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

Celebrating “a cathedral for commuters”

Grand Central Terminal is 100 years old and NPR provides part of its story:

Seven is one of the 750,000 people who walk through Grand Central every day. To put it into perspective, that’s more people than the entire population of the state of Alaska — a handy fact you can learn from Daniel Brucker, an enthusiastic New Yorker who’s managed Grand Central Tours for the past 25 years…

Fortunately, the Vanderbilt family, who owned the New York Central Railroad, had the money. And what they built was a 49-acre rail complex with more tracks and platforms than any other in the world. The buildings on Park Avenue, to the north, are built over it. And it’s an almost unfathomably busy place — during the morning rush hour, a Metro-North commuter train arrives every 58 seconds.

“It’s like a cathedral that’s built for the people,” Brucker says. “We’re not going through somebody else’s mansion, through somebody else’s monument. It’s ours. It’s meant for the everyday commuter, and it’s a celebration of it.”…

“It is the largest interior … public space in New York,” Monasterio says. The windows on the east and the west side, those windows used to open, they used to draw air from the east side, through the terminal, over and out the west side.”

Having been there a few times myself, it is a remarkable building. Public spaces that are so crowded, functional, and well-designed are rare.

It would be interesting to hear more about how Grand Central fits into the fabric of New York City. On one hand, it seems like quintessential New York: classical exterior, busy space, busy yet functional. At the same time, it doesn’t exactly fit with Midtown Manhattan and the modern skyline. It is a relic of the past, a building that had to be saved through the first federal conservancy act from the 1960s.