Archive for September 13th, 2010

Commuting Visualization

And speaking of commute times, Harry Kao writes in to tell me he has created a Google Maps visualization based on the bit in my book about the historical constancy (in some cases) of commute times. You can find it here (click on the map to engage).

And here are the details, which Kao notes need refining (and I wonder how this differs from WalkScore’s new “Commute” tab). Perhaps someone out there can help?

The primary data source is the CTPP 2000. This survey was sent to a subset of households during the 2000 Census and records, among other things, where people live and work.

The CTPP has since been superseded by the ACS. Although transit statistics from the ACS have been published more recently, the the new data is not sufficiently fine-grained for use with this map.

The CTPP provides data on a census tract level. However, this map uses zip codes to identify regions because they’re more familiar to most people. The mapping from census tract to zip code is done by using the Census Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) to determine the proportion of each census tract that falls within each zip code and weighting the CTPP data accordingly.

The Google Maps API is used to determine routes and transit times. The usual caveats apply. In particular, it is assumed that all commuters drive during non-peak hours. This is surely incorrect (but it’s the best that I can do) so the trip times are likely to be underestimates.

Posted on Monday, September 13th, 2010 at 10:13 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Link Between Long Commutes and Absenteeism

People looking into the effects of long commutes have found everything from higher stress levels to fewer social relationships, but a new study by Jos N. van Ommerenlow and Eva Gutiérrez-i-Puigarnaua, published in Regional Science and Urban Economics, throws another factor into the mix: The tendency for employees to show up for work.

Our results indicate that, ceteris paribus, commuting distance has a strong positive effect on absenteeism, with an elasticity of about 0.07 to 0.09. In the hypothetical case that all workers in the economy have a negligible commute, absenteeism would be about 15 to 20% lower, roughly one day per year, so the results are economically relevant. Our favoured interpretation is that the effect identified is predominantly through an effect of the time component of commuting costs on voluntary absenteeism in line with Ross and Zenou, 2008 (S.L. Ross and Y. Zenou, “Are shirking and leisure substitutable? An empirical test of efficiency wages based on urban economics theory,” Regional Science and Urban Economics 38 (5) (2008)), but we cannot completely exclude the possibility that some of the effect is through an effect on health and therefore on involuntary absenteeism, as argued by Zenou (2002).

Posted on Monday, September 13th, 2010 at 10:03 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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Metropolis and Mobile Life
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of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI



September 2010

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