Friday, March 23, 2012

Transit Oriented Housing

If you haven't heard an aspiring (or sitting) elected official in DC hype Transit Oriented Development (TOD), then you haven't been paying enough attention. And you certainly have not spent much time around city planners, for whom this buzz word is gospel.

DC is growing, and for the most part, that has people excited. The TOD philosophy professes that the majority of the new homes, workplaces, and amenities that are built to accommodate this growth should be located within walking distance of a metro station. Whether the DC of the future has 700,000 residents or 1.5 million, taking public transportation will be an increasingly attractive option if for no other reason than that the convenience of driving will decline; roads will be more congested and parking will be more expensive (unless prices are artificially suppressed at the expense of everything else). In other words, we won't all fit unless we travel more efficiently.

A companion term to TOD, which gets just about as much play from public administrators trying to sound savvy, is Mixed-Use. Land uses that generate lots of human activity (think retail, housing, offices) should be clustered together so that you don't have to waste unnecessary time (or emit pollutants) traveling between your daily activities, and so that there is a critical mass of activity to support infrastructure investments, whether public (metro) or private (restaurants and grocery stores).

If you live within walking distance of your job, then lucky you. But you probably don't. The next best thing (sorry cyclists) is to live near a metro station and to work near a different metro station, so you can get between the two using only one mode of transportation. Most of DC's jobs are located close to metro stations, but too much of its housing is not. The market and public policy have started to recognize this problem and a big percentage of new housing is being built close to transit stations and more densely concentrated than the norm (see Columbia Heights).

DC's population density is 9,856.5 people per square mile. From the perspective of mixed-use TOD advocates, there is really no excuse for a Metro station area to have a population density lower than the city average. And yet, there are 28 stations in DC or on the border that are below 9,856.5 residents per square mile. The worst offenders (Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, the Farraguts, L'Enfant, Metro Center...) are all in the Central Business District where office demand outbids residential for the limited space available, explaining the low population density, but the stations in the next-lowest tier (Fort Totten, Southern Avenue, Brookland, Anacostia) are located in predominantly residential neighborhoods. See the full list of stations below:

To maximize the utility of the Metro system, much of DC's future growth must occur around these underutilized stations (assuming land use restrictions on the city core aren't loosened). Over the weekend I am going to begin to look at how neighborhoods around the Anacostia Metro station might change over the coming years and decades as the surrounding population density increases. In the meantime, I wanted to share this data with anyone who might find it interesting.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Study Area Feedback

I am planning to do a land use and market analysis of the area around the Anacostia Metro station and the Downtown Anacostia retail corridor, and am hoping to get your feedback on the study area boundaries.

I want to capture the core retail market for the Martin Luther King. Jr. Ave business corridor between Good Hope Rd. and the Metro Station. That is, for whom is this business corridor the most convenient retail destination (and will continue to be the most convenient once Skyland and St. E's are built out - assuming development/retail options along MLK progress at the same pace)?

I chose the area shown below using the following steps:
1. Draw one mile buffer around the the entrances to the Anacostia metro station.
2. Exclude the Anacostia River and beyond.
3. Exclude Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.
4. Exclude St. Elizabeths campus and everything southwest of it.
5. Exclude area south of Suitland Pkwy.
6. Annex remaining properties slightly outside of 1 mile buffer but that couldn't logically be assigned to any other neighborhood.

Now here's where the cutoff points get arbitrary:
7. As you travel east on Good Hope Road, eventually Skyland becomes the convenient destination.
8. Similarly, the north side of Fairlawn is better served by the Pennsylvania Ave SE retail corridor. I tried to avoid splitting census blocks (for data purposes) which is why the proposed boundary deviates from the 1 mile buffer.
So with that in mind, should I make any modifications to the boundaries or does this look copacetic?

What is the most appropriate way to refer to this area?
It covers at least a portion of several neighborhoods:
  • Fairlawn
  • Anacostia
  • Fort Stanton
  • Hillsdale
  • Barry Farm
  • Poplar Point (future neighborhood)
Calling an area "Anacostia" when you actually mean a larger geography always offends people; calling it the "Study Area" is too boring; and calling it "PopLawnCostiaFortBarrySdale" is ridiculous.

"Greater Anacostia" seems tame enough. Any commenters have a better proposal?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Los Latinos en DC

Close to completing this latest graphic, I took a break to catch up on my reading and encountered a @housingcomplex post informing me that my breaking analysis was 6 months late: See the original story via @lizfarmerDC. Oops.

Well, Latino migration patterns within DC are interesting story worth retelling and expanding on. Here's my version:

For me, the real story here is what is happening in Ward 7. A shift from Ward 1 to neighboring Wards 4 and 5 makes perfect sense, but why are so many Latinos moving to Ward 7? Is it a combination of the availability of affordable housing and proximity to Prince George's County's Latino concentrations? Please share your hypotheses in the comments. I hope to do some more research on this soon.

Country of Origin Data

You will uncover many interesting nuggets if you dig deeper into the Census data. For example, take a look at the breakdown of the Latino population by national origin:

Why did 900+ Iberians start identifying themselves as "Spaniards" ten years after calling themselves "Spanish?" Is there even a difference?

Except this Spain-related anomoly, all the groups that had a decline in population were "Others": i.e. "Other Central American," "Other South American," or "All Other Other." Who are these others? I believe all Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America are included on this list. Perhaps speakers of other Latin-derived languages  (i.e. Brazilians, Haitians, French Guianans) in the region identified as Latino even though the Census tells them not to. (As an aside, the Eurocentric Census definition of "Hispanic or Latino" is cringe-worthy - "A person of ... Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race" - in that it blatantly ignores the complex multiculturalism of the region. I'm sure @CarlosQC would be happy to address disputes on this subject.)

So unless there was a mass exodus of Brazilians from DC, chances are that most of the "Others" simply did not identify a specific country of origin in 2000, but did in 2010, potentially due to better education/outreach on behalf of the Census. If that is the case, then a significant portion of the increase for each individual country may be artificial. Even if the country-level statistics are inflated, the relative values can be useful.

The number of DC Latinos from South America increased at a higher rate (105%) than did the number from Mexico (67%), Central America (48%), or the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (51%).Overall, the fastest growing groups are Hondurans and Venezuelans, though several other South American nations are close behind. It would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between these rates and some indicator in the  origin-countries, such as the employment rate, political or economic instability, crime, etc.

Note: All data used for this post is from the 2000 and 2010 Decennial Censuses, SF-1.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Native Washingtonians

Let me preface this post by admitting to the conclusion you will likely draw after reading the introductory paragraph: I am jealous of Native Washingtonians. My consolation is that I am from the equally great SF Bay Area, and if I ever move back I will wield that status like a tyrant.

Click here for PDF version of infographic