Flow of tweets in Chicago. (Eric Fischer)

Spiffy new infographic shows where transit routes could go if they followed where tweets were coming from.

(H/T: Chetan Chandrashekhar)

This is an open thread.

42 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Twitter & Transit”

    1. Now this map is interesting.

      Taken at face value, it makes the following claims about Seattle transit:

      – Central Link should go largely down a barren stretch of I-5 until heading off toward the airport.
      – North Link is basically doing the right thing? Or is it saying that the freeway stop and Green Lake access would have been better?
      – The 44 should either go to Montlake all the time (too bad there’s traffic) or to U Village (LOLWUT?).
      – The 18 was a stroke of genius.
      – RR E: Deviate to Linden? Stay on Aurora? Hell no. Straight. Through. Green Lake, which will have a diving board platform and a transfer to another bus running E-W across Green Lake to Roosevelt.
      – LOL EAST LINK ON 520 LOL (plz to not be starting actual argument about this)

      1. My explanation of the 520 line:

        Lots of Microsoft employees have smartphones.
        Lots of Microsoft employees use Twitter.
        Lots of Microsoft employees live in downtown or NE Seattle (and of these, many use public transit or Connector allowing them to Twitter along the way).

    2. -People get to 520 via Madison
      -Where’s Mercer?
      -Maybe the 7x going up the Ave is a good idea.
      -Either Link should have gone down Rainier Ave (!) or the Thomason Expressway should have been built (!!)
      -Central Link is generally un the right place; Airport Bypass / Aurora Link is in the right place, and West Link is also, but tries to integrate two branches into one on both ends
      -If 520 isn’t used between Montlake and I-5, build 520 Link through the CD/Madrona/Madison and don’t worry about UW-Eastside

      1. “-Either Link should have gone down Rainier Ave (!)”

        Not the first, nor the most convincing time this has been stated on this blog.

        “or the Thomason Expressway should have been built (!!)”

        The only reason the Thompson Expressway shouldn’t have been built is that it’s an expressway, and expressways shouldn’t be built anywhere.

      1. Matt, I assume that comment was tongue in cheek? In reality, a large majority of transit riders and drivers take 15th to Ballard.

      2. I thought we were laughing about how poor a job that methodology does of predicting transit patterns. Apparently nobody in Ballard tweets. But then same with the poor, single drivers (hopefully), and anyone under 50.

      3. A large majority of transit riders and drivers take 15th to Ballard because it’s the fastest way there (it’s where the big road is). But if we were building grade-separated rapid transit to Ballard and were willing to spend the money to get over/under every obstruction without delay, and we wanted high frequency and ridership, we’d go through Fremont (though probably not with a diversion to upper Fremont), like this map shows, and like the 18 will do in a half-year or so (just without any semblance of speed or reliability).

        This mapping methodology attempts to efficiently aggregate common trips, ignoring the roads and physical obstacles that currently exist (and ignoring how existing transportation infrastructure influences where people live, work, and travel — although the fact that many existing bus lines essentially show up right on the map shows it)… so it gets things like this right.

      4. Oooh. I didn’t get that it ignores existing roads (and hills and lakes, for that matter). That’s much more useful than I imagined (though you still have the limited set of twiterers, and the biases that introduces).

    3. “Routing 30,000 randomly-chosen trips through the paths suggested by 10,000 randomly-chosen geotags. These are perhaps the most interesting routes between the endpoints of the trips, even if not necessarily the most likely.

      Data from the Twitter streaming API, August, 2011. Base map from OpenStreetMap, CC-BY-SA.”

      Am I understanding it correctly that basically they are just pulling out two geotags at complete random, and then plotting the ‘most interesting’ routes between the points?

      1. Not quite. Those “trips” are based on pairs geotagged tweets from the same person, spanning a short period of time. So actual human movement is driving this, but the routes themselves are chosen artbitrarily on density (of the twitterverse).

