Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
A new visualization makes daily work travels look fun.
Most Americans don’t get warm and fuzzy feelings when they think of their daily commute, and never have. New Yorkers who use the city’s overextended subway system at peak hours, for example, probably don’t enjoy being wedged in among an assortment of strange limbs on a daily basis. The same goes for people in other cities who take crowded buses. And even if you drive to work alone (as most Americans still do), hitting stubborn walls of rush-hour traffic every few blocks hardly makes for a tranquil morning ritual.
But while the American commute may not be fun, this colorful new visual representation of it certainly is. In it, the Michigan-based data enthusiast Mark Evans uses Census data to show Americans’ work-related commutes as bursts of colorful dots, contracting into and expanding outwards from each county in the U.S.
The dots vary in size based on the number of commuters, and are color-coded to correspond to the counties they’re commuting to or from. Select a county from the drop-down menu above the map, then toggle between “home” and “workplace” to see what the back-and-forth looks like for those who live or work there, respectively. Here’s how Evans describes that visual in an accompanying blog post:
The resulting animations are somewhat hypnotic (even my dog seemed to go into a trance watching them, leading to minutes of human amusement) but also provide a visual way of quickly seeing the distribution of workers into a given city.
He’s not wrong. Take a look at a GIF of Evan’s map, showing people traveling between 20 and 100 miles to head to work in D.C.:
And here’s a GIF of New York county, which overlaps with Manhattan. Not surprisingly, it’s a prime destination for workers near and far:
For comparison, here’s Sacramento county in California. It may not be as big a hub for workers as the two counties above, but it still pulls in some pretty long-distance commuters:
Way more calming than your actual commute, yes? Check out how how people are traveling to and from your county here.