Sunday, February 01, 2009

FlowingData: "Strength in Numbers"

Watch the amazing video map of Wal-Mart's expansion across the U.S. from 1962-2008.

Watch the growth of Target stores from 1962-2008.

Both are from the website FlowingData, which "explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better - mainly through data visualization."

HT: Coyote Blog

Here's another Wal-Mart expansion video from a few years ago.

5 Comments:

At 2/01/2009 2:26 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

This is off topic but it touches on Wal-Mart. Anyone who loves to bemoan government spending, proclaim “government isn’t good at a lot of things,” and state that public works projects are an excessive waste of tax payers’ money - and is a matter “best left to private industry” - should consider: the Interstate Highway System, the largest public works project in the history of the world. Can anyone imagine Wal-Mart in its current form without it? What about “just in time delivery?”

 
At 2/01/2009 6:08 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Why would assume there wouldn't have been highways otherwise? After all, trucks have to pay extra to go on highways, so apparently the willingness to pay is there. If anything, highways benefit individual drivers much more.

 
At 2/01/2009 11:09 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Andy,

Again, the largest public works project in the history of the world. Many people complain about the cost of building bridges or running mass transit. Even during the 30s, when the Detroit automakers were kings of the world, neither they (or anyone for that matter) bothered building the highways - state and federal government picked up the tab, and was lobbied by the auto industry to do so.

Two-lane highways alone are insufficient. Interstates are designed for high-speed, high-volume traffic. Two-lane highways, in contrast, have considerable more bends and dips, are not laid out in the “straight to the point” fashion Interstates are, and would wear out faster from the increased volume of truck drivers (freight was handled primarily by train before the advent of the Interstate).

Fuel taxes and tolls do not cover road construction and maintenance - not even close. The gap is filled by government revenue generated elsewhere. The same goes for mass transit: ticket fees - in this country, Europe or Japan - do not cover the complete cost of running and maintaining a mass transit system; the gap is filled through higher taxes. (Though this sounds like a burden, in contrast, it can be a savings since people don’t have to drive as much, and they save money through less fuel consumption, lower maintenance and fewer repairs, plus postponement of car purchases.).

Another major government initiative that should be brought up is the electrification of the south, particularly through the Tennessee Valley Authority. Before that, the south, save for a few cities of consequence, was mostly an underdeveloped rural landscape. Nobody seemed to have an interest in lighting up the south until the dreaded “big government” decided to so.

Don’t get me wrong. Government has tremendous talent at blowing tax payer funds - senseless and mismanaged wars, the criminalization of drugs, the space shuttle, “Big Farm,” a missile defense system that couldn’t shoot down mylar balloons, ethanol, a blue dress, Home Land Security, footing stadium construction bills. Government idiocy also costs consumers. The free market should be applied towards tapping energy resources; we should tap our own oil, located in Alaska and offshore, rather than buy it from repressive regimes.

Still, government has its historically proven uses and shouldn’t be completely blown off. Democracy welcomes diversity. We should entertain the best options from all words, including the capabilities of private industry and government.

 
At 2/02/2009 12:37 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

Fuel taxes and tolls do not cover road construction and maintenance - not even close. The gap is filled by government revenue generated elsewhere. Maybe those taxes and tolls should? Government revenue generated elsewhere and re-purposed creates inefficiencies.

I agree that the Gov't has its place, esp initiating large projects like the interstate highway system, but I think that because of the examples that you cited, these projects should be few and far between.

The same goes for mass transit: ticket fees - in this country, Europe or Japan - do not cover the complete cost of running and maintaining a mass transit system
This is one of the things that bugs the crap outta me. Why should people who NEVER use it subsidize mass transit? The roads are used by everybody - even if you don't drive (transportation of goods, etc.) but the same cannot be said for mass transit.

 
At 2/03/2009 3:56 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Misterjosh,

Exclusive tolls and fuel taxes to cover road construction and maintenance costs would require both to be raised significantly. This not only will hurt the poor, who will be troubled by such hefty costs, but will hurt businesses - large and small - that depend on unskilled, cheap labor to operate.

As for mass transit... look on the bright side. Each additional train commuter means one less person driving on the road. Can you imagine Chicago without the "L?" (That's still no reason to ride it, though; it makes the NY subway look like a world class train system)

 

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