Check out the 5-minute Ignite Seattle talk I gave on this project:
As you might gather from my blog's archives, I really enjoy maps. They are a widely understood and broadly engaging way to convey information, especially when overlaid with other data.
One of my favorite data-maps is a well known piece by Stephen Von Worley: The Contiguous United States Visualized by Distance to the Nearest McDonalds. The furthest you can get within the USA is ~107 miles, incidentally. It's a brilliant post; fun, personal, and on a subtle level is discussing a deep part of Americana.
Another chain restaurant by which we might measure our lives, particularly in the PNW, is Starbucks. This Seattle-based-behemoth has played an integral role in the coffee culture around the world, and along with the Nerd Triumvirate (Microsoft, Boeing, and Amazon) has secured our city's place on the global stage.
Starbucks has been used in the past to gauge economic health, and I've found it used as a standard metric in geography classes. The closer you live to a Starbucks the higher your rent is likely to be, and in NYC the density of locations can reach as high as 150 with a radius of 5 miles!
I wanted to look at not only how Starbucks were distributed across the USA (like in Von Worley's McMasterpiece) but how we are distributed around Starbucks.
Here is the USA as mapped by Starbucks-owned locations (with thanks to my friend David B), connected using a Delaunay triangulation. As with Mc D's, these latte-slingers are clustered around major cities and highways. As an aside, I wonder if anyone has tried to calculate the optimal path for visiting every location...
Related to the Delaunay triangulation, here is the Voronoi diagram for every Starbucks location. This beautiful grid of spaces can be used to tell you the furthest point from a company-owned Starbucks (about
170miles 140miles, though note that other franchise locations are relatively nearby, e.g. inside of grocery stores)
Finally: by comparing Starbucks locations to everyone's favorite data source (the US 2010 Census) we can make a graph with a truly impressive result (in my opinion). By counting the number of people who live within a given distance to each Starbucks, we can measure how well centered Frappuccinos are to the US citizenry. In other words: draw a 1-mile circle around every store, then add up the % of the population living within the circles. Repeat for 2, 3, 4....100 miles. What I found left my jaw hanging...
There are ~311 million people living in the USA, with 82% living in urbanized areas. One might define urbanization in the modern era as the distance to the nearest Starbucks. An "urban" environment would therefore be anyplace within a 20 mile radius. Yes, more than 80% of the USA (that's 250,000,000 people) live within 20 miles of a Starbucks.
While it might seem silly to drive 20 miles for a cup of Pike Place Roast, you would definitely drive that far to Lowes or Costco or Ikea... and you might get thirsty while you're out! And thus the burr grinder of progress spins on.
Update: You can now buy a poster version of this map. Neat!
Note: This article has been updated thanks to a bug pointed out in the comments. I always believe in being forthright, and have been loving the dialogues this post has generated. Keep 'em coming!
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