Home.Land.Security one week from public launch!

With just one week to go before our site’s public launch (seven weeks in dog time), Home.Land.Security both huskier and better groomed. Our team has been working behind the scenes in ArcMap to build a more robust demographics layer for our map, created a way to collect user-inputted using Google Forms, and added two spiffy gauge charts to our map. We’ve also improved the site’s aesthetic and interface, shifting to midnight-themed map colors and introducing radio buttons instead of check boxes to prevent too many layers from overlaying one another on the map:

As the days count down, the programming team is working on uploading the new demographic layers to the map server, adding more charts, and adding a layer displaying user-submitted data. Our team is also creating a custom Javascript function that will kick in each time a user reports a case of police harassment to determine which neighborhood that incident took place in. Finally, we will also continue to improve upon the site’s design and user interface. This week’s live version of our site-in-progress can be viewed here or here:

Demographic charts

Most people between the ages of 16 and 65 have access to a car and can drive. Adolescents and many of the elderly, however, cannot drive, and therefore often depend on transit to make their way around town. In addition to illustrating the population density of all age groups within each census tract in Los Angeles County, the map allows a user to click anywhere on the map to see an age profile for the tract. The map uses 2010 Census data and shows the proportion of each census tract that is less than 5 years old, 5 to 17, 18 to 21, 22 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 49, 50 to 64, and age 65 and up. Those neighborhoods with more youth and more elderly have many residents who cannot drive because of their age, and would thus benefit from better transit access.

Here is an interactive window the the live map and a link to the full map:

Demographics indicate high potential ridership

This week I have added two demographic layers to the map. One layer shows population density by census tract: the darker the orange, the higher the density. Higher population density, of course, means more potential passengers, and the proposed Purple Line extension clearly passes through a high-density portion of central Los Angeles:

The second layer demographic layer shows the proportion of each census tract over the age of 65. Darker green tracts have a high percentage of elderly residents. Because many of the elderly cannot drive, transit access is especially important in these areas:

The interactive map is here and can be previewed in the window below:

Week four update: Toggling layers

This week I’ve updated a few things on my map of the proposed Metro Purple Line extension.

(Open the full-sized map here.)

First, I’ve added live bus location information to the map. Buses, indicate by red icons, stand out clearly against the small orange dots representing bus stops. A single check box for each of the six bus lines represented on the map allows you to toggle the line on and off, alternately displaying and hiding stop and live bus locations.


The second major addition to the map are businesses and institutions (specifically schools, government offices and banks). They can also be toggled on and off using check boxes in the left-hand column. To help the user visualize how close these businesses and institutions are to to the proposed subway stops, I have added quarter-mile buffers around the subway stations to indicate what is widely considered an easy walking distance for the typical transit user.

Week 3 web development

This week I present an updated map of my proposed extension of the Metro Purple Line showing key bus routes paralleling the proposed route. The 20 and 720 lines go directly down Wilshire Boulevard right along most of the proposed route, while the 4 and 704 and the 28 and 728 go down nearby Santa Monica Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard, converging on Century City, where the proposed subway extension terminates.

Here’s a screenshot of Line 4 displayed on the map:

Note on the assignment: I tried to map the live buses but can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. They’re not showing up.

How safe is LA? New IT firm to re-present the city’s safety in a new light

We are pleased to announce Home.Land.Security., a new IT firm specializing in mapping the safety of Los Angeles’ communities for the city’s most vulnerable people.

In February of this year, Trayvon Martin, a 16-year-old African American was shot and killed by George Zimmerman as he walked to his girlfriend’s house in Sanford, Florida. The killing, which appears to have been racially motivated, has triggered anger and sadness nationwide. It has also sparked controversy and attention to the safety of Black and Latino teenagers—especially after talk show host Geraldo Rivera suggested that Trayvon’s death was due to his wardrobe choice (a hooded sweatshirt) rather than his racist attacker. This project is a response to incidents like Trayvon’s death, and seeks to bring to light the larger systemic forces that make neighborhoods unsafe.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the interrelationships between health, safety, and the built environment and the dire need to create safer spaces. Public health professionals have begun to think more holistically about health, questioning the social and spatial determinants of wellbeing. Planners too are thinking beyond their traditional domain, questioning how streets, housing, neighborhoods and cities may affect the health of their residents.

We believe that this growing attention to creating safe and healthy spaces is a positive development, but that it does not go far enough. It has failed to address the acute threats to the safety of queers, immigrants, people of color, women, low-income people, the homeless, people with disabilities, and other communities.

Home.Land.Security. seeks to fill this gap by visually representing unsafe, threatening and harmful spaces as experienced by the most vulnerable. We will include some traditional health riskscapes, such as pollution and access to healthy food and open space, but will also include less traditional threats such as immigration raids, racist/homophobic discourse and hate crimes and police violence. Our team is working around the clock to asses which data sources are most appropriate to explore this topic.

Meet our team

Jordan “Bug Zapper” Rozencranz, Lead Coder
Ben “Likes Shiny Things” Palmquist, Lead User Interface Designer
Pamela “Devil in the Details” Stephens, Lead Data Wrangler
Will “Wordsmith” Dominie, Lead Author

Week 2 web development assignment

This map illustrates shops, restaurants, cafes and banks within a quarter mile of five proposed Metro Purple Line stops west of the line’s current terminus at Wilshire and Western. From the fast food outlets at La Brea to the designer boutiques near Beverly Drive in downtown Beverly Hills, there’s something for everyone!

This assignment went fairly smoothly. I struggled a bit with aligning the elements of the page using CSS, and couldn’t figure out how to get the map to fill up the space excluding the top bar and side bar. When I had it scaled to 100%, it would take up an area the size of the browser window, but because the top left corner of the map started 250px to the right and nearly as many pixels down, the map extended off to the right and the bottom of the page. I found a workaround solution, but it’s imperfect. It would be great to figure out how to align things properly, so that they work in any sized window (like when scaled down to 640×480 above!).

Site Review: USDA Food Desert Locator

The USDA has a web GIS tool called the Food Desert Locator, and it seems pretty useless to me.

The site uses Javascript and ArcGIS API for Flex version 2.2 from ESRI. There’s very limited functionality. You can:

  1. Zoom in and zoom out.
  2. Toggle the background between topography and satellite.
  3. Make the highlighted tracks more or less transparent.
  4. Search for a given address.

That’s it! I find several faults with this site:

  1. It’s not very powerful: there’s really not much you can do with it. It’s really only interactive to the extent that you can zoom in. Otherwise it might as well be static.
  2. The interface doesn’t deal well with the fact that rural census tracts are much larger than urban ones. It makes vast rural regions — half of Arizona and New Mexico, for instance — appear as food desserts, whereas urban regions like LA barely register on the map when it’s zoomed out. This magnifies rural food deserts at the expense of urban and suburban food deserts — a big problem given that most Americans live in metro regions.
  3. There’s no indication of how it’s determined which tracts are food deserts and which aren’t.
  4. When you click on a census tract that’s considered a food desert, an info window pops up, but it’s poorly formatted. There’s too much information, some of it’s wonky (“Tract FIPS code”, “Percentage of total population that is low-income and has low access”, etc.), and you have to scroll to read half of it. The fact that they’re doing web GIS seems to suggest that they’re targeting a lay audience, but the information that’s presented is not presented in a way that’s easily understandable for a lay audience.

Overall this map is neither robust nor simple and elegant. It seems to serve no good purpose.