Boston & Minneapolis Family Feud

Sometimes it seems like Minneapolis was begat by Chicago, the two cities sharing a relentless grid, constant bluster, and a fixation with lakes.  But no, we were born of Boston; only the Eastern city was populous enough at the time to supply the requisite real estate speculators to found this like they did most other American cities (soon after, Chicago overtook Boston in population and was able to spread speculators far and wide).

But parent and child are very different, as I was recently reminded by Bostonography, a blog that rivals Mapping the Straight in terms of cartographic cleverness.  Here’s Bostonography’s awesome map of MBTA bus speeds.

Bostonography’s map reminded me of a similar one of Minneapolis peak hour bus speeds produced for the Downtown Transit Circulation Report:

The above two maps are not to scale, of course, but they are comparable in some ways.  It’s really interesting to me how closely spaced many of Boston’s bus routes are.  For example, in the area southeast of Malden Square on the map above, there are lines on Main, Hancock and Ferry Sts, all within about 1/3 mile of each other.   The lines on Main and Ferry are pretty frequent while the Hancock bus isn’t, but they appear to serve an area relatively similar to Minneapolis.  Areas that are more like the the dense brick Boston of the popular imagination, for example the South End or Roxbury, seem to commonly have bus lines 1/4 mile apart!

I’m not very familiar with Boston’s geography, and Minneapolis’ survey line street layout make it a snap to plan a bus network.  Still, Minneapolis’ bus routes clearly continue to follow the old streetcar lines rather than adapt to changing circumstances.    I don’t know the history of the MBTA, but it looks like a lot of bus routes are set up to be feeders to the T rather than usable in their own right.

There are important differences between the two maps.  One that makes it difficult to directly compare the speed data is that the Boston map shows the actual speed as the buses travel along their routes (wow!) but the Minneapolis map shows average speed over segments.  That means that although you see a lot more yellow on the Boston map, the average speed there may be closer to the ubiquitous orange of central Minneapolis.

Minneapolis may be a prodigal offspring that long ago parted way with its parent, but it seems that Boston and Minneapolis can still learn from each other.

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