Blog Archive

Archives by Month:

May 2012

New Interactive Tool: DPS Properties for Sale

by Louis Bach, Communications

Data Driven Detroit, in conjunction with the Old Schools, New Uses conference, has released a new interactive tool to provide users with information about Detroit Public School buildings and properties that are featured for sale. The tool provides prospective re-developers with contextual information about neighborhood amenities and characteristics, reducing the need for additional research.

This tool supports the adaptive reuse of vacant buildings, a flexible neighborhood revitalization strategy. John Gallagher at the Detroit Free Press explains the importance of reusing former schools:

It’s not new that DPS is selling off vacant school buildings. What differed about the DPS presentation today was the collaboration with multiple other groups working to reinvent the city, including the Detroit Works program, the Michigan Association of Planning and others.

Karla Henderson, Mayor Dave Bing’s group executive for planning and facilities, told today’s gathering that repurposing empty school buildings represents a key part of revitalizing Detroit neighborhoods.

“We are so open and flexible at this time in thinking outside the box,” she said, citing the recent example of the nonprofit group Southwest Solutions adapting a former police precinct on West Vernor near I-75 as a community arts center as the type of adaptive reuse the city is willing to entertain…

Andrea Brown, executive director of the Michigan Planning Association, said old school buildings represent key assets in many urban neighborhoods. The buildings tend to be well-built, feature notable architecture, have long served as community anchors and often come with considerable acreage that could serve many purposes.

For more coverage, see the Detroit News and Curbed Detroit.

Old Schools, New Uses: DPS Properties for Sale or Lease.

2012 Michigan Scorecard Now Available

by Louis Bach, Communications

The 2012 Michigan Scorecard, a product of collaboration between The Center for Michigan and Data Driven Detroit, is now available. The Scorecard tracks Michigan’s status through twenty-eight measures in three areas: Talent and Education, Economy and Quality of Life, and Effective Government. From the Scorecard’s website:

The Michigan Scorecard benchmarks the state’s performance on measures citizens deem most important for the state’s transformation to a new era of prosperity. The 2012 Michigan Scorecard published below is produced in partnership with Data Driven Detroit. Led by expert Michigan demographer Kurt Metzger, Data Driven Detroit gathers and disseminates data to those working to create positive change in the city of Detroit and the Detroit metropolitan area. This scorecard is based on the latest available public statistics as of January 2012.

The scorecard generally tracks how well the state is executing on the Michigan’s Defining Moment citizens’ agenda developed by the Center for Michigan in 2007-2010 through nearly 600 Community Conversations involving more than 10,500 diverse statewide residents.

The 2012 Scorecard is an update to the Michigan Scorecards produced in 2010 and 2008, allowing readers to see at a glance how the state’s scores have changed over time.

Rick Haglund of the Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine summarizes the 2012 results in his article, “Not Much Above Par on Michigan’s Scorecard“:

Although Michigan’s economy has performed a U-turn from a decade of job losses, most other measures on the scorecard show the state is essentially running in place.

Of the 28 areas assessed in the scorecard, five showed improvement, five went backward and 17 experienced no change. Another category, environment, is being reviewed under a standard this year than was used in the 2010 scorecard.

“It’s no surprise that results would be mixed, especially when you consider that Michigan is still overcoming the fiscal and economic challenges of the past decade,” said Snyder administration spokesman Ken Silfven. “That’s reflected on the state’s own dashboard as well.”

“The Michigan Scorecard benchmarks the state’s performance on measures citizens deem most important for the state’s transformation to a new era of prosperity,” said John Bebow, the center’s president and CEO.

For more, see the Bridge article or browse the Scorecard itself.

Census Bureau Director’s Blog on “A Future Without Key Social and Economic Statistics for the Country”

by Louis Bach, Communications

Last week we reacted to the House of Representatives’ vote to eliminate the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau’s means for gathering important socioeconomic data. On Friday, the Census Bureau itself weighed in, describing the impact of the legislation.

[iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]


The Appropriations Bill eliminates the Economic Census, which measures the health of our economy. It terminates the American Community Survey, which produces the social and demographic information that monitors the impact of economic trends on communities throughout the country. It halts crucial development of ways to save money on the next decennial census. In the last three years the Census Bureau has reacted to budget and technological challenges by mounting aggressive operational efficiency programs to make these key statistical cornerstones of the country more cost efficient. Eliminating them halts all the progress to build 21st century statistical tools through those innovations. This bill thus devastates the nation’s statistical information about the status of the economy and the larger society…

The ACS is our country’s only source of small area estimates on social and demographic characteristics. Manufacturers and service sector firms use ACS to identify the income, education, and occupational skills of local labor markets they serve. Retail businesses use ACS to understand the characteristics of the neighborhoods in which they locate their stores. Homebuilders and realtors understand the housing characteristics and the markets in their communities. Local communities use ACS to choose locations for new schools, hospitals, and fire stations. There is no substitute from the private sector for ACS small area estimates. Even if the funding problems were solved in the proposed budget, the House bill also bans enforcement of the mandatory nature of participation in the ACS; this alone would require at least $64 million more in funding to achieve the same precision of ACS estimates.

