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. 

Read more: A slow-mo glimpse of urban sprawl in Chicago

—Elliott Ramos


View Fulton Market Streetscape in a larger map

By: Elliott Ramos

Google confirmed on Thursday that it’s moving into the West Loop.

Some have noted that it’ll be one block from the new Morgan St. Green Line “L” station.

Google may have an eye for Chicago real estate.

The area could be pegged for a round of development as the city is planning to also renovate their street, according to city data obtained by WBEZ.

A Freedom of Information Act request into the city’s streetscapes projects revealed where the city has done street and sidewalk renovations since the ’90s.  The data also revealed several projects in the planning stages, which include a proposed streetscape for Fulton Market between Morgan and Ogden.

Previous city streetscapes features have included enhanced or new street lighting, sidewalk expansions, bike lanes, flower beds and pedestrian benches to name a few.

—Elliott Ramos is a data reporter and Web producer for WBEZ. Email him at eramos@wbez.org or follow at @ChicagoEl.

Powered by Socrata

Perusing Chicago Public Library data: Rogers Park ranks high among bookworms, Great Gatsby flies off shelf and eBook checkouts on the rise http://wbez.is/17FiJGF

Perusing Chicago Public Library data: Rogers Park ranks high among bookworms, Great Gatsby flies off shelf and eBook checkouts on the rise http://wbez.is/17FiJGF

By Elliott Ramos

In our recent story on Chicago’s sidewalk cafes, we sought to figure out how and why they were focused on the North Side.

We delved into economic development projects, but also wanted to key in mass transit, which appears to play a big part.

The map below shows the 2012 sidewalk cafe permits alongside the CTA transit routes.

We wanted to get a take as to how people interact with public space as it relates to transit, so we turned to an expert.

Steven Farber, is an assistant professor of geography at the University of Utah. He recently published a study that examined the land use and transportation of 42 major U.S. cities, and the implications those systems have on social outcomes.

Farber said his research indicated that people are spending more time on their commute were not fully engaging in their communities.

“If people are spending more time on their commute, we did find that the first thing that drops out of someone’s life as they engage in more commuting is social-activity participation,” he said.

“People are still going to go shopping. They’re still going to eat; they’re still going to do these mandatory daily activities that they need to do. If you’re going to drive more, there’s only so many hours in the day. The first thing that drops out are the discretionary activities.”

While his researched focused on automobile commuting, it may well have resonance in Chicago.

The concentrations of sidewalk cafés are clustered in neighborhoods with close proximity to CTA “L” stations, especially the Red and Brown Lines. There are nearly a dozen on the block of the Southport Brown Line station and dozens within a 3-6 block radius of the Brown Line Armitage stop and the Red Line Belmont and Addison stops.

While sidewalk cafes are a manifestation of businesses aided by the number of restaurants in an area, density, zoning and streetscapes projects, mass transit plays a big deal as well.

"I don’t see anything insidious in the fact that these establishments  have arisen at these locations," Farber said.

"I think that neighborhoods without those types of opportunities for social contact may not fare as well as neighborhoods that do have these cafes and sidewalks and better streetscapes, so from that perspective, spending money on neighborhoods that are already at a higher socioeconomic level might just further decrease the divide between good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods or high income neighborhoods and lower income neighborhoods."

Brett Goldstein, a former techie turned beat cop who became the city’s chief information officer, is leaving City Hall for academia and the private sector.

Read more at Crainshttp://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130529/BLOGS11/130529769/goldstein-leaving-city-hall-for-university-of-chicago#ixzz2UnhMUclv 

Where, exactly, are Chicago’s sidewalk cafes?

WBEZ compiled data about where City Hall issues sidewalk cafe permits that allow eateries to serve customers on sidewalks. Our analysis paints a disparate picture of Chicago’s sidewalk dining and drinking spots. It may not surprise many longtime city-goers that such permits are concentrated on the North Side. But what may surprise some is just how uneven the spread really is: There’s quite literally no comparison with communities on the South and West Sides, as those parts of town have no permits with which to compare.

—Elliott Ramos


(Dr. Bala Hota of Cook County Heath and Hospitals System, and Lydia Murray CIO of Cook County)

Patient records is one of the largest pillars of Big Data to be tackled.

While the politics of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often dubbed ObamaCare, are far from over, there were several key provisions that mandated a switch to electronic records.

The integration of patient records into broader federal government reforms has been a big task, which has strained rural hospitals, but jump started larger ones to cut costs.

In Illinois, the task of getting Cook County’s records on the grid falls on Dr. Bala Hota.

Hota heads up the effort to digitize medical records and streamline workflows at Cook County Health and Hospitals System.

He has a masters in public health and specializes in infectious diseases having done a residency at Rush University Medical Center.

He and Lydia Murray, Cook County’s chief information officer, made a presentation and took online questions for Big Data Week.

Murray was recently appointed to that position by county President Toni Preckwinkle last July. She was a former deputy chief of staff under Mayor Richard M. Daley.

In an odd role reversal, Murray actually interviewed Hota, with host Steve Boyce occasionally popping in with questions.

Though the interview was heavily controlled and on message, there were some takeaways that Hota made regarding the use of county data.

Read More

The finalization of Chicago’s new Grid Garbage Transition marked a dramatic change to the city’s refuse collection grid. Its workings were left largely unchanged in the past 100 years.  

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).

By Ian Dees

OpenStreetMap is the free, wiki-style map of the world. In the same way that Wikipedia lets you contribute to any article, you can add to or change any part of the map, making it better for the community around you. Started in 2005 as a response to the lack of free map data in England, OSM has grown to over one milllion contributors making billions of changes to the map. The more people contribute, the better the map will get. In Chicago, the map is particularly detailed thanks to help from many dedicated mappers and data released by the city.

As a long-time contributor to OpenStreetMap, I keep a keen eye out for open data suitable for inclusion in OSM. Chicago has an excellent open data portal with numerous up-to-date datasets, but it has a license that prevents OpenStreetMap from using it in a permanent manner. After some negotiating, I suggested that the City of Chicago release some of this data to their GitHub account under an MIT license, making it easier for outside groups to use in their own projects. As a result of Chicago’s recent release, OSM now has a complete representation of the buildings in Chicago. The local map editors have already improved on the data, deleting demolished buildings and correcting address information.

The next step to making OpenStreetMap the best map of Chicago around is to improve the detail for all the points of information around the city. Businesses, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, schools are just some of the categories of information we want to see show up on the map.

If this sounds interesting to you, OpenStreetMap in Chicago together with Smart Chicago Collaborative is hosting a Map-a-thon at 1871 in the Merchandise Mart the weekend of April 20th and 21st from noon to 6pm. For more information and to RSVP to this event, please visit the event’s meetup page.

Additionally, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews is hosting an OpenStreetMap hack weekend for developers the weekend of April 27th and 28th. If you’re interested in helping develop code to improve OSM, please visit the event’s wiki page and sign up!

Follow Ian Dees @iandees