March 10, 2016 Work Night: Projects and Possibilities!

At tonight’s meeting, we talked about past, present, and future projects and got some work done.

Mark Howe gave a tour of some of our existing projects:

Mark Howe
Mark Howe and the Pittsburgh Police Blotter

…and we heard from Joshua Pribanic, an investigative journalist from the Public Herald.

Joshua Pribanic
Joshua Pribanic of the Public Herald

The Public Herald is investigating fracking-related water complaints in the state. Joshua is seeking volunteers for the fileroom project.

Related to the Public Herald’s work, Open Pittsburgh is in contact with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help the DEP improve the way it makes information available. Current reports are provided on paper only, and we’d like to see the DEP export public information directly from its databases. Stay tuned for more information on this project and others.

National Day of Civic Hacking 2015: Our Challenges

Here are the challenges we are working on this afternoon:

Local City Census – Assess online City resources and produce a wayfinder. This challenge was COMPLETED! See the work here. Some highlights of great pages on the City’s site were 311 and park permits. Some areas that need work are the procedure for applying for permits other than parks, which often requires a paper application at a downtown office, information about starting a business, and general information requests. Open Pittsburgh’s work on this challenge is ranked #14 out of all cities participating in NDOCH!

Vacant Properties – Help GTECH and everyone at the City and County understand how accurate the County’s assessment data is at identifying vacant parcels. Compare assessment data to survey data collected in the North Side by GTECH last summer. Make maps of charts with the results. A lot of progress was made on this challenge. Check out a summary of this team’s work at I Heart PGH.

Police Blotter 2.0 – Recode the site in a new language. Create market touch functionality on touchscreen devices. Explore displaying blotter data as a heat map. This team worked on reimplementation of the blotter’s back end, getting data from the blotter into a database, geocoding addresses to lat/long coordinates. Stay tuned for more updates to Open Pittsburgh’s longest-running project!

Frick Park Trails – Use Open Street Map to enter trail data for all trails that was collected in 2013 and 2014 using GPS. This team added many trails into Open Street Map, with many members learning to use OSM for the first time. You’ll start seeing their work show up soon in OSM.

Dog Licenses – What’s the most creative use of Allegheny County dog license data (does not include City dog license data). Dog name, breed, license type, and zipcode all included. Data was a bit trickier than expected to get in a CSV, but it is now in a database that can be queried. Stay tuned for more information about progress on this project!

We had  a strong turnout from members of Code & Supply, Pittsburgh’s software development community group. Go check them out!

Hack for Change!

…and we’re underway at National Day of Civic Hacking 2015: Pittsburgh Style. Our theme and designated hashtag for the day is #hackforchange. If you’re here, include it in your tweets to be part of the national conversation.

Mapping presentation by Christian

We began our morning with a presentation from Christian Gass on mapping geodata online. Christian leads the Pittsburgh Maptime group and gave us a great crash course in the basics of geodata, base mapping, Open Streets Map and tools and resources we’ll need to complete our challenges this afternoon. You can access his presentation slides, which are full of links to tutorials and helpful sites, here.

Right now we’re eating lunch, getting to know one another, and thinking about the challenges we’ll tackle this afternoon.

Blotter Launch

Mark Howe presenting the Police Blotter.
Mark Howe presenting the Police Blotter.

On Thursday, April 23, 2015 Open Pittsburgh met at the Pittsburgh City-County Building to celebrate the launch of the police blotter project.

Delivery Lead Mark Howe presented on the work process over the past year. You can view Mark’s police blotter presentation slides in PDF format.

As laid out in the slides, Open Pittsburgh is considering new ways to use this data, and welcomes suggestions about how we can partner with the community and stay involved.

Some possible next steps that were discussed are creating a heat map of the crime data, or visualizing trends over time to analyze patterns in crime rates.

A new project that Open Pittsburgh will tackle, now that snow plows in the City are equipped with GPS trackers, is working with snow plow data next winter. Please contact us if you are interested in helping with this project.

CfA Fellows

Mayor Peduto and Felllows
Mayor Peduto and Felllows

Pittsburgh is a 2015 Code for America city. Last month, three Fellows spent a month in Pittsburgh studying the city’s procurement system. To learn more about the fellows, see the governments page on the Code for America site.

To learn more about what CfA Fellows are doing in cities around the country, see the Code for America blog.

For some more fun (and pictures!) take a look at the Pittsburgh Fellows’ tumblr – Yinz for America.

Pittsburgh Snow Plow Tracker released – Open Data forthcoming

snow plow gps

The City of Pittsburgh has released their Snow Plow Tracker – an online portal active during winter weather, where citizens can see where the snow plows in the city are currently. More importantly, they can see where they have been – which streets are already plowed, and ready to be traveled on safely.

This is great news, along the lines of  Port Authority Transit Buses receiving real-time tracking systems a few months back.

And, similar to the Port Authority’s efforts, the City will be making the real time data for the Snow Plows open and accessible. Says the City’s Analytics and Strategy Manager, Laura Meixell:

“This is just the pilot version of the application. As we continue to develop the capabilities of the Snow Plow Tracker we’d like to include routes and be able to calculate the % of emergency routes, primary, secondary, and tertiary routes treated during a snow-and-ice event.”

She also tweeted:

The plow tracker provides an interesting case in data transparency. Plowing routes have long be the subject of political wrangling, in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. Citizens accuse other neighborhoods and districts of getting “preferential treatment” from the plows – clear long before their own streets locally. highlighting But now, the data is visual, and clear – increasingly darkly highlighted streets on a map, as plows roll over them throughout the day. The page has already generated citizen engagement, as people tweet screencaps to their council-people, mayor, city and pgh311 and voice their concern. 

Other citizens have been provided an easy opportunity to learn about their civic infrastructure.

It’s an exciting project, and will hopefully become even more useful as the data is opened up and new features are added.