For more, including the costs of eliminating the Economic Census and reducing the efficiency of the Census Bureau, see the Census Bureau Director’s Blog.

A Child’s Connection to Their Community Starts with a Bike Ride

By Dana Politi, Staff Contributor

In a recent study, transportation professor Bruce Appelyard selected two suburban areas: the first had high amounts of traffic and was not conducive to children walking or biking through their neighborhood; the other had light traffic, and children regularly rode their bikes and walked in the neighborhood.

In his study, Appleyard utilized a cognitive mapping technique that involved asking 9 to 10 year olds to draw maps of their neighborhood. They were instructed to include their friends’ houses, their school, and areas they preferred or had an aversion to. According to the Atlantic Cities article, Appleyard determined that the children that resided in high traffic neighborhoods often expressed disdain or the feeling that they were in danger in multiple areas of their neighborhood; they did not detail these areas in their drawings. The children that lived in lighter traffic neighborhoods were more likely to draw additional details in specific areas and had an increased awareness of their surroundings. Appleyard concluded that children living in lower traffic areas have a greater ability to make connections with his or her neighborhood.

According to the article, 71% of parents surveyed had walked or bicycled to school growing up, yet only 18% of their children participate in the same activity. In his original study, Appleyard notes that by 2001 the Federal Highway Administration had recorded 85% of 5 to 15 year olds were driven to school by a parent or bus driver. He notes that living in higher traffic neighborhoods resulted in an increase in parents driving their children around, therefore increasing the traffic within their neighborhoods.

Some of the high traffic neighborhoods received pedestrian and biking renovations once the study had concluded. When Appleyard followed up with the children from these neighborhoods, there were noticeable improvements in their detail recognition and demeanor. Many of the children could detail maps and seemed happier with their neighborhoods.

House Votes to Eliminate American Community Survey

Rep. Daniel Webster, author of the measure to eliminate the census American Community Survey. Photo: AP via Huffington Post

The U.S. House of Representatives voted (232 – 190) on Wednesday to eliminate funding for the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which collects socioeconomic data that is used to determine how more than $400 billion of federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services.

The American Community Survey collects data that was, until 2005, collected by the “long-form” decennial census; the change was made to modernize the census and make its data timelier by collecting it more frequently.

D3’s Kurt Metzger has this to say about the issue:

The potential elimination of the American Community Survey raises the potential of adding one more nail to the Federal Government data coffin.  In an era when the internet and private data mining is of great concern to the public at large, data collection, development and distribution at the Federal and State levels continues to be ratcheted back. When the Census Bureau first began the transition from the long form that had always been part of the Census to the ACS, many stakeholders, including yours truly, were worried that decoupling the long form from the census would put the data collection at risk.  That worry is now becoming a reality.  The ACS, though it has many problems associated, is now an annual source of detailed social, economic and housing data for states and large cities, counties and townships.  Smaller geographies are relegated to 3- and 5-year aggregations (a source of confusion and sampling error, but regularly updated nonetheless).  This flow of information must not be stopped by  pennywise and pound foolish political posturing.

D3 believes that change happens at the neighborhood level – Place Matters!  We must retain every available source of information at that level and we must strive to develop new data sources.  We protest any move to cut back on the few sources we have today, while we seek to cajole the powers that be at all levels of government to expand access and transparency.  Good decisions require up-to-date data.

The Huffington Post reports:

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), who ran the floor debate for Democrats, seemed especially vexed.

“We’ve been doing surveys in the long form since 1790 as a nation,” Fattah said, referring to the time when Thomas Jefferson oversaw the census. “It’s critically important. The idea that we’re going to leave the greatest country in the world with less information about the condition of communities and of our families — and that we’re going to do that appropriately — defies logic.”

Republicans remarked on their skepticism of a government survey that asks, among other things, whether a household has flush toilets. However, even those seemingly odd questions generate important results: Oregon Live  reported last year about an inexplicable rise in the number of homes without indoor plumbing. Reporters brought the figures to the attention of puzzled state building inspectors, who presumably otherwise would have been ignorant of growing violations of statewide building codes requiring indoor plumbing in all units.

The Association of Public Data Users issued a statement in response to the vote, stating that “The outcome of this vote demonstrates the importance of proactivity among data users in conveying their support for the ACS and other surveys to all members of the House and Senate.”

For more on the constitutionality of the American Community Survey, check out Wade Henderson’s defense at the Hill’s Congress Blog.

(via Terri Ann Lowenthal)