Interactive map highlights poverty along CTA, Metra line

By: 
Megan Cottrell | The Chicago Reporter

How many times have you looked at a CTA map? Dozens, maybe hundreds, of times? Neat lines and colors, categorizing our city into eight colors and 144 dots.

But what if that map told you more about the people who lived there than just how to get to your destination?

That's what Christopher Whitaker wondered when he and co-creator Josh Kalov made CTApovertymap.org, an interactive online map that uses the city's own data to show us about the economic conditions around each CTA train station, as well as the Metra.

"One of the things that people are used to seeing is transit maps. It's something everyone can identify with--here's the red line that I take every day, here's my Metra station," said Whitaker, a recent graduate of DePaul's public administration graduate program. "I wanted to take something that people are used to seeing and turn that into a story about poverty in Chicago."

Each station on the map is categorized red or green--red for areas where the average income is below the poverty line for a family of four (around $23,000), and green for above the poverty line. When you click on each station, the map displays data on the percentage of residents in that community area that live in poverty, their average income and the "hardship index," a data point from the city that takes into account the crowdedness of area housing, poverty, resident age, unemployment and education level.

Just like every other person who's looked at this map, my first thought was to check out my own station--the Rockwell stop on the  brown line. It was green. The per capita income is $35,503, poverty rate of 9.5 percent and a hardship index of 16.

Read more at Chicago Muckrakers blog

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