Week 4: A map with a mind of its own…or not.

This was a very frustrating week. I included the code from the tutorials and have not been able to get the google place icons AND the demographic layer AND the kmz layer all to show up, nor do my toggles do what they’re told! I feel like I am doing the coding equivalent of wrestling with greased piglets.

I wish I had a more professional, ambitious and together post for this week, but coding this weekend was like learning to roller blade on the beach on a hot sunny Saturday. I need someplace private to go learn this stuff, the coding equivalent of an empty parking lot in Temecula, where I can fall on my ass until I figure it out. This blogging is way too public.

TULUM Neighborhood Resource Portal

Photo: Ben Palmquist


A rapidly emerging Caribbean coastal town of 18,000 inhabitants, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico, is a tourism hotspot. It became a municipality only in 2008, and since then has begun comprehensive urban planning efforts. The Urban Master Plan projects significant growth over the next five years that will more than double the size of the town. Community volunteer organizations are in place, and local residents are interested in benefiting their community. Success in local volunteer Red Cross programs shows that there is a strong commitment to community engagement. However, Tulum currently lacks a centralized information resource to facilitate dialogue and foster collaboration. The municipal staff has agreed that creating such a resource is of high priority to the health of their growing communities, and they have engaged the Tulum Raiders to carry out this objective.

Project Objectives
1. Supporting Municipal Agendas: The neighborhood website will provide technical and social knowledge for use in updating the comprehensive Urban Master Plan and making other citywide investment decisions. With the data created on this portal, the municipality will consider the wealth of ecology and public interest present, while fostering economic growth vital to improving the quality of life for Tulumeños.

2. Fostering Community Engagement: Community webpages will grant a platform for citizens to express ideas and concerns about their town, as well as a centralized place to collect information. As the website becomes widely accessed, citizens will use this resource as a virtual extension of their neighborhoods. Creating a sense of belonging and ownership of residents to their neighborhoods will increase security and improve these areas overall.

3. Assessing the environmental impact of rapid urbanization: A town of 18,000 inhabitants, Tulum is growing rapidly with little attention to the impact on the environment. Not only is Tulum in a tropical forest and on a coastline, but it also sits on three interconnected fragile water ecosystems; the largest underground river system in the world, the mangrove forest and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Our team aims to map where population growth and infrastructural development is happening (by overlaying the geographical map) to identify vulnerable areas and planned growth. As a community resource, this information will help to educate the public, as well as provide a reference tool for the Urban Planning staff in updating their Urban Master Plan as growth continues.

List of functionalities

•Provide information on neighborhood resources in downtown Tulum
•Business can post updates of their services (campaigns, new menu, holidays)
•Users can post their pictures or look pictures posted by tapping the pictures on the map.
•Users can post youtube links to show their footage of underwater caves (cenotes)
•Polling: for the city government to understand residents’ needs
•Forum: residents post what they want in the neighborhood, problems in the neighborhood (street light is broken, tree fall down….etc).
•Twitter: tweets using a certain hashtag will be posted on the website.

Final Product
Neighborhood Resource Portal

1. Residents of Tulum
2. Tulum Municipal Offices

By the midterm presentation due week six, we hope to have the following completed for the beta version of the Tulum Portal:
• User Interface
• General Page layout
• Neighborhood outlines (KMZ files from Google Earth)
• Markers for points of interest on the map (Businesses, offices, etc.)
• Static Photos for web page layout
• Connection to Twitter API

By the final presentation, we hope to have completed the aforementioned for the Tulum Portal, as well as the following additional elements that will already be in use by the presentation date:
• Translation of content to Spanish
• “Search my Address” function
• Replacing static photos with flash photos for the web page layout
• Connection to Google Tables API
• Completed content

Week 3: Santa Monica WalkPools meets LA Metro API

In general, the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program focuses on getting children to walk or bike to school when possible. In many schools, a high percentage of the children who are driven to school live close enough to the school to walk or bike. By getting these children to travel to school by walking or biking, the SRTS campaign aims to lessen congestion problems and dangerous walking conditions around school. It also addresses the problems of the rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes by getting kids to be more active in their daily lives. For the middle schoolers I surveyed, the idea of a “walking school bus” is less cool than a “WalkPool,” hence my use of the latter term.

The WalkPool routes I designed for children living with a half mile of John Adams Middle School are designed to pull the low fruit from the tree: they address those children for whom switching from driving to walking or biking would present the smallest challenge. Of the children whose homes are mapped with red house icons, only a handful walk. The rest are driven by their parents, either because they are consistently “running late” in the morning or because the parents are anxious about their children walking alone to school. Many parents also drop their children in “chained trips” on their way to work, and see the morning drive as a time to check in with kids before the school day starts. Regardless of the reason, so many vehicles arriving at the three entry points within ten minutes of each other creates havoc around the school every morning. Getting the local kids out of their cars and onto WalkPools or BikePools would have an enormous positive effect on both safety in the school’s immediate vicinity and the health of the children. However there are many children at JAMS who come from outside the district and live too far for either walking or biking: some children drive as long as an hour to get to school in the morning.

For this week’s assignment I addressed the issue of “permit students” by trying to identify feasible public transportation options for these students to get to school. Unfortunately, LA Metro’s only bus lines that come into Santa Monica do not have routes near the school, and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus line is not coordinated with LA Metro’s API for bus route information. Therefore I decided to map all bus lines within Metro’s system, with the goal of trimming the map to those that come closest to the walking buffer for next week. While it seems unlikely that a middle-schooler would take an LA bus and then walk up to 1/2 mile to get to school, it’s helpful to see how challenging our city-centric bus systems can be for those who want to travel between cities like Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

My daughter’s best friend lives at Hoover and Olympic, and I was trying to map how he could use public transit to get to school. He could do it, but it would take two bus rides and 90 minutes. It would be more likely that his parents would be willing to drop him along the WalkPool route, since walking to school is seen as cool by middle schoolers.

