Mapping Chicago area income inequality by Metra route

Crain’s Chicago Business put together an interactive map that shows income levels by Metra train stop:

The geographic disparity in Chicago’s wealth can be seen by tracking household income in the ZIP codes of Metra train stations. The Union Pacific North and Milwaukee District North lines pass through some of the wealthiest ZIP codes, while the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines go through some of the poorest.

Several quick thoughts:

1. This reflects historic settlement patterns in the Chicago region.

2. I wish there was another set of data layered on top of this: daily ridership from each stop. This way, we could see if income is related to ridership. Could these mass transit lines primarily benefit people from wealthier areas in the Chicago region? In other words, do these commuter lines reinforce income differences? Are these train lines generally a boon for communities compared to Chicago suburbs without commuter train stations?

3. Of course, looking at ZIP codes of the train stations is inexact. Depending on the location of the station, people might drive from other zip codes. What we really need is more exact information from riders themselves: where do they live, what is their income, why do they utilize this particular stop, etc.

4. Also, why use average household incomes rather than median household incomes? Using the average likely increases the variation among train stations but also allows outliers in income to have more influence in the data.

h/t Curbed Chicago

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