Tomorrow I'm speaking as a guest at an Urban Planning class at Eastern Michigan University. I've been asked to speak about secondary data and how it relates to my job and the jobs of other transportation planners. As I was assembling a list of topics and sources it dawned on me that a few of these might work well for readers of this blog.
Remember the Census long form? I bet you were glad you didn't get one as part of the 2010 census! How do I know that? There is no census long form anymore. It's been replaced by annual data collections that are packaged into 1, 3 and 5 year data sets. We now call it the American Community Survey. I suppose the thought is that if you call it that, people won't realize it's sort of just the census long form. This means your odds of having to answer the in depth questions of what used to be the census long form are less during the full census count, but higher during any other year.
It's taken the folks at the Census a while to get this data packaged appropriately but the factfinder2 website is finally working fairly reliably. From there you can access just about any information you'd like, depending on the size of your community. If your community is larger than 60,000 you can get the 1 year data sample, but if you live in a rural area, you'll need to rely on the 5 year data. The feds are quick to say it's NOT a five year average but rather, a representation of the five year period. Tomorrow we'll be looking at means of transportation to work by age.
Unlike the Census, the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) mashes up tons of data into ways that help planners. Our office started keeping them on our radar about a year or so ago. My favorite mash up is a household and transportation affordability index which puts together household costs and transportation costs as a percentage of income. We refer to this visualization as the "drive to qualify" map because, despite being approved for mortgages in suburban areas, an alarmingly high number of people spend more than 45% of their income on household and transport expenses. With a percentage that high, there isn't a lot left to support this "creative class" we pride ourselves here in Southeast Michigan. Check it out in more detail by clicking below. You can start here and zoom right into your own community.
And now, you don't have to go to class tomorrow!