The books are unpacked, computers humming, and solar panels generating at the recently re-opened Franklin Avenue branch library. Despite some minor quibbles, I think that the building is a fabulous success! Kudos to the Library board, the architect, the builder, and the City for promoting sustainability as a core component of the project.

Franklin Avenue Library Sign: Sign at the newly-renovated Franklin Avenue library branchFranklin Avenue Library Sign: Sign at the newly-renovated Franklin Avenue library branch

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Leaving a meeting at the State Historic Preservation Office this morning I was happy to see that preparations are underway for the internationally recognized Hy-Vee Triathlon. It is great to see that after a two-year stint in West Des Moines, organizers decided to return the event to downtown. I am hard pressed top think of a better way to showcase Des Moines and Iowa to an international audience than to run a major sporting event right by the beautiful State Capitol building.

Hy-Vee Triathlon PreparationHy-Vee Triathlon Preparation

Here's hoping for good weather...

Hy-Vee Tri Weather ForecastHy-Vee Tri Weather Forecast

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Maps make boring statistics come alive!

I created the following maps using ArcMap (a commercial GIS program) and freely available downloaded Census data. It's not the sort of thing that anyone can do - ArcMap is a relatively involved program and combing through the Summary File data requires moderately advanced Microsoft Access skills.

With a little bit of invested time in learning the system, however, the American Fact Finder website can help the lay person create custom maps from the same data using only a web browser!

The following maps are available for download in pdf form at the bottom of this article.

Note that the map above is total population not population density. The large census tracts have a high total population spread out over a much larger area.

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An incredible amount of work went into creating this report - it documents the historic contexts under which the neighborhood developed as well as the architectural significance of the buildings throughout the neighborhood.

Calling all history buffs: You can download a copy of the final report on the project website! (full disclosure, I developed the website/database and was a co-project manager on this awesome undertaking)

The research project utilized a comprehensive approach that sought to document all buildings within the survey area. Consequently an all-building permit database and a historical photo set that included 700-1,000 photos was amassed. The building permit data was used to separate out the many overlapping house-based historical contexts. This separation involved distinguishing pre-Drake University residences, early Drake-induced residences (many of which started out in a lesser scale, but were then enlarged over time), and modified residences (as apartments or Greek social system residences).

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On August 11, 2011, the Census Bureau released the Iowa SF1 (summary File 1) data to the public. Being the obnoxious data hound that I am, I can't resist playing around with this information to see what jumps out... In this first installment, I'm going to take a look at the statewide data aggregated to the Street Crowd (historic): This image is in the public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsStreet Crowd (historic): This image is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons"place" level - identified towns and cities. Rural residents who don't live in an incorporated town or city are not included in these numbers.

You can check out Des Moines' stats below the break.

Iowa's total population is 3,046,055 people

Of that, 2,421,895 (79.5%) have chosen to live in an incorporated town or city. There are 1,009 incorporated towns and cities identified by the Census bureau for reporting purposes. However, 140 of those towns have fewer than 100 residents.

The average population of an incorporated city in Iowa is 2,400 residents. The top quintile (highest 20% by population) averages 10,334 residents. By a factor of 1.6, more people choose to live in Des Moines than the next most populated city, Cedar Rapids.

The Top 10 Iowa Cities by total population are:

    City Population
    Des Moines 203433
    Cedar Rapids 126326
    Davenport 99685
    Sioux City 82684
    Waterloo 68406
    Iowa City 67862
    Council Bluffs 62230
    Ames 58965
    Dubuque 57637
    West Des Moines 56609

Despite having the fastest growing suburbs in the state, only one of the Des Moines area suburbs makes the top 10 in total population. In fact, only one of the top 10 most populated cities in Iowa is a suburb.

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The Color Of

14 Aug 2011

Via the fabulous "the color of" website, here is the color of Des Moines:

The Color of Des MoinesThe Color of Des Moines

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The City will begin resurfacing Grand Avenue from 35th Street to 44th Street starting Saturday, August 13, when it will be closed for remilling. Paving is scheduled for the following Saturday, August 20, but the street will be open for local traffic during the intervening week.

What a great chance to stripe in some bike lanes without incurring an additional mobilization cost!

Ingersoll Streetscape and Bike Lane: Ingersoll streetscape improvements and new bike lane stripingIngersoll Streetscape and Bike Lane: Ingersoll streetscape improvements and new bike lane striping

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We Drive Too Much

In Des Moines, one gallon of gasoline now hovers around $3.50, almost $.50 less than a few months ago. Oil companies continue to rake in record profits based on the fear that supply is unstable and growing short (which it is, but that is another discussion).

Toyota Prius: File source: James Benjamin Bleeker via Wikimedia CommonsToyota Prius: File source: James Benjamin Bleeker, Web Master of http://www.AutoOnInfo.net and http://CarsOnInfo.net [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia CommonsOne of the effects of relatively high gasoline prices is that people have perhaps started driving less. For many of us, when we start paying something closer to the true cost of driving each mile, driving less begins to look more appealing.

Of course, the problem with the high price of gas is that the extra money we spend at the gas pump goes straight to the pockets of the oil producers. very little of the fabulous sums of money generated by skyrocketing prices go towards actually dealing with the externalities of pollution, road maintenance, and traffic safety which are generated and/or exacerbated by driving.

Drivers tend to believe that the only prices associated with driving are cars, insurance, and gasoline. Why? because those are the costs that are most immediate.

Solutions we should work towards:

  • reduce the subsidies for new infrastructure and increase spending on maintenance of existing infrastructure.
  • Increase investment in mass transit.
  • Incentivize connected and compact development/redevelopment
  • Tighten emission standards
  • Tighten CAFE (fuel efficiency) standards
  • Increase the taxes on gasoline
  • Support engineering innovation for alternate fuel sources
  • Explore taxing gasoline per dollar rather than per gallon

It is my hope that we can reduce dependence on oil as a driver (so to speak) of our economic and social systems before it becomes an emergency - and it is pretty clear that it will.

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The Des Moines City Council is deciding whether or not to continue offering tax abatement to new construction and renovation in targeted areas of the City.

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Via associate transportation planner Bethany Wilcoxon at the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization:

The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is pleased to announce that, effective September 1, 2011, its office will be located at 420 Watson Powell, Jr., Parkway, Suite 200 in Des Moines. The move to downtown Des Moines comes after ten years in the Merle Hay Centre in Urbandale.

File this one under "Walking the Walk" - this is great news! The new address is smack dab in the heart of downtown, where a quasi-governmental planning organization with responsibility for setting sustainable transportation policy should be located.


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Let me suggest the following as an add-on demonstration of sustainable transportation planning: How about a $150 per month incentive for each employee that commutes to work by public transportation, foot, or bike at least 15 days!

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