Map Shop

All the community mapping material on this page is “copyleft.” That means it is free for you to use, alter and build upon for non-commercial applications only. Download the files, adapt them to your needs and take them to your local printshop. We’d love to see them on the street!

Community mapping is a grassroots process that serves to gather information and to raise public awareness. It can be a tool for campaign building and a powerful argument in political negotiations. For community members it provides a way to get involved, to share information and to put one’s own experience into a bigger picture. It can also provide anonymity for those who are barred from disclosing information on hazards or abysmal working conditions. Using this process we can create a collective understanding of the problems we are  facing, and then develop alternate visions.

This very large map of the Chicagoland metro area was conceived for hands-on workshopping with activists and local communities. It shows the highways, waterways, railroad tracks and rail yards that are an omnipresent feature of Chicago life. Using these maps and a series of prompts, groups of people can meet each other directly, exchange stories and experiences, point to specific places and ask each other questions. They can mark, trace or write on the maps to chart individual and collective understandings. The facilitators gather the information and find new graphic forms that respond more effectively to community concerns and inputs. The results are then returned to the people involved, either through a new paper map or an updated web presentation. The aim of the workshops is to increase participation, to build awareness, to create new knowledge and to use all that to push back against clear and present dangers that threaten everyone.

–> Download the full-scale, hi-res workshop map here.

Bomb Train Flyer_smThis 8.5 x 11 flyer contains a blank space that you can fill in for your campaign. Just use any graphics program to write your info in the front, then take it down to a print shop. You can add a full text on the back if you like. Here’s some of our ideas on the subjectt:

The #1267 hazmat placard designates petroleum products. If you see it on a train with a hundred black tankers, you can be almost sure it’s carrying explosive Bakken crude, probably towards refineries located on the East Coast. The red lines represent the suspected routes of the oil trains through Chicagoland, as mapped on the Oil Train Blast Zone website by the group Forest Ethics. Anyone living on or near those lines is potentially threatened by a massive fireball, if the train derails, if it strikes a car, falls off a rusting bridge, etc. However, while we know that the trains are explosive, we are not yet sure which routes they really take. The idea of the Trainspotting tool is to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt just how many neighborhooods are affected by this menace. If politicians and administrators are cynical enough to let the current situation stand until a catastrophe occurs, then they don’t deserve their jobs or their authority. And if they are powerless to intervene in favor of public safety, then what are they good for?

–> Download the hi-res flyer here. –> Download same flyer without the text box here.

 Railroad_SafetyThis poster-map was designed for the railroad safety conference organized by Railway Workers United (RWU) at the Union Electrical Hall in Chicago on September 19, 2015. See the website at Here’s what RWU has to say:

“In recent months, public attention has focused on the railroad. In the wake of Lac-Mégantic and other derailments, the public is alarmed about oil trains and the movement of trains in general through their communities. Environmental activists are up-in-arms about the amounts of fossil fuels moving by rail. Farmers and other shippers are concerned about the congestion that has occurred in recent months, due in part to the oil boom.

“The public generally has no idea what goes on daily on America’s railroads. Chronic crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, draconian availability policies, short staffing, limited time off work create challenging safety issues of concern not just to railroaders, but to the entire populations.”

–> Download the hi-res poster here.

This was the invite for our walk on September 20:

“Join us for a tour of the region’s critical rail infrastructure and a close-up view of Chicago as a unique continental rail hub. How does stuff move through the region? How do local and faraway pathways get connected, rerouted or switched? What are the hazards and implications for workers, residents and the larger ecology? Rail workers and local organizers will be on hand to offer insights on the locations visited; participants are invited to share their own knowledges. The trip is a guided experience as well as an opportunity for further dialogue between rail workers, environmental justice activists, researchers and residents.
“We will travel along the Indiana Harbor Belt (IHB) Railway to visit critical junctions and facilities including: Blue Island Junction; CSX Barr Yard and IHB Blue Island yards, and UP Yard Center. We will pause to explore the IHB Gibson yard and the Buckeye Hammond crude-by-rail terminals, before heading to visit the Whiting refinery and finally the KCBX pet coke storage terminal.”

–> Download the 11 x 17 map here.

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