Following significant research, client feedback, data collection, and intense coding preparation, Railway to Heaven is proud to launch its fully-functional interactive web map of 6 proposed California High Speed Rail Stations!
Please continue reading for more information about our project or click here to view our website. To preview a powerpoint of our site launch presentation please click here.
Railway to Heaven seeks to buoy the California High Speed Rail Authority’s community outreach efforts through a new web-based interactive mapping tool. As one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects in recent memory, and the first potential high speed rail system in the United States, this project impacts communities at the local, regional, and state level. Planning for economic, population, and land use changes necessitate an understanding of the kinds of growth that may accompany high speed rail.
This project is particularly concerned with the proposed stations along the rail network, and the surrounding 1/2 mile station area. By examining a variety of land use, demographic, and built environment characteristics surrounding each station, we can better plan for station design that is appropriate to its surroundings, sustainable, and part of a cohesive network. As in many planning processes, information about the specifics of California’s high speed rail is difficult to access. In place of lengthy, complicated planning documents RtH has conceptualized and constructed an interactive mapping website that synthesizes information and technology into a tool that helps the public understand high speed rail.
RtH’s website is geared toward stakeholders, community members, researchers, and planners with a vested interest in California’s plans for high speed rail. Given this broad audience, the site is designed for accessibility to a novice user while also providing a breadth of data for a more sophisticated user. Considering the potential long-term impact of high speed rail in California, it is important that local stakeholders have an opportunity to access information about HSR planning throughout the process. The constantly changing nature of planning for high speed rail also necessitates a web application with live data feeds, so that planners and researchers can draw on the most up-to-date information.
The Proposed CAHSR Station Area Study website displays the proposed alignment for California’s High Speed Rail with detailed station area analyses for the six Phase 1 southern California cities: Anaheim, Norwalk, Los Angeles, Burbank, Sylmar/San Fernando and Palmdale.
Users can access information at two scales within the site: state and station-area. At the state level, visitors can examine the current proposed alignments for California’s High Speed Rail and see the location of the six Phase 1 stations along this route.
At the station area level, the map includes demographic growth projections from 2005 to 2035, land use data (presented by parcel and as percentages of the total station area), and a measure of site walkability provided by Walk Score. The station area analysis also incorporates features to assess proximate built environment characteristics and directions to the station via car, bicycle, or foot from any location inputted by the user.
The site provides information about HSR station areas to users through 6 tabbed pages, each with a map, accordion menu of features to display on the map, and links to FAQs and information about the project and design team. For each of these pages the map includes a marker at the center of the proposed station, an overlay of the station site, and a circle indicating the 1/2 mile station area.
The site also features an overview page (the first page of the site to load) with information about the project, a link to a video guide to the site (FAQ), a link to information about the RtH team, and an interactive map with the proposed HSR alignment and 6 southern California stations under study. When the user clicks on one of the stations they have access to a regional profile of that city, including data on median age, number of housing units, median family income, and average household size.
Figure 1: Overview page with regional profile, Los Angeles station
Following valuable input from advisors, clients, and users after our beta launch, the RtH team coordinated a massive overhaul of the site to launch it in its current form. We adopted a sleek, clean new design that incorporates accordion menus, background gradations, tabbed station area pages, and a color scheme corresponding with the HSR Authority’s official design. The new site sheds transit and housing APIs in order to incorporate more descriptive and interactive ArcGIS layers, pop-up charts, and GoogleMaps features like Street View and Get Directions.
Figure 2: New design features (radio tabs) and color scheme
For each station area the user can explore the built environment by dragging a GoogleMaps figure onto a desired location of the map. The street view then loads in the same window as the map (in very high resolution), allowing the user to toggle along the street and examine surrounding architecture and design elements. This feature is particularly beneficial to urban designers who are interested in the architecture, assets, and elements surrounding proposed stations.
Figure 3: Street view feature, Los Angeles station
The user can also investigate growth projections in the station area by census tract. If the checkbox for this layer is selected, a user may click on a track (or drag a green arrow to a tract) and open an infowindow. This infowindow contains a bar chart with data on population, household, and job growth projections for that tract from 2005 to 2035, by 15-year intervals. This feature is ideal for developers and businesses who may be interested in opportunities for housing or economic development around stations.
