Friday, February 23, 2007

Plan the Route: Arlington TX Largest City Without Public Transit

"Arlington [Texas] remains the largest metropolitan city in the country without a public transit system for the general population."
City of Arlington, 2001

So, I live, work, and play in the largest city in the United States without public transportation, eh? Now to be honest, I bike everywhere on my Trek 7100, but not everyone is fortunate enough to live so close to life's many amenities and short destinations.

The great up-side to this is that I have worked with oodles of students from our City & Regional Planning GIS program wanting to plan public transit routes through Arlington, TX. Working with these students over the past few years have given me a real appreciation of how ArcGIS's spatial analyst and lately (since 9.1) the network analyst extension can be used. One of the students who I helped to devise a method for implementing a bus routing algorithm into ArcMap actually won an award for his work. Very exciting. Of course, his project was planning a bus route through our fair city of Arlington.

So, I thought I'd try my hand at holding a GIS workshop where participants will use GIS to plan a new bus route route through Arlington. Now, the primary purpose of my workshops is not to demonstrate advanced analysis techniques to GIS students, but to increase awareness and interest in GIS and the library's services and collections. This means that in order to hold such a workshop, I needed to automate everything. A students (or faculty) who beforehand would have difficulty spelling GIS would need to create a bus route within 1 to 1.5 hours.

So I fire up my Pywin32 IDE and just about finished up the Python geoprocessing yesterday. Everything is completely, 100%, automated. Today at noon, a couple of my colleagues here in the library agreed to meet with me to do some quick usability testing.

As soon as the testing is complete, and I put the finishing touches on the user interface, I will post all of the code here.

I divided the analysis into two forms. The forms are simple VBA forms that launch the scripts and pass the parameters. First, workshop participants will develop their cost matrix using the following intuitive criteria: number of commuters, number of single mothers, income, and road class. Second, participants will select 4 categories of bus stops, such as airports, colleges, grocery stores, etc. They can then assign specific stops within these categories or allow the GIS to pick a specific stop for them. A cost raster (which is also an output from the first step) is used to select the stop(s) for the participant. Then, because I could not help myself, the Python code calls ArcMap2GMap and plots the bus stops and the derived route on a Google Map that they can take with themselves. Works like a charm. The only downside is that the second step takes over 3 minutes to process, so I will need to put on all of my charm to keep everyone engaged and entertained while we wait for the process to finish. The results are totally worth it, though as the default browser window opens automatically with Google Maps displaying their results.

Then, last week, Dr. Ardeshir Anjomani, coordinator of the our City & Regional Planning department's GIS program, agreed to give a brief introduction to the topic and to highlight various student public transit projects that have come out of his department. It's going to be fantastic...

If anyone is in the area, here are the workshop details:

Title: Public Transportation in Arlington: Plan the Route
Introduction: Dr. Ardeshir Anjomani, coordinator of SUPA's City & Regional Planning GIS Program, will give a brief introduction and highlight various student endeavors to plan public transit routes.
Time: Thursday, March 1, 2007, 3pm - 5pm
Location: Central Library, Room B20 (basement)
Description: Learn how to use Geographic Information Systems to plan a public transportation (bus) route through Arlington, TX.


Unknown said...

Arlington is a descent place to live, but in these upcoming years Arlington is a future ghetto. The young people in Arlington is out of control. I Live in South Arlington by Bowie High School and I'm starting to hear gunshots and gang fights and stuff like that. I was just at walgreens getting me some things for the house and I witness a gang fight then shooting like we was in the ghetto. Arlington population and crime rate is increasing and I am thinking of moving deep into Mansfield because Arlington is the next Fort Worth or Dallas in the upcoming years .

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Anonymous said...

Ooohhhhh.. scary. Arlington couldn't get too bad. No place is perfect.