Texas road-rage accidents dashboard

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.

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2 Aug 2013, 10:24am
Gas taxes Roads:

Comments Off on Texas replacing paved roads with gravel

Texas replacing paved roads with gravel

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.

8 Jul 2013, 10:42pm
Automobiles Commuting Data visualizations Oil and gas prices Travel

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Record high gas prices changing how Americans drive

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.

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Paying too much for car insurance?

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.

Ballenger projects starting back up

After the bankruptcy of Ballenger Construction late last year, several TxDOT and COSA projects were lain dormant.  The good news is that their bonding company is nearing the end of the process to hire new contractors to get those projects finished.  Work should be starting next month again on the I-10 project (Ramsgate to Loop 1604) and the “bookends” of the Wurzbach Parkway project.  I’m not as familiar with the COSA projects, but I hear the Hunt Lane project should also have a new contractor by this time next month.

21 Mar 2013, 8:39pm

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Bluebonnets along Texas highways expected to be spotty

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.

Bluebonnets along Texas Highway

Texas Hill Bluebonnet Tour, from msn.com's "10 scenic spring drives"

“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.

17 Mar 2013, 3:39pm
Automobiles Commuting Data visualizations

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Worst commutes in San Antonio

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.

1 Mar 2013, 1:46pm

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TexasHighwayMan.com turns 15!

Fifteen years ago today, I put my esoteric interest out for the world to see.  On March 1, 1998, the “Texas HighwayMan Pages” were born.  Just like today, I covered everything I knew about Texas roads and the San Antonio freeway system.  I still have that original site archived and wow, how things have changed, both in terms of the subject matter as well as in the quality of web publishing (and my skills in doing so.)  That first site looks so amateurish today: cheesy, grainy, and oftentimes animated (for no good reason other than I could) graphics, brightly colored and/or busy backgrounds, low-res photos, and a generally clunky layout.  But back then, that was cutting edge stuff.  That first site was hosted on express-news.net, back when the Express-News actually provided consumer Internet access.  About a month later, I added the Getting Around Germany section of my site, so I’ll be celebrating that anniversary im nächsten Monat.

Folks ask me why I put the site together and keep it up.  Well, the answer is that it’s the classic labor of love.  Although it seems like an esoteric topic, just about anyone who drives is interested in knowing what’s going on with the roads.  Being interested in transportation all my life, I had a lot of the answers to folks’ questions in my head or at least in a pile of old newspapers and other assorted planning documents in my closet, so I thought why not share it with the world?  And that’s what I’ve been doing for 15 years and plan to do for at least the next 15.

14 Feb 2013, 1:01am

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Me too

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.

7 Feb 2013, 11:20am


Still here

So it’s been over a year now since my last post here.  It’s not for a lack of things to write about.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time I once had to devote to keeping this blog up.  But I’m not giving up completely.  I hope to be able to make some time here-and-there to start posting again.  So stay tuned (if you’re still out there.)

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