New Visualization Tool Shows That We Are All In This Together!

New Visualization Tool Shows That We Are All In This Together!keith dalton ad

(Guest Column by Pleasant Ridge Mayor Kurt Metzger, July 10, 2014)

The clearest indicator of the regional connections that we share as communities comes from an analysis of place of residence and place of work. The Census Bureau uses commuting patterns to determine the counties that will make up each metropolitan area, and SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) has created an interactive map to show these patterns. The high levels of commuting from one county to another indicate strong economic and social ties.

No community provides jobs for all its residents. For example, less than 30 percent of Detroit jobs are held by Detroiters. This results in large travel flows in (277,145 workers) and out (228,015 workers) of the city, ctechadprimarily during at peak rush hours. The majority of these trips (93 percent in 2012) are made in automobiles or light trucks, with 91 percent of these made by someone driving alone. That represents a large number of vehicle miles traveled, hours spent on traffic congested roads, fuel used and pollution generated.

While recent national data show that most people move for either improved or less expensive housing, 5.4 percent of all movers between 2012 and 2013 stated that being closer to work/having a shorter commute was the primary reason for the move. Recent research on millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) finds that their location decisions are heavily based on the area’s transportation options. They want to live in cities and metros where public transit and non-motorized vehicle options are plentiful. The Detroit area suffers in that regard and, as a result, ranks second lowest among the 57 largest metropolitan areas (Cleveland is lowest) in percentage of its population represented by millennials.HowesLocation

While we tend to be familiar with the work trips of our neighbors, a complete understanding of the community connections formed through the trips taken by all of our residents is well beyond our grasp. This is not the case anymore.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which annually collects a great deal of information on the demographic, socioeconomic and housing characteristics of U.S residents, and then makes those data available down to the neighborhood level, has produced a “commuting to work” file for every community in the country. While the data are somewhat dated (collected between 2006 and 2010), the information provided demonstrates the connections between communities. How can we not work together as a region when these commuting data show us how interconnected we are? How can we not see the importance of a strong Detroit when we understand how many of our residents travel there each day for their livelihood?

While I have had a wonderful time delving into the numerous spreadsheets provided by the Census Bureau sidebar012stairsand developing my own workflow summaries, I am aware that such a task is interesting to an extreme few out there. That is why I was so pleased to see the new tool developed by SEMCOG – Commuting Patterns in Southeast Michigan ( This tool allows you to click on any community in the seven counties of Southeast Michigan. Once you click, you will discover where your residents work, where your community’s workers come from, and how many of your residents work in their community of residence.

While I come to the work with a regional perspective, my 28 years as a resident, and my recent election as its Mayor, make the data for Pleasant Ridge of particular interest to me. A couple clicks on the SEMCOG tool reveals the following:

~90 residents work in the cityt

~1,360 workers commute out of Pleasant Ridge to work

~970 workers commute into Pleasant Ridge for work

~Detroit is top destination (225 PR residents) and top provider 980 Detroiters come in)

~Oak Park is second highest provider of workers, while Southfield is the second highest destination for PR residents

Marian McClellan, Mayor of Oak Park, had the following reaction to her data search.
“Like other Detroit suburbs, about 9% of our residents work in our city, about a quarter of our residents work less than five miles away. 27% of our residents work in Detroit. 85% of people who work in Oak Park nicholas-schrock-allstatelive in Oakland County. With better bike paths, they could bike to work. With mass transit, they could save the expense of owning a car.
Even though we border Detroit, the orientation of our population has been to Oakland County. We tend to work and shop in Oakland County. That will change as Detroit continues to blossom, then our proximity will be an advantage to Oak Park.”
Regardless of where you live in Southeast Michigan, you cross community (and county) lines every day – to work, to shop, for education, to dine, and to attend sporting and cultural events. While many of us choose to make those trips by car, others of us have no choice. Options that begin with a regional transportation system, incorporating M-1 Rail, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and a coordinated city-suburb bus feeder system, and add complete streets with dedicated bike lanes and tree-lined sidewalks that encourage mixed-use development, will result in a region that truly serves all its residents.

The interactive mapping tool ( is best viewed in Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. You can go to the map and change the settings to look at your own community or neighbors.seed030_Laurinda Ross

SEMCOG was established in 1968 as a regional planning partnership in Southeast Michigan. We are accountable to local governments who join as members. Membership is open to all counties, cities, villages, townships, intermediate school districts, community colleges, and public universities in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties. Citizens are represented at SEMCOG through their local elected officials. Funding for SEMCOG is provided by federal and state grants, contracts, and membership dues.

Founder and Director Emeritus, Data Driven Detroit (D3)

Mayor, Pleasant Ridge

Kurt R. Metzger & Associates


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Oakland County Times has written 13824 articles for Oakland County Times

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