How a civic hacker used open data to halve tickets at Chicago's most confusing parking spot

Matt Chapman used the Freedom of Information Act to get the City of Chicago's very mess parking ticket data; after enormous and heroic data normalization, Chapman was able to pinpoint one of the city's most confusing parking spots, between 1100-1166 N State St, which cycled between duty as a taxi-stand and a parking spot with a confusingly placed and semi-busted parking meter.

After surveying the site and deducing the problem, Chapman contacted the alderman responsible for that stretch of North State Street, and, eight months later, the signage was cleaned up and made more intuitive.

Followup data analysis showed that Chapman's work had halved the number of parking tickets issued on the spot, with 600-odd fewer tickets in the past 20 months, for a savings of $60,000 to Chicago motorists.

It's a really first-rate example of how open municipal data can be used to identify and remediate everyday annoyances and broken stuff in our cities.

Things going on that make this spot confusing:

1. This is a taxi stand from 7pm to 5am for three cars' lengths. Parking in a taxi stand is a $100 ticket.

2. When this spot isn't a taxi stand, it's metered parking – for a parking meter beyond an alleyway.

3. It's possible to pay for parking here after 7pm, which makes it look like parking is acceptable – especially with the "ParkChicago" sign floating there.

4. Confusion creates more confusion – if one car parks there, then more cars follow. Cha-ching.

Using FOIA Data and Unix to halve major source of parking tickets [Matt Chapman/]

(via Dan Hon)