Monday, April 16, 2012

Map of Melbourne house prices

Every time I come across a data table with information that can be referenced to a location I ask myself a question why the publisher did not consider adding a map? Data presented in spatial format is so much more informative than just plain tables. Yet, still not much “data journalism” is happening in Australia. Agree that more elaborate presentations are time consuming and expensive to create but these days adding a map to an article can be done almost in an instance.

For example, a few days ago I came across a post on which referenced information from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria on median house prices, and changes over time, for Melbourne suburbs. Since each suburb has well defined spatial extents, the information can be easily presented on a map. Numeric values relating to individual suburbs, such as median price or year-on-year change in price, can be represented with different colours on the map, giving the reader visual clues about how specific suburb compares to other suburbs.

I have created two separate maps with the data. The first shows median house prices by suburb and the second maps changes in prices over the year. There are many different ways how the data could be divided and categorised to present it on the map in a meaningful way. I opted for a very simple approach - median prices are divided into quartiles and changes in prices are split into 5% intervals. In particular, on the first map dark red indicates 25% of the most expensive suburbs (i.e. with median prices over $730,000) and the cream colour refers to 25% of the cheapest suburbs, with median prices under $420,000. The median value of median house prices is $577,000 (i.e. 50% of suburbs on the list have a lower median price than that).

The second map uses contrasting colours to present two extremes: suburbs where prices fell in the last 12 months (in various shades of blue) and suburbs where prices increased (warm colours from pale green, through yellow to dark red). The darker the colour the higher the decline/ increase. Although blue colours dominate on the map, implying more suburbs with declining median house prices than rising, those suburbs are distributed throughout the city without any obvious pattern.

Presenting information on Google Maps can add some interactivity to otherwise static articles and will help to engage the readers. Data journalism with presentation of information on interactive maps and charts has been proved very successful in the US, UK and Canada. Australia is yet to follow in any major way. I will be happy to assist!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Google Public Alerts map

In addition to providing tools for developers, such as maps, databases or spreadsheets with application programming interface (API) -  which can be integrated with third party code and data to create a myriad of custom applications, Google occasionally builds complete applications utilising those tools themselves. Public Alerts map is one such application.

Google Public Alerts is a project of the Google Crisis Response team, supported by The key objective behind the project is to make it easy for people to find critical emergency information during a crisis through the online tools they use every day. This new platform for disseminating emergency messages, such as evacuation notices for hurricanes, and everyday alerts such as storm warnings and earthquake alerts initially focuses on the US but earthquake information covers the whole world. The data comes from US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, and the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Not sure what are the prospects for the take-up of this application since over the years many developers built much more advanced and informative versions, and which are very popular with public at the time of a crisis. Google created several of those themselves, eg bushfire information maps in Australia. Time will show how useful this will become…

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Aircraft noise maps

A new proposal has been tabled by the federal government to vastly expand the areas around major airports that could face residential housing construction restrictions due to aircraft noise. Property research and advisory firm MacroPlanDimasi estimated that $33.5 billion worth of future housing projects (which comprise 134,000 new dwellings across Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Canberra) could be potentially at risk. If approved, it may have a significant impact on future urban renewal of residential areas directly beneath air traffic corridors in all capital cities – both positive and negative. For example, it may help to preserve the character of older inner-city suburbs but also restrict multi-storey/multi-dwelling redevelopment opportunities.

The report contains a series of maps that depict noise zones around major airports in Australia. These maps on their own are quite a valuable information resource for prospective home buyers and property developers - they will help in assessing the likelihood of aircraft noise in various parts of the city. In particular, the maps show computed outlines of various types of Aircraft Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF). ANEF is a measure of the aircraft noise exposure levels in decibels around aerodromes based on average daily sound pressure levels:

  • ANEF 20 (zone of expected continuous noise exposure over 5-20 years period).
  • N70 20 - zone with 20 or more daily events greater that 70 dB(A);
  • N65 50 - zone with 50 or more daily events greater that 65 dB(A);
  • N60 100 - zone with 100 or more daily events greater that 60 dB(A).

For comparison, quiet bedroom will record 35 dB(A), passenger car at 60km/h 70 dB(A); and heavy diesel lorry at 40km/h 83 dB(A).

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Driving directions with real-time traffic

Another small improvement has just been added to Google Maps - now it includes estimated driving time based on live as well as historic traffic data.  The information will show up every time you search for directions in the city that already has traffic data layer.

Google Maps used to show estimates of trip times based on historic traffic data alone but it didn't always reflect real-time traffic conditions so, the feature was removed last year. Now Google calculates real time travel duration based traffic data, coming from Android users who have opted to use the My Location feature on Google Maps for mobile, as well as historic records. The new directions feature on Google Maps gives you several different routes to choose from, and each presented with total distance in km and travel time base on average speed as well as based on current traffic conditions. Very handy if time to get to the destination is more important than mileage travelled!

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Modelling city fringes

A critical challenge facing planners in any large and growing metropolitan area is “urban sprawl” and the increasing pressure on rural land and surrounding communities it creates. In order to address this challenge, planners require a better understanding of where future development pressures will be most pronounced and what will be the associated impacts. Atlases for Scenario Planning for Melbourne’s Peri-urban Region is an example of how GIS and spatial analysis can assist in the study of urban sprawl phenomenon and its implications. [“peri-urban - immediately adjoining an urban area; between the suburbs and the countryside”].

Spatial Vision, one of Australia’s foremost GIS consulting companies, working in partnership with the RMIT School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, has developed a methodology for modelling peri-urban development pressures, as a central component of the Sustainable Planning for Melbourne’s Peri-urban Region research program (commissioned by the Peri-urban group of councils and funded by Sustainability Victoria through the Victorian Local Sustainability Accord).

The research has identified how and where increases in population (and development demand) are expected to impact on Melbourne city fringes. The results are presented as a series of interactive atlases, comprising maps, tables, graphs and explanatory text, and are organised under the themes of Population Projections, Supply and Demand, Impact Analysis, Offsets/ Mitigations, and Township Analysis (click “Previous/Next” buttons positioned in the bottom of the page to navigate between the themes).

Atlases for Scenario Planning for Melbourne’s Peri-urban Region are built in Flash as an “interactive dashboard”. Google map features prominently on each page, providing spatial context to details presented in a tabular format and on graphs. The application is both, visually attractive and informative, and is a great example of how to present effectively complex concepts and large volume of information. Great resource for local communities, property developers and investors. 

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