Watch how a presidential motorcade can double a neighborhood’s traffic in an instant

Watch how a presidential motorcade can double a neighborhood’s traffic in an instant

Organisation: Quartz (United States)

Publication Date: 04/09/2016


Size of team/newsroom:large


Just how much traffic and congestion does a presidential visit cause? If you listened to broadcast media in the days before a presidential visit in many cities you'd think that the apocalypse was imminent. The stories of people being stuck for an hour or more waiting for a road to reopen are trotted out while the millions of people unaffected go unnoted. This piece brings sober and quantitative truth to what has up until this point only been able to be reported as anecdotal type hype—the truest promise of data journalism as a practice.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Description of why it's innovative: As we continue to fill our lives with more and more digital interactions we incidentally are filling the coffers of companies large and small with data that in aggregate can yield insight into the communities at large. Sourcing this data in bulk for news purposes is a great opportunity to inform our readers, yet the practice is still very much in its infancy. Companies are often unwilling to give data and journalists too naive or deferential to ask for it. The most important innovation in this piece is showing how fruitful the proprietary data held in the private sector can be to storytelling. Of course, this piece is also fully responsive and optimized for viewing on mobile devices, a rarity amongst visualizations as complex as this. Importantly this piece, like many at Quartz, was able to be originated, reported, realized, and produced by a single reporter, a model for journalism that we think is very important to the future of reporting and journalism. It was developed entirely using open source tools in a process that was automated to produce vasts amounts of the required material, shapefiles, clean data, animations with the press of only a few keystrokes on the command line. When we changed which cities we were going to focus the scripts handled it with ease. When we found problems in the data before publication, updating the graphics, simple and painless. But as it should be, these efforts were invisible to our readers, who were able to enjoy the story we produced without concern for its effort.

Technologies used for this project:

python, GNU Make, csvkit, GDAL, javascript, ffmpeg, popcornjs, QGIS
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