Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of June 29, 2015

July 3, 2015 12:00 pm PST | Data as a Service

Transportation takes center stage in open data this week, from Google’s good deeds to carpools in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, officials from Philly to Waterloo to Bulgaria show their open data colors.

Google and the Feds: Partners in Train Safety

After seeing a sharp rise in the number of fatal accidents at rail crossings, Sarah Feinberg turned to Google for help, reports Jad Mouawad in the New York Times. As acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Feinberg knows, “We have some really good data on these crossings,” but the public isn’t coming to the agency’s own app — which only catalogs crossings, and is rarely used. “It makes much more sense for me to share my data with Google, rather than try to get Google users to come to my app,” Feinberg explains. The new Google app will include every rail crossing in the country, as well as audio and visual alerts as part of the turn-by-turn navigation.

Library Sees New Life as Open Data Incubator

In Waterloo, Ontario, officials hope open data will breathe new life into their old library building, and their local economy. As Page Desmond comments in, area leaders want to transform the Carnegie library building into a “city-owned incubator that would focus on open data and would be officially branded ‘The Data Mine.’” City Councilor Mark Whaley sees big opportunity in the proposal: “If we can create a cluster of open data opportunities through several buildings in the core, we can actually create a data district,” Desmond explains. Elected officials are expected to vote on the proposal in the fall.

Bulgaria Rocks Open Data

Rumyana Bachvarova, Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister for Coalition Policy and Public Administration and Minister of the Interior, is sold on open data, reports Focus News Agency. Bachvarova’s remarks from the “Data’s Choice — Open data for transparent management” conference prize her nation’s progress and look to its future. “Open data and our efforts for the establishment of electronic government are the most visible result of the modernization of the country,” Bachvarova believes. “I am convinced that the results of our work will increase as an avalanche and the society will feel the effect, too,” she continues, commenting, “The road to change is now in society’s hands.”

Philadelphia Fire Department Gets Data Directions

Mayor Michael Nutter’s transparency initiative keeps growing in Philadelphia. In the latest effort, reports Damon C. Williams in the Philadelphia Tribune, the fire department is “calling on the public” to help determine open data priorities. In partnership with the city’s office of innovation and technology, the department is developing datasets and seeking citizen feedback on what data is useful and needed for public use. “The fire department is the eighth city department to publish a data inventory, a major component of the city’s new open data process,” Williams notes.

Split: Ridesharing App Goes Live

“Split is cooperative even by design: it pools its data from open-source maps,” comments Lalita Clozel in The app began as technology developed by startup Ajelo in Helsinki, Finland, as a way of “finding the optimal route using all forms of transportation — bicycles, public transit, and shared rides — for each rider and collectively,” Clozel explains. Split acquired Ajelo, as well as the financial backing of Transdev. Then the team brought the app to Washington, D.C., which already had ridesharing-friendly legislation and a detailed open data map. “This allows drivers to avoid one-way streets, busy intersections and dangerous alleyways,” Clozel notes. With use growing by “25 to 50 percent per week,” Split showcases the entrepreneurial opportunities of open data.




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