Data visualizations Gas taxes Laws and policies Roads Transit
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When you look at how much Texas drivers hand over to Washington and how much comes back, it’s easy to feel like the feds don’t like us much.
Federal officials do not “directly” return a whopping 78 percent of fuel and vehicle taxes collected in Texas. That’s second highest among states; behind Iowa with its 84% bye-bye rate and well ahead of third-place Florida.
Unfortunately, though, there’s a bigger untold story here. Officials invested more than half of those collections into projects straddling one or more states. And the data doesn’t show how those amounts were distributed among states.
So the 78% no-return likely isn’t as bad as it looks. Texas probably received more. Still, hover over the interactive map below and you’ll see a wide range of give and take, including Alaska’s 60 percent gain.
When are drivers likely to lose their cool, to the point of rage?
I figured the hours after bars closed on weekends were the hot times. But that’s not true, according to a state road-rage database obtained by the Express-News.
I put together an online dashboard to query the database, which is hosted as a Google Fusion Table. It’s a great way to get a quick snapshot of layered filters, such as age, gender, ethnicity, days, times, etc.
Try it out below. For convenient side-by-side comparisons, click the “Compare Two Views” button under the dashboard.
I gleaned a few interesting insights myself.
Usually, when a road is riddled with potholes, the solution is to patch or repave.
But in South Texas, where big trucks servicing the state’s latest oil boom are pulverizing pavement, the state’s answer is to tear up the asphalt and return the roads to gravel. Posted speed limits then have to drop from 55 mph to 30.
While the gas and oil boom is boosting state revenues by some billion dollars a year, the Texas Department of Transportation still largely relies on a two-decade old gas tax that inflation has cut in half. Lawmakers just can’t find the gumption to raise the tax, and don’t sound confident about other possibilities.
With the Legislature going into a special session to tackle the problem, KLRN TV’s Rick Casey lays out the issues in this 4-minute video. Here’s the text.
Automobiles Commuting Data visualizations Oil and gas prices Travel
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With wild swings in gas prices pushing ever higher, U.S. drivers are slowly curbing their habits.
Regular-grade gas averaged more than $3.60 a gallon nationwide in 2011 and 2012. It’s never been so high, even when adjusted for inflation. The last records were set during the Iran hostage crisis three decades ago.
High prices, along with recessions, have tugged at America’s driving addiction, bringing down mileage in 1979 and again in recent years. But unlike gas prices, which can arc 40 percent in a year, driving habits die hard.
The difference jumps out when you juxtapose the data in a graphic. Mashing data like this can sometimes be confusing when you have two separate axes, but I think there’s an interesting pattern here.
If you’re in Texas, odds are you’re paying more for car insurance than the average U.S. driver, says a survey by Insure.com.
I ran the survey’s data through Google Fusion Tables to see a bigger picture, and it turns out costs are as varied as the nation’s landscape itself. In particular, extreme highs touch all three coasts as well as the Canadian and Mexican borders.
Hover over states to see average costs. The darker the shade, the higher the cost.
Reasons for the undulating costs are, literally, all over the map, from claim-happy and disaster-prone Louisiana and bumper-to-bumper traffic in Georgia, to slow-poke drivers in Iowa and strict teen-driving laws in Maine, according to Insure.com.
The survey looked at 2013 cars and settled on a typical guy with a clean record and good credit. Texas rolled in at $1,545, ranking 19th overall.
Texas joined 19 other states and D.C. to rank higher than the $1,510 national average. Louisiana tops the list with $2,699. Maine sits at the bottom with $934.
Here are the top 10. Again, use hover to see dollars. The full table’s here.
Wow. Look at this gorgeous rolling ribbon of road and bluebonnets.
This Texas Hill Country highway made msn.com’s top 10 scenic drives in the U.S.
“If you want to see fields and fields of bright blue flowers resting atop a bed of emerald green grass, look no further than the annual Texas Hill Bluebonnet Tour,” it says.
But not all is so flowery.
“Wild about wildflowers? Too bad,” says an Express-News story posted yesterday, which lament’s this year’s spotty blooms.
Unlike last year’s lush bounty, fed by more than 10 inches of rainfall, this year’s blooms will be small and scattered due to just a third as much rain since Jan 1, according to the report. Meanwhile, look for the color to peak in early April.
San Antonio commuters spend an average of 23 and a half minutes getting to work, the latest federal data show.
Nothing shattering. In fact, it’s about two minutes less than the national average.
But what surprises me are some of the zip codes with the longest commutes.
Before seeing the U.S. Census data mapped out recently by a team at WNYC in New York, I figured commuters with the longest slogs tended to live in areas swaddling Loop 1604 on the North Side and exurbs like Boerne and New Braunfels.
In the map above, the beleaguered U.S. 281 corridor shows up as expected. But South Loop 1604 looks worse than its northern leg. And look at the bruised ring of satellites to the west and south.
A concentration of jobs on the North Side, along Loop 1604 and interstates 35 and 10, is likely sucking in many of these commuters from counties on all sides. The pull is stronger and wider than than I had realized.
You can hover over zip codes to see average commute times. You can also slide the map to see other cities, and zoom out to see other states. Here’s a full-page version.
Note that these stats include transit, walking and bicycling. But in a car town like San Antonio, despite volatile gas prices the past five years, nine out of 10 people still drive or carpool to work. Here’s a breakdown.
Yep, I’m still here too.
Over the past year, I’ve been slammed transitioning into a new job. These days, I oversee websites for a TV station, where I’m having a blast.
But I miss my little playground here, where I get to muse and write and try out some webby type stuff. I’d love to dredge up time and develop some data-driven apps and presentations. Urban growth and travel are perfect topics. I’ve also taken several trips – to DC, Utah, New Mexico and the Texas Coast. Each have untold stories.
It’s all about time. You know, I just got on Facebook recently and found out I have another niece and another nephew on the way. Yikes!
This month I’m wrapping up a couple of projects at work. This will be a good time to see if I can start spending time here in the sandbox again.
Let’s see what happens.
Commuting Construction and closures Roads: Texas Department of Transportation Texas Transportation Institute
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Dallas motorists suffer the most highly congested road conditions in Texas, says a recent report from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The state’s top three bottlenecks are all located in Dallas County, according to the 100 Most Congested Roadway Segments in Texas. But while Dallas has the hottest spots, Harris County actually has more of them. The Houston area has 31 on the worst road conditions traffic list while Dallas has 21.
Road conditions for Fort Worth are next in line for headaches, with 15 tight spots, followed by San Antonio with 11 and Austin with 10.
Here are the top 10 most congested roads and their respective counties:
Driving through the pine forests of East Texas, on the way to Central Arkansas, you pass signs for places like New Boston, Pittsburgh, Mount Pleasant and even Paris.
It’s almost like pioneers started running out of names by the time they got to Texas.
But things get a bit more imaginative once you arrive at the Arkansas border. Names there start off with morphed incarnations like Texarkana, and later dish up tidy permutations such as Arkadelphia.
The one that snapped me to attention on my trip last weekend was “Okolona.”
You know, Oklahoma’s just a short jog to the west, I thought. Could it be? Is this some sort of an Arkansas localism? Perhaps it was pranksters?