Mapping Dropout Rates in Charlotte, NC

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

-Nelson Mandela

This project looked into the dropout rates in the city of Charlotte over 4 different years; 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012.

I used ArcMap to map the dropout rates that were reported in the Quality of life reports the city of Charlotte publishes yearly.

Quality of Life reports

These pdf reports are deprecated after the release of the new GIS applet to report this data.

Quality of Life Explorer


I created a spreadsheet to curate the data of several of the reports.

I then compared the data to create the values of change. Where no values were present, I left the value as null. If there was no data in 2008 but data in both 2004 and 2010, I compared 2004 directly to 2010.

For 2012 I used the included spreadsheet data. The shapefiles were different because the Quality of Life organization changed how they collected data, making direct comparison with the software difficult.


I used the following scheme from colorbrewer for the data maps and used an included ArcMap scheme for the change maps.

color brewer.PNG

I included a map with all 4 years visible for easy comparison.

charlotte dropout map.png

To classify the data I joined the excel spreadsheet with the neighborhood shapefile, using the NSA neighborhood identifier.


I used the following 6-class manual classification across the 4 maps.


I used the following 9-class manual classification to map the change maps.


This project gave me exposure to the manual input of data, which is mechanical and boring but I find intrinsically rewarding for some reason. I had to manually enter the data from the quality of life pdfs to a spreadsheet which was time intensive, taking about a hour per report. In the future if I’m ever parsing data in this format, I’ll use an autoscrolling feature to automatically scroll the reports while entering the data at the save time. This, in theory, would take half as long to enter the data.  This exposure to data entry opens the door to other presentations of data through ArcMap and other data manipulation applications in the future.

Mapping Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is a relatively new concept that was coined in the 1980s. It combines demographics with environmental factors. GIS can better illuminate the environmental justices or injustices in areas through the comparison and illustration of data.


Above is what could be considered a “story map” of environmental justice in three cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, and Richmond. Story maps are an interesting facet of geography in the digital world. Story maps tell a story through media, in this case video, which helps relate maps with other geographic elements. other and an overarching narrative. Story maps can make maps and geographic concepts accessible which may not be apparent outside a guided narrative.

The video above focuses on the environmental comparison of three cities. It’s interesting to see the concept of environmental justice present in all three cities. In each city there seems to be three types of areas. There is a collection of low-income population areas, which may or may not be contiguous, where environmental factors are the worse. There seems to be areas that doesn’t classify as “low-income” but serve as spillover areas for undesirable environmental factors. For example, the southeast part of Atlanta isn’t classified as “low-income” but it suffers almost as much from the detrimental environmental factors like the amount of diesel particulate matter in the air. These areas could be classified as not low-income but not high-income enough to be exempt from detrimental environmental factors.

And, of course, there are the high-income areas. These areas are spared from all the damaging aspects of environmental pollution. The core of the environmental justice problem arises from this perceived injustice. The argument is that even though the high-income areas might mitigate negative environmental factors through paying higher prices for property, both through taxes and the bottom line of a sale, it is unjust to deny the same environmental consciousness to the lower and mid-income areas. This is operating under the assumption that a quality environment, especially where negative effects are mitigable, is a human right and, when denied, is injust on a humanitarian level.

Traffic is an interesting factor to consider. At first thought, one might not think this is a factor that could be manipulated to fall within this income/environmental schema. Imagine an airport, it is constructed and the value of the residential properties within earshot plummet because of the noise pollution. Considering this evolution of value, we could assume roads follow a similar pattern. However, noise pollution from traffic has several elements that can be employed to either reduce the associate noise pollution or reduce the volume of traffic. Sound barriers can be used to limit the amount of noise that reaches residential properties. These also serve an aesthetic purpose and, while not being a designers first choice, can help dress up a property, thus further increasing its value, creating a positive feedback loop that is not present in less fortunate properties. You’ll likely find these sound barriers in high-income areas. This is not because the desire isn’t there for the low-income residential areas. It’s because the financial incentive isn’t there.

The use of alternative transportation methods alleviates these traffic problems for a price. Implementation of bike-friendly infrastructure reduce the volume of traffic but may require expanding and repaving roads, reducing speed limits, adding sidewalks, and developing areas along roads to accommodate bike paths and bike lanes. This brings us back to our original investment problem. What is the worth of implementing the projects if there is no return? Should bike-friendly infrastructure be legislated as a human right? Pedestrian traffic elements like footpaths, elevated footpaths, trails, and greenways follow the same logic and would provide similar results. If a neighborhood’s local amenities are easily accessible by foot it reduces the amount of local traffic. HOV lanes and carpooling elements follow the same logic as well.

Lead paint is another element that contains some interesting implications. Two important legislative measures have reduced the amount of lead in paint used in commercial and residential applications in the 1970s and 80s. A younger city like Charlotte shows a lower concentration of lead paint compared to a city like Atlanta. Charlotte’s construction boom was in the late 80s and 90s, a time where the widespread use of lead paint was discouraged by legislation. Richmond and Atlanta, however, developed during a time before this preventative legislation and the higher amounts of lead paint cooberate this.

Should these environmental factors be legislated? Should they be retroactive? Should they apply for new developments only? Should the free market continue to dictate the environmental quality of neighborhoods? These are all questions that environmental justice initiatives seek to address. Again, data is the light in the darkness to illuminate these issues and cartography is a medium that can present it to the minds that may one day solve it.

Cities: Skylines Bus Depot Simulation

The game Cities: Skylines, released in 2015, allows players to take command of urban planning and simulate a various aspects of a city. A player might teak the traffic, zoning, and aesthetics that accompany real life urban efforts.

This video captures the operation of a bus depot I created in Cities: Skylines

The design incorporated a one-way design which helps traffic flow along 5 entry and 5 exit ramps the help mitigate traffic when the buses travel en masse out of the terminal and into the city.

This design is similar to the Charlotte Transportation Center and it functions in the same manner. All transfers take place in the terminal and busses and sent directly to the specified areas.

The Charlotte Transportation Center (CTC) featuring easily accesible commercial properties

In the simulated design a subway line and an elevated pedestrian footpath further increases the citizens’ reach. Shops and offices also take advantage of this high traffic area.