        So these maps do tell us something about movement of (tweeting) people, but certainly weren’t meant to suggest infrastructure investments.

      2. @Hans:

        The maps amount to something close to a desire path on a macro scale: The maps show where our buses and subways should be, if they conformed to the way we actually move and live.

        I don’t know about Eric Fischer, but the wankers at Fast Company make that claim (which, in addition to ignoring the bias inherent in mapping tweets, ignores the fact that throughout most of American urban history transportation infrastructure has influenced urban form as much as or more than the converse).

  1. Now there’s a great idea: re-make Chicago’s transit system without any routes to the south side. Think there might be a little bias there based on who tweets most?

    Depending on the methodology, it’s possible the line from west to northwest essentially represents a cutoff of the blue line’s trip through downtown. Either that, or proof that an outer-circle line really would work.

    1. Not directly but I wouldn’t be surprised if the strength of the Canadian dollar lately has something to do with it. All the money Canada is pulling in for oil, gas, and other exported resources makes it difficult for other domestic producers to compete.

    2. Interesting stuff. I wonder what the bottom line (wages & benefits) comparison is with the union jobs with seniority vs the new hire $12-14.50 jobs in Indiana. I doubt the exchange rate has too much to do with it since the assembly labor is a small component of the finished product. Duty, tariffs, corporate taxes and the local supply line. The plant isn’t moving far but if the local supply chain is better on the US side of the boarder that can make days/weeks difference in deliver time which is a big deal on high value added products. Does GE have any plants in Canada?

    3. Yes, ugh. I think I may have to replace the crappy Cat 3208 in my motorhome and put brand X in there instead….

  2. This guy is more of a true believer than me!

    Questions for Peter Hoffmann: A Hydrogen Advocate Whose Time May Have Come

    Peter Hoffmann started what is now the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Letter in 1986 and is the author of two books on this potential energy carrier for automobiles. “Tomorrow’s Energy: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and the Prospects for a Cleaner Planet” was published in 2001, but a revised and expanded edition is scheduled to be available from M.I.T. Press in March.

    Advocating for hydrogen cars has been, at times, a lonely profession…


      1. For me it is simple.

        I want to be able to ride my bicycle up Canyon Drive without inhaling a cloud of noxious fumes.

        I do not think hybrids or battery cars will get us there.

        I do think conversion to Hydrogen will.

        When it happens, I will shut up.

        And ride my bike up Canyon.

  3. Anyone here happen to have traveled in business-class on Amtrak between Portland and Seattle? I’ve done that route once in a regular seat, and it was quite comfortable, better than business class on a plane really. Do you think it’s worth the extra fifteen bucks?

    1. I think it’s totally worth it. You get priority boarding and a much quieter ride as well as $3 off at the Bistro. Also, if you’re traveling by yourself you can have a single seat (rather than having to potentially sit next to someone for the whole ride).

      1. I’ve also travelled in business class as well as coach between here and Portland, and I second Kevin’s comments. It is the same way from Vancouver B.C. with the advantage that business class gets to go through the customs check first.

      2. If you like meeting new people, a seat next to someone can sometimes be a good thing. I once had a two hour conversation with the person next to me on an airplane while we were sitting on the runway at JFK. A good person to talk to can be a wonderful way to pass the time.

      3. Ditto Eric, I often meet interesting people on Amtrak, and if I don’t, it’s almost always someone polite who basically leaves me alone the whole trip, which is great too.

    2. I always use Business Class for the reason stated elsewhere here, most especially because of the single seats and it is usually quieter with fewer rugrats and anklebiters running round. It is also the best deal on the NE Corridor between WAS and BOS and anywhere between – way better than the extra $ Amtrak charge for their much overhyped Acela.

      1. Because I love Amtrak’s business class, I briefly considered it for a trip I’m taking to Vancouver with my son in May…then realized that it’s probably not a good idea to subject the quiet business class car to my 4-year-old. And wouldn’t be fun for me to try to keep him quiet for 4 hours. You’re welcome.