  • For a link to the full map, click here: JAMS WalkPool Routes


    JAMS WalkPools: Take 2

    As part of its Sustainable Cities Plan, Santa Monica committed to reducing vehicle use in the City. Part of the Plan includes a promise to the community to come up with ways to reduce congestion and dangerous pedestrian conditions around the City’s well-attended middle and high schools. The first school to receive “WalkPool Planning” from the City is John Adams Middle School, which is located in the Sunset Park neighborhood. The school serves over 1000 students between 6th and 9th grades, 46% of them from families whose children qualify for the free-and-reduced lunch program sponsored by the Department of Education. The school is roughly 50% Latino-Americans, 33% White-Americans, 10% Black-Americans and 2% Asian-Americans. JAMS earned a 7 out of 10 score on the Great Schools ranking website. The school earned an 814 in 2010 API.

    Morning congestion at the school poses serious health and safety risks for the students, the majority of whom are driven to school. Parents are loathe to let their children walk alone, and often are dropping on their way to work. Because they are usually rushing, these parents also drive dangerously. The City has decided to take action after several students were hit by cars along Ocean Park Blvd.

    For the second pass at drafting WalkPool routes for John Adams Middle School Students, I developed “WalkPool Routes” along the main streets surrounding the school. If time permits, I will also add the crossing guard locations to show that each route crosses major traffic streets with a crossing guard.

    Navigate LA: Week 1, Part 3

    [ iframe width=”640″ height=”480″ src=”http://navigatela.lacity.org/ index01java.cfm” ]
    {Alert: I put spaces in the above address since it was taking me to the website and not the post…advice?}

    Navigate LA: City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering

    This is a terrible map! And a very confusing website! It seems to use Java, and seems to want to take us to the map rather than show it on this page. I have no idea how to change that.

    Pros: there is a lot of information jam-packed into these maps, and if you can figure out the clunky symbology, there is probably information of great value.

    Cons: the interface is horrible. It’s almost illegible, and the zoom features don’t work smoothly. The symbols are hard to differentiate and the display is rough.

    The LA engineers clearly need to hire some good designers. This map dictates that you use it on its own terms, rather than making users feel at home. Technically it offers the public access to engineering data, but in a way that discourages all but the most determined.

    Boston maps – Week 1, Part 2

    This website allows users to outline census tract block groups and discover demographic information for those areas. I like this site, because it lets me draw any shape in any part of Boston, and then lets me choose which demographics I want to see. I like the groovy fan action when the pie chart displays, though there are other more static display methods as well.

    It uses Adobe Flashplayer, and it seems to work fine. It is very hard for me to evaluate the technologies used other than to say that I like the way this website functions.

    Pros: the above

    Cons: only the actual City of Boston is covered, and Boston is a weird shape. None of the surrounding cities – Cambridge, Brookline, Milton, etc., display in the website. It seems like Boston could have added those cities in without too much confusion – a strong boundary line would have sufficed to differentiate. It’s kind of artificial to consider what is Boston proper without considering its very intertwined neighbor cities.

    Phillips Safe Routes to School: Week 1 Assignment Part 2

    The national organization Safe Routes to School is working to create safer and healthier travel modes for children going to and from school. Some of the problems they are addressing in SRTS are the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes, the lack of safety in traveling alone in an urban environment, and the traffic fatalities around school sites in the morning rush hour. Children are hit by vehicles in and around school drop-off zones with alarming frequency, and SRTS wants to alleviate some of the danger created by rushing parents by getting kids out of cars. Middle school students are a perfect target for this effort, as they can walk together unsupervised by an adult if neighborhood “walking buses” are mapped out and scheduled (also called “walk-pooling”). This map is a base for the John Adams SRTS initiative; student addresses would be added in to create a total database of potential walkers who live within 1/4 mile of the school. Students would then be assigned to “routes” depending on where they lived, and a schedule created. The SRTS initiative has been successful in many communities across the U.S., and Santa Monica is an ideal place to begin a schoolwide walking bus/walk-pool effort.

    Markers indicate the homes of various 7th graders at the school who would like to walk or are already walking to school.
    Addie and Anya: already walk together and can pick up other students on their way.
    Emma: can join Addie and Anya’s route to school along 17th Street
    Daily: would like to walk but is at the bottom of a big hill
    Drew: would also like to walk but has to be at school by 7:15 every morning, earlier than other students
    Cora: would like to walk but is on the other side of Pico Blvd., a perceived impediment to walking and safety due to the heavy traffic load in the morning and the absence of crossing guards
    Eli: would like to walk but lives almost at the edge of the quarter mile, and is across Lincoln Blvd., which is seen as an insurmountably dangerous street to cross in morning rush hour with no crossing guards.
    Sophia: would like to walk but is at the edge of the 1/4 mile boundary. Like Lincoln and Pico, 23rd Street is a busy street with aggressive morning drivers and no crossing guards.

    Suggested routes: 17th Street NORTHWARD from Marine Street to Pearl Street
    Ocean Park Blvd. EASTWARD from 4th Street to 16th Street
    Ocean Park Blvd. WESTWARD from 23rd Street
    20th Street SOUTHWARD from freeway to Pearl Street, then west along Pearl to 17th

    In order for this initiative to be successful, the crossing guard program would need to be expanded to cover key intersections like Lincoln and Ocean Park, Pico and 20th, 23rd and Ocean Park.

    Problems/Improvements: I would like to get the underlying demographic map to display. I want to change the red marker to a blue marker at the school. I would like to use different colored markers to indicate where additional crossing guards are needed. I’d also like to know how to map suggested routes to the school.