Figure 4: Bar chart with demographic projections by census tract, Los Angeles station
Additionally, the user can explore the land use, by parcel, for each station area by viewing a custom layer on the map (complete with a key describing the meaning of each color). Land use is also reflected as percentages of the station area in a pop-up pie chart (with detailed descriptions of surrounding land uses) accessible by clicking on a link in the sidebar. This data is especially valuable for planners and urban designers in conceptualizing station “type” and design.
Figure 5: Land use features (layer, pie chart, and legend), Los Angeles station
Users can assess how pedestrian friendly a station is by viewing a measure of walkability provided by Walk Score. A link adjacent to the score takes the user to Walk Score’s homepage and a detailed description of what each score means. This data might be helpful to planners in assessing possibilities for intermodal transit connections.
Figure 6: Walk Score feature, Los Angeles station
Lastly, users can learn how to travel to their desired HSR station by inputting their address (or a location of interest) and selecting a mode of travel (car, bike, or walk). The directions, travel time, and distance for the trip appear below their inquiry, and the map adjusts to display the suggested route. This feature is especially ideal for stakeholders who are interested in using high speed rail but are unsure of their distance or accessibility to a station.
Figure 7: Get Directions feature, Los Angeles station
Figure 8: Site Mock-Up
We generally adhered to the site layout, design, and content proposed in our scope of work and initial mock-up. We maintained formatting with station tabs at the top of the page, the map at right, and an accordion menu of features at left. We did however adjust the color scheme, condense housing, population, and employment data to a single Projections feature, and incorporated additional menu items such as Built Environment, Walk Score, and Get Directions.
Figure 9: Final wireframe
Our wireframe also has not changed drastically from our scope of work and original wireframe. We maintained a site structure in which the user enters the site through the “statewide” overview page and from there is able to select different station areas. Within the station area pages we adjusted the content and incorporated new features as previously mentioned. We also added links to the FAQ video, an About Us section, and this blog post.
Technical Administrative Senior Engineering Roustabout (TASER)
Dave took on the mammoth task of authoring, manipulating, and publishing RtH’s ArcGIS layers with demographic projections and land use. He deftly mastered Google Charts and brought in a custom legend for the land use overlay. Dave also explored new code to insert bar charts into infowindows and incorporate pop-up pie charts with land use data and descriptions. Beyond these valuable efforts he also coded the street view feature.
Project Management Mastermind
Kimberly explored new coding territory by contributing the WalkScore API and Get Directions features. She also provided several alterations to the HSR alignment KMZ. To evaluate the site’s effectiveness, Kimberly conducted several beta tests among users at a variety of technical skill levels. She synthesized their feedback to compile the content for the FAQ feature. Further Kimberly resumed her role as the team’s chief blogger.
Chief Creative Honcho
Lars is responsible for the new custom design and layout of RtH’s site. He created a custom J-Query theme, composed the site’s CSS, and explored a variety of new features from the API including radio tabs. Lars also provided invaluable troubleshooting assistance with the Get Directions feature and several layout issues. He offered innovative ideas, including the creation of a “video guide to the site” to sum up the FAQs. As a design aficionado Lars also authored RtH’s powerpoint presentation.
As with the beta version of this site, incorporating transit data proved to be a persistent difficulty. The lack of transit APIs beyond Metro and the inaccessibility of commute data for all station areas made incorporating this information untenable.
The team built on their mid-term experiences by collectively and carefully authoring code on separate pages within a single teammate’s account. This allowed for individual, but collaborative, work.
Despite our abilities to collaborate well as coders, distributing work proved to be a challenge because of the nature of our site. We attempted to address this issue by dividing up tasks and taking on new roles as needed.
In the future, we hope to build on the site by incorporating similar data for northern California proposed HSR stations. Likely the specific direction of the site will be determined by our clients’ needs and site evaluation.
-Land Use Pie Chart Pop-Up
-JQuery radio buttons
-Projections (contains clickable element to display data in Google Charts)
-Land Use (contains a custom legend for design uniformity)
-Video FAQ via WonderShare