in that moment. That’s what cars do to us, both you and even me: They divorce us from our world, literally isolating us with a heavy soundproof wall from all the things that might threaten to come too near: the other machines, the cold, even the other people with their challenging dissimilar humanity. The padded, conditioned, sound-systemed, customized luxury of these machines lulls us all into thinking that we’re in a private space, and we all act accordingly when we’re at the controls which become those of a video game that takes place in some other yet real world, a game of life and death like all the best games, with the participant shielded from the dire effects of the hyperbolic consequences.1
I think I can imagine quite well what rape would be like for I all too often fully understand while traveling about this fair city that my body could be crushed at a whim of most of the so-called people around me. It has I have come so close to being crushed so many times.
It makes me sick and untrusting and so much more it makes me angry.
I’ve found only two people who seem to share this feeling even half as acutely as I do. I just discovered that second one and I want to share a video that he put together on the subject. Mike Price has spent several months now collaborating with my partner, Jeremy. Together, we’ve all been exploring through this shared work the divide between the ‘human’ and ‘animal’, between the corporeal and the ethereal, between us and them and even between us and our bodies.
This video from Mike’s work at the AAC struck a nerve.
I’ve eaten a lot of roadkill in the last year, one of the benefits of dating an exploratory anatomist. It’s impossible now for me to eat these animals, to dissect them, and see them without feeling some kinship with them, as inadvertent highwaymen, struck down and left to die by the humans wrapped in their heedless, rusting bubbles. I know exactly how it is that they died, can imagine so precisely how that man in the red convertible in Indian Hill two months ago struck and killed that buck, now frozen, leaving it there to hemorrhage and writhe while his most precious object stood inconveniently dented and tarnished. It is with reverence that I pass these animals, dead on the street, for what I am now they once were, and what they are now I may yet become. I can no longer pass them by.
I refuse to drive a car for no such half-assed reason as ‘saving the environment’, but because I know that when I’m in one I will have lost all of my humanity, my concrete animality, my only connections with what is real.
Scary factoid of the day: Greater Cincinnati has about 9,000 cul-de-sacs, or streets that end bulbously. Generally, such streets are part of a dendritic hierarchy, a branching development pattern very common in post-car/war/car-war urban development.
8,894 Cul-de-sacs. Data is from OSM
I grew up on a cul-de-sac, but we’ll not go there: too much baggage. Also, it’s an unpleasant trip and there’s no transit.
These cul-de-sacs are interesting to me, if I can use a word like ‘interesting’ anywhere near such a lifeless thing, in part because they present an opportunity to do something inverted: the opportunity to make an intensity map of the very opposite of intensity, a map of the extremity of dullness. So far as transportation is concerned, this will also be a proxy for the degree of disconnection between things or more practically, the degree to which one might reasonably be scared to be outside the protective machinations of a car.
Here’s a density analysis of the location of cul-de-sacs:
Places you probably won’t go on a bus The darker the color, the more and closer-together are the cul-de-sacs.
Let’s take a closer look at the most dis-intense spot, shall we?
I actually thought this cluster must have been an error in the data when I first noticed it.
Leave it to the golf-course-crowd to take the top spot in this contest. This kind of pattern is perfectly typical of affluent post-car suburbs: houses are located for maximum isolation from neighbors and no one wants to live on a street with ‘traffic’. Of course the obvious irony is that in keeping the traffic off their part of the street, they’ve ensured it everywhere else. It’s such a middle-class arms race isn’t it?
There’s an interesting counter-variable here, though it’s not as completely represented in the data: pedestrian crosswalks. Where there are many crosswalks close together, we should find the opposite characteristics: walkability, liveliness, places where you’d rather not be in a car. So where are the crosswalks?
Locations of 2,770 known crosswalks. Crosswalks are only somewhere near half to a third accounted for in this dataset, so this is not an accurate representation, but it’s the best I can do at the moment.
And then the reveal:
Kernel density of crosswalk locations, same scale and methods as with the cul-de-sacs above
This looks like it might actually line up well with the location of transit lines!
1km triweight kernel density of bus stop events(raster) compared against the contour lines from the crosswalks from above(slightly altered for legibility)
Not a terrible assumption! It’s not a superb fit, but you can definitely notice some areas that seem to have a rather strong correlation. Obviously, the most intense spot for both transit and crosswalks is right in downtown, which we’ve all seen, so I won’t bother with an aerial photo of that.
Interestingly though not surprisingly, crosswalks and cul-de-sacs appear to be somewhat mutually exclusive.
