Two local software developers, Dan Grover and Mike Belfrage, have designed an interactive map that allows users to view how neighborhood incomes rise and fall along the Bay Area’s public transportation routes. The data is available for all BART, Muni and Caltrain routes.

The relative income disparities of residents along the routes can be dramatic, rising from the $20,000 range around BART stops in the Tenderloin or the Oakland Coliseum, to about $200,000 around the Caltrain stop in Atherton, or $160,000 near a Muni stop in Pacific Heights.




The developers say their inspiration for the project was a recent feature in the New Yorker that displayed similar data around New York’s subway stops.

“It was just a little side project we decided to do over the weekend,” Grover said. “It took about a day to pull together the data, and another day to build the visualization, and maybe a day after to tweak and polish.”

As provocative as the data appear, Grover cautioned that in some cases “the values can be way off because the area the train station is in is not representative of the total area.”

But he also has developed some tentative conclusions and interpretations from the mapping. His take:

  • “The Tenderloin is so uncanny. It’s near City Hall, and the places where the U.N. Charter and the Peace Treaty with Japan were signed. It’s so well connected and central, and yet no one wants to be there. In some cities, people would pay a heavy premium to be in an area with its attributes.”
  • “I live on Geary Street, which is to me the demilitarized zone between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill, and it’s incredible the difference between one street down and one street up. When I lived in NYC, I lived in a similar ‘zone’ between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem, and the New Yorker graph elegantly shows the cutoff at 96th St. San Francisco is even crazier, on a block-by-block basis, though.”
  • “The light-rail lines cut through extreme wealth and poverty, but when you look at the buses, you realize that San Francisco does still have a big middle class, and they’re all out chilling in the Sunset and Richmond.”

The code used to create the project is all open source and up on GitHub.


Map: Income Disparities Along Bay Area Public Transit Routes 8 May,2013David Weir

  • Brent Sleeper

    Fascinating. Odd bug in data, though: median income at Montgomery St. is wildly disparate for BART vs. Muni ($112K vs. $23K); even though they are literally the same station, they are assigned to different census tracts.

  • You could be a contrarian and argue that it just shows transit equity in that it serves a range of income groups. But beyond that, I don’t find these particularly informative/insightful beyond the intitial, “huh, that is interesting, these are nicely done”. What would a meaningful distribution be? How might these depart from it? Do the disparities have a relationship with the infrastructure along which we map these disparities? What is ultimately the context and the relationship these highlight and the narrative of the presentation?



David Weir

David Weir is KQED's senior editor for digital news.  He previously worked at Rolling Stone, Salon, Wired Digital, Excite@Home, Mother Jones, and as a co-founder and executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Over the past 40 years, he and his teams have won dozens of awards, including a National Magazine Award, an IRE Award and a Webby. He has authored or co-authored four books, including (with Mark Schapiro) Circle of Poison.

He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, and has taught journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford and San Francisco State.

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