This blog will be dedicated to examining and promoting civic data in Chicago, Cook County and Illinois.
WBEZ is partnering with the Smart Chicago Collaborative to promote civic data. This blog will be part of that collaboration.
We'll post original data sets @OpenSocrata
Thursday night a Chicago civic developer sat in a townhall with city CIO Brenna Berman, laying out his difficulties with the city’s “laundry list” of IT procurement requirements.
“Try writing the laundry list,” Berman replied with a laugh.
It was part of a cordial back-and-forth between citizens and city officials on how to best open up the procurement process - how the city selects vendors for services - to new businesses and ideas.
The nearly two-and-half hour meetup, hosted at the Chicago Community Trust by OpenGovChicago, was the first of four listening sessions between the city and the tech industry. Berman’s goal is to get a list of recommendations to the city’s procurement office by the end of April.
The plan is for discussions to give the city a better idea of the challenges faced by small firms in navigating the often overly-complex rules involved with getting a government contract. It also allowed Berman to voice her own frustrations with the system.
“I’ve struggled through that process and have as many questions as you probably do,” Berman said.
IT procurement is the process governments use to select companies for its technology services. It’s been a big topic in the civic technology world for a long time, but got national attention with the public failings of Healthcare.gov.
It’s also been a big issue in Chicago, which has one of the largest civic hacking communities in the country. Hackers have been building apps based on civic data for years, but aren’t able to break into actually providing official city apps.
Derek Eder is the owner of Datamade. Last week he wrote about the company’s challenges on his blog, laying out how difficult it is for small, new companies to meet the city’s requirements.
Correction 2/28/14: An earlier version of this post had the wrong creators for ChicagoLobbyists.org.
Eder was part of a group that created an app to display information about lobbying in Chicago. When the city created an RFP (request for proposals) around just that topic, they made a run at the contract:
After reading all 152 pages of the document, we realized we had no chance of getting the bid. It was impossible for the ChicagoLobbyists.org group to meet the legal requirements (as it would have been for any small software shop):
Berman agreed the requirements are an issue, but noted the city isn’t going to change things such as insurance rules for businesses.
“We need to find a good way for startups to get the insurance the city needs, because I don’t think the city is getting less risk averse,” she said. “I’m spending tax dollars and I’m going to be incredibly risk averse in doing that, and I don’t know if there’s a way around that.”
Berman said a possible solution could be to pool startups to lower insurance costs.
We have to move from our nascent non-revenue stage into sustained impact. That means forming real companies, creating products with revenue models, and, yes, getting business insurance and hiring accountants to create things like audited financial statements.
The pair came on WBEZ’s Afternoon Shift Thursday before the meetup to discuss the issue as well.
Another of the big complaints about government technology has been design and usability. Often large contractors are hired to run the backend of a project – the technology that stores and manipulates data – as well as the frontend shown to citizens, even though the two tasks are very different.
Berman said the city is looking to decouple those tasks more often and try to make design more of a priority in bidding out projects.
“City has always been focused on usability from a practicality standpoint, but not so much UX design perspective as we should have been,” she said. “In government, not just Chicago, there’s a change afoot in design from UX perspective, in our contracts or in our relationships with community around that perspective. I want residents to enjoy interacting with our products.”
Berman will meet with the civic hacking community again at the OpenGovHackNight March 11.
Today we’re launching a way to download and purchase our datasets.
This week ProPublica launched a new feature: a data store. The organization is making some of their more popular datasets available for download, and in the case of sets where they’ve done a lot of cleaning or joining, actually charging for them. Interesting new way to found non-profit investigations.
The data dump is part of a competition Divvy is running through March 11, challenging developers and designers to analyze and visualize the data for insights on how Chicagoans are using the service.
Each trip includes information on the start and end stations, date and duration of the trip and even what bike the rider used. Each row also notes whether or not the rider was a Divvy subscriber, and if so the age and gender of the rider.
That information on gender brought the first big revelation as analysts started digging in to the dump. Of the 403,036 trips taken by subscribers, 79 percent were by men.
Within that, the gender gap widened as riders got older, lowest when riders were younger than 20 (64.3 percent male) and peaking for those 60 or older (86.2 percent).
The data makes it easy to answer questions such as “What days get the most riders?” Turns out the weekends draw enough tourists to make Friday, Saturday and Sunday the most popular days.
There are also very different patterns for what time of the day people ride depending on the day of the week.
Lastly we looked at where the most popular Divvy Stations are. This map has the location of all the Chicago stations sized by the combined number of trips starting or ending there.
Overall there were 1,519,576 ride starts and ends (double the number of trips), with each station averaging around 5,000. Three stations (Millennium Park, Streeter Dr & Illinois St and Lake Shore Dr & Monroe St) had more than 30,000 trips.
This is just the start of what’s possible with these data. Chatting with some other reporters at WBEZ, we were curious which stations are more popular during commute times versus weekends and evenings? Are there different patterns between subscribers and day pass riders? It’ll be fun to see what projects get started over the next month.
Couldn’t resist building another map for this, so here’s a look at which stations are more popular with Divvy subscribers compared with day pass users.
data.gov is down during the government shutdown.
Data Suggest: WBEZ’s data blog occasionally highlights outside commentary and articles on data and their effects on the Chicago community. Submit your own item (here).
Limited access to mortgage credit in some neighborhoods is one of the lingering legacies of the housing crisis. In our work at the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul, we consider mortgage activity one of several valuable indicators of the health of a neighborhood housing market, and we map and measure this type of activity for a variety of Cook County geographies regularly. Our work involves not just closely examining the spatial patterns of this type of activity at certain points in time, but also looking at it over time in order to see patterns and trends.
The image above shows recent mortgage originations in two different neighborhood housing markets in Cook County: on the left, the Village of Oak Park, and on the right, the City of Chicago’s Austin Community Area. The line separating them is Austin Boulevard, the City’s municipal border. The blue-colored parcels represent residential mortgages originated between the third quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013.
Mortgage activity is a valuable indicator of the overall health of a neighborhood’s housing market. Today, given the current, tight credit environment, access to credit represents the willingness of lending institutions to finance the acquisition and rehab of homes, as well to allow current homeowners to refinance their mortgages at lower interest rates. However between 2005 and 2007, high levels of subprime mortgage lending were actually an indicator of community instability. Areas with the highest levels of subprime mortgage activity were also most heavily hit by the destabilizing effects of concentrated foreclosure activity.
The New York Times recently published a provocative piece on upward mobility in the United States, which indicated that it’s harder for the poor to succeed, according to a new exhaustive study.
Chicago Magazine followed suit with their own take from a Chicago angle.
And on Monday, Gawker did their own take, focusing on mass transit and its effects on the ability for the poor to succeed in cities geared toward cars.
On Monday, we put out a map that color-coded all the building structures in Chicago by year built, utilizing city data.
That map was fun, but we wanted to explore the idea of transit. (See map above) While this is not a formal data analysis, it is striking to see urban structures built from 1990-2012, as juxtaposed onto the mass transit lines (CTA). See map below — or REALLY BIG map here.
A couple things to note:
White: CTA “L” lines | Green: Buildings from ’90s | Pink: Buildings from 2000s
Curious to see what others think. Tweet me @ChicagoEl
But other than some serious eye-candy, what’s going on here? We’re basically providing a slow-mo glimpse of urban sprawl: how Chicago grew over almost two hundred years, and where it’s currently growing.