Monday, July 23, 2007

Mapping the urban environment

Last month's Wired magazine had a gee-whiz article about Google Maps mashups and the democratization of cartography. I'm not sure it's such a big deal as Wired makes it out to be, but I do think that this Cartography 2.0 is pretty cool. This blog operates under the general principle that the more we know about our environment and how it works, the better off that environment will be, and the flexibility and interactivity of Google Maps happen to offer some neat ways of illustrating environmental principles at work in our cities.

Here are three Google Maps mash-ups that I particularly admire as interpreters of urban ecology:
  • Green DFW Pollution Maps: This map made by Dallas activists pinpoints a nationwide database of EPA-monitored sites. Type in a zipcode, and this will show you all the Superfund sites, wastewater treatment plants, hazardous waste facilities, and smokestacks within a ten-mile radius.
  • Walk Score: This map locates all of the restaurants, hardware stores, pharmacies, theaters, and grocery stores within walking distance of your home address, and calculates a "Walk Score" depending on how many of these everyday services are within a reasonable walking distance. The methodology isn't perfect - the yuppie housewares shop and the Ace Hardware receive equal credit as "hardware stores," e.g. - but it's generally a good indicator of a neighborhood's livability.
  • The Baltimore Homicide Map is a sobering constellation of pinpoints around the inner city. Never having spent much time in Baltimore, I don't know about any of the context that would make this map more meaningful, but the readers of the Baltimore Sun (which created it) would be able to look at this and make connections between clusters of pinpoints and the quality of neighborhood schools, or poverty, or racial segregation. The clusters of homicides do seem to correlate somewhat with clusters of vacant lots pinpointed on this map.

1 comment:

Turboglacier said...

Ooh! My place got an 89 walkability score. I'm so proud! Much better than Bill Gates' crib!