    3. I’ve done business class as well, and highly recommend it. The last two times I travelled in coach between Portland and Seattle, I was facing two strangers across one of those little tables. The table greatly limited my room to move/stretch, yet wasn’t big enough to accommodate two laptops in use (mine and that of the person across from me). Oh, and I was right by the door to the vestibule, so there was the constant whooshing and squeaking of the door opening and closing. Business class feels a lot roomier and can be somewhat quieter, too.

      1. If I have work to do on the trip, I will sometimes get a seat in the Business Class. There’s almost a guarantee of privacy and the b-coach is very quiet. Look around at check-in time, if the crowd is large and full of kids and students, you might be happier in B Coach if you want to work. I’ve never regretted the upgrade.

    4. If for no other reason, it’s worth it NOT to have to stand in that stupid line for seat assignments. The Cascades are in the dark ages with this seat assignment procedure.

      1. +1. And the cost difference usually isn’t that much, compared with business class when flying.

  4. I found it interesting hearing the announcers for the Super Bowl praising the fact that “you can walk to everything”. Makes me wonder if some of the same things we advocate are some of the same elements that make a good Super Bowl city. Would be a good subject for a national transit blog post.

    1. I don’t suppose they’d say the same thing about Gillette Stadium or the Meadowlands. CenturyLink Field would do pretty well by that measure.

      1. True, CenturyLink field would do great. But, then, urbanists and transit advocates (as opposed to sports fans that happen to visit a stadium in a walkable area and notice how nice that is) surely don’t like the stadium’s placement in terms of land use in the urban core. Even the lowest-footprint urban stadiums (consider Wrigley Field, where scarcity and cost of parking limits game-day traffic, there’s great transit access to the stadium, and the neighborhood has an agreement with the team limiting the annual number of nighttime events at the stadium) are challenging to accommodate.

        Stadiums, a fairly low-intensity use for land, get built in places where previously there wasn’t all that much going on.

      2. I don’t care where stadiums are as long as there’s transit to it. Putting the stadiums adjacent to a city center has been the only way to guarantee that, to prevent them from being located like isolated office parks where the nearest bus stops a mile away and stops running at 7pm.

    2. q13fox.com (and their TV program “Q It Up Sports”) reported today that the Seahawks are asking that the NFL consider Seattle for a future Super Bowl site:

      The NFL’s requirements are:
      1) 70,000 seat stadium
      2) 25,000 hotel rooms
      3) Sufficient exhibit space
      4) 50-degree average in Feb. (for outdoor stadium)

      Seattle doesn’t meet the fourth condition, but the article says the city may get an exception, depending on how the 2014 Super Bowl (slated for the Giants/Jets stadium in New Jersey) turns out.

      1. 4) 50-degree average in Feb. (for outdoor stadium)

        Vince Lombardi would be rolling in his grave. Both about the 50 degree weather and playing the game in February!

  5. One of the caveats to using twitter maps to draw transit lines is that the line that, from the map, appears to satisfy the trips for the most people might not be a line that can run in a reasonable amount of time. To run efficiently, buses need to stay in straight lines down major streets, not twist and turn all over the place to come a few blocks closer to where certain groups of people may be going.

    A subway line is better in that with a grade-separated right-of-way, a transit line that would be awful on a bus can suddenly work efficiently. For example, nothing short of a underground subway has any hope of getting from downtown to the U-district in a reasonable amount of time with any stop in capitol hill. Even there, though, geography might make the line suggested by the map enormously expensive to build, compared with other routes.

  6. Miscellaneous question: Does anyone know when ST will replace their old (90xx) Gilligs? (The ones they’re getting this July are just for Pierce Transit)

  7. Hey transit nerd parents: my son and I recently discovered this series, which isn’t new, but has a very cool transit-themed episode entitled All Aboard Trains, Buses, and Subways. The one on ferries, filmed in BC, is also one of his favorites. It’s available on Netflix.


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