Only a few relatively minor areas demonstrate substantial overlap
It seems odd that anyone would have taken the time to actually enter in almost 9,000 cul-de-sacs around Cincinnati, though indeed there have been about 85,000 buildings already entered by hand. I rather suspected that they might have been added in the big TIGER imports from a few years back. If they were, that would mean we’d be able to compare against other US cities. I tried a few, but it looks like the data is really just too spotty for a any reliable analysis. Alas, Pittsburgh, Indy, Cleveland and the other cities I checked don’t seem quite ready to give up their subhuman suburban secrets just yet.
Demonstrative Pittsburgh data problems: Clearly, there should be more cul-de-sacs on the right here.
Indy seems fairly complete, but something about this just doesn’t feel right to me. From what I know about the city, I don’t think there are enough cul-de-sacs in the data here. Maybe someone will tell me I’m wrong and that Indy just hasn’t experienced as much post-war growth as Cincinnati.
One of my long-term mapping goals is to tag my taxidermist boyfriend with a GPS and get exact locations of all the roadkill he picks up. My bet is that it would primarily lie within or along the edges of the cul-de-clusters identified here.
It’s been available for a while, but I’m now more confident that I actually have everything in the right place ;-)
The main PDF version can be found at: CincyMap.org/map
That’s where I’ll always keep the best/most-up-to-date regional transit map that I have floating around.
This map is like a teenage romance for me; full of lust and zealous ambition, it was exciting! And it’s what got me properly interested in transit and cartography. I can even say it’s landed me a couple real jobs. It’s usually the first thing people mention about me if I’m being introduced, reliably conjuring an “Oh! You’re that guy! I love that map!” That was such a great feeling at first!
But we all grow out of those romances and I now look back at it as a piece of myself irretrievably far away. How mothers keep loving their children, this designer will never know; proximity to my creations grows my boredom.
The project has been a success by every measure I can think of.
But I’m sick of it now. I’m sick of looking at it, using it as a bookmark, and hearing about it. I’m sick of updating it and being responsible for it. The Map and I have grown apart and it will not be updated again.
Not sorta improved, quite extremely improved! I commented a few posts back on SORTA’s abuse of the concept of branding to advertise the m+. Well, either someone was listening, or I had absolutely nothing to do with it and they just got better on their own. Found pinned up in the hallways of UC’s Braunstein hall, just steps away from my little desk, I offer you Exhibit A:
I don’t care how this looks. I don’t care about the brand colors or the consistent use of fonts. What’s great about this ad is that it tells us something. It even does it succinctly!
QUESTION:Want to go to a ballgame?
ANSWER: Here is exactly how you can go from where you are(UC) to the ballpark.
QUESTION:How about a movie?
ANSWER: Here is exactly how you can go from UC to either of two movie theatres. Take your pick!
Yes! I do want to go see some movies! And I could take either of those buses to a movie theatre right now if I wanted to. I actually did not know that before I saw this ad1. This ad has offered me new information about my possibilities. My plans could actually change as a result of this.
Like I said, I don’t care about the graphics. What makes these ads unusually great for SORTA is that they tell you how you can use transit and why you might actually want to. But while we’re here, let’s talk about the graphics. They’re good. They’re eye-catching and dynamic. They’re succinct and to the point. They’re even clearly observing the rule of thirds! Whoever designed these, SORTA, please give them this person’s job.
Seriously, I hope this the result of a new hire or something, because I would like to see more of this kind of work coming out of the transit agencies.
KINDA, the Kentucky, Indiana and Norwood-area Dispersal Agency, announced ridership figures today for several new routes that were rolled out recently in a package of service changes. One service in particular, the ‘Metro Plush‘, revealed particularly strong ridership since it’s initiation just weeks ago in mid-August.
The Metro Plush offers direct, limited stop service between the bureau, lamp and washstand every fifteen minutes Monday through Friday. In the past, many routes required a transfer at the washstand for passengers coming from the bureau and traveling to the lamp, a sore point for many busy commuters. “We’ve heard from many of our customers since the changes took effect,” said KINDA communications director Sally Hiller, “and many of them have been quite pleased to be able to make a faster, more direct trip to and from the bedroom’s most popular light source.”
The basic demographic statistics released in the report reveal that most of the new Metro Plush riders are commuters and Lego people.
There has also been a significant contingent of the smaller teddy bears from around the bedroom-bathroom area.
“We’re very pleased with the new service” said Mr. Teddy as he headed toward the bureau, “It’s just very convenient.”