17 open data apps for San Francisco

Last year, San Francisco opened up its data stream to the general public, encouraging developers to integrate the data into applications, sites, and bits of information the public could use. Since then, there’s been more than a dozen applications to utilize the data and turn it in to apps that make residents’ lives easier in a number of ways ~ from finding the best public transit options, to figuring out how to dispose of that old camera. You’ll find all this info and much more within these apps.

Here’s a review:

The former news girl in me loves this data stream, but EveryBlock is more than just neighborly news. It’s everything you want to know about what’s going on in your neighborhood at a given time! The information presented is a bit hodge-podge (it pulled x-rays of someone’s hand that were posted to Flickr and tagged with the right neighborhood), but the fact that this app CAN pull all that data is amazing enough to make me not care that I might have to wade through some of the stuff I don’t care as much about.

EveryBlock features what calls to the city have been made recently, including 911 calls, businesses in the area, reviews of businesses and pictures. Plus, there’s a section where you can notify your neighbors – the option to create a missing pet particularly caught my eye as that could have come in handy when I lost my dog a few months ago (don’t worry – she came home safe and sound)!

Spot Crime is an enlightening – yet somewhat frightening! – app that shows you, day-to-day, where crimes have taken place. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but most of the reported crimes are assaults that have either been handled or were canceled before units were even dispatched. Spot Crime is interesting to look at and assess the relative safety of the neighborhood you live in, but chances are if you live there, you likely don’t need a map to tell you how safe/unsafe it is! I could see this being more useful if you’re looking to move and want to see what stats are in other areas. Or if you saw or heard about a crime and want to see what ended up happening.

There are a number of other different crime-mapping apps as well that pull similar data and offer similar services. CrimeSpotting is an interactive map of crimes while Crime Reports provides stats integrating Google maps, using the street level view. With this app, users can also create free accounts on the site if they would like to receive email alerts when crimes occur near their home or work. Your Mapper allows you to see the closest crimes to any address, and Crime Mapping is dedicated to helping San Francisco Police Department provide the public with valuable information about crime activity by neighborhood.

If you want to know how to keep yourself safe from a bad meal, check out CleanScores. Perhaps you have an idea of where you want to eat, but you’re not sure about whether you SHOULD eat there – y’know, because it might not be up to health code standard! Don’t lie, you know you’ve chosen or not chosen to eat somewhere at some point based off of the health code rating a restaurant received! This app goes beyond the rating card in the window and gives you recent information along with reviews – beware though, you may not want to eat at ALL after reading what some reviewers have to say about certain eateries!

Clean Scores is great if you know a place you want to try, but just want some clean, healthy data to make or break your decision. You can read all the reasons a restaurant may have received a violation and find out when their most recent inspection was.

But seriously, if you ever want to eat again, you may want to pass on reading some of the reviews!

If you’re a mom, you need more than a database of safe, clean restaurants at your disposal. Enter Mom Maps. Not only is the site design fun, inviting and cute (which, ok, isn’t necessary but sure makes the experience even better!) the app provides a valuable service to moms on the go. With this app you’ll find kid-friendly spots throughout the SF Bay Area, NYC, LA, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Boise and Hawaii. WHEW! That’s a lot of kid fun!

Whether you end up with a few extra hours on your hands, you’re looking for a great place for a play date, need to do something indoors/outdoors, or any one of a number of other possibilities, you can find a solution here! The app contains an extensive list of Parks, Playgrounds, Restaurants, Museums and Indoor Play Areas that are kid friendly and fun.

Put in your location and using GPS – you’ll see results which are close to you, plus a map to get you there. Pick from the above selections that are closest to you – or suit your preferences the best. You have a multitude of new and fun options for you and your kid at your fingertips!

From there, you can select from other great open data apps – like MuniApp, Rail Bandit, Dadnab or others – that will assist you with public transit or commuting options to get you to your kid-friendly destination.

There’s a number of apps that make your public transit experience a bit better, but sometimes you just have to drive. And there are apps to make this experience better as well, including the The Original Parking Locater. This app ensures that if you do drive ad park, you never lose your car again. The interface provides the ability to take photos of where you’re parked as well as enter different details to document specific land marks ~ like where exactly you need to enter the garage, or which one-way alley you parked down! Special integrated features for all the major Bay Area airports for flight schedules, airports services, parking fees & information, as well as security, roadside assistance and more.

Accessible Parking SF takes into account your basic needs when trying to get to point A to point B in the city: how to get there and where to park. Accessible Parking SF provides directions and then shows available parking spaces within a certain radius of your destination. The one thing that isn’t clear is how this is monitored and how the system knows if the parking spot will be available at a given time, or if the app is merely showing the spots in the area that COULD be available.

Either way, it’s worth noting that the app provides info on public, street and garage parking.

Commuting made easy. Well, easIER.

Dadnab has a funny name, but it’s a great app. Maybe you’re one of the few that don’t have a smart phone. Or maybe you’re trying to get home from the middle of nowhere without web access. Either way, if you find yourself offline and needing to get home – or somewhere else – this app can help you out of a jam! Dadnab uses text messaging to provide users with directions to and from their destination, so all you need is a couple bars of reception. The app allows you to select your area, then text your exact location and your destination. Viola! The app responds with public transit directions!

MuniApp gives you real-time data on all the various Muni lines including buses, trolleys and street cars. Locate nearby stops and their respective bus routes based on user location, or quickly navigate through the bus lines and stops to access prediction information. The nice thing about this app versus, say, the city’s NextMuni site is that you can see multiple lines at once without having to switch between lines.

iCommuteSF is powered by NextBus but goes deeper than that. In addition to providing the normal NextBus service of finding when your desired line is coming, it also provides a GPS location device that will point you to the nearest stop based on your location, if you’re not sure how to get around. You can also save your most frequent commuter lines into your favorites for easy access. iCommute SF Lite is also available for free.

If you’re looking to make trip planning easier, you might also want to check out TransiCast for the Android which provides real-time departure information for major metro lines, iBART which uses BART’s real-time arrival feed to display upcoming arrivals, and Transit Time Map shows how far you can travel on public transit from a given location in a certain amount of time which is a “baby step towards helping you find a walkable, transit-friendly place to live so that you can ditch the zero (your car) and get with the hero (your new walkable condo near a light rail stop).”

I’m grateful I live in a city that has relatively decent public transportation options. What makes it “relatively decent” and not “stellar” has a lot to do with what it takes to plan a trip – problems the BART Arrivals and Rail Bandit apps are hoping to minimize.

BART Arrivals focuses on the BART system, tracking train arrival times in real time as well as providing system alerts. The app utilizes Netvibes, iGoogle, Apple Dashboard, Vista Sidebar and Opera, simply select the station where you’re waiting and you’ll see the next incoming trains and their destinations. It’s like the city’s NextMuni site, but a much more convenient mobile app and serving the BART system.

Rail Bandit does something similar for train schedules and also provides BART arrival updates as well as updates from Muni trains, Caltrain and ACE trains. These updates are aggregated into a single network. This app enables the user to select the train lines they are interested in, then the corresponding schedules are downloaded and stored locally on the phone.

I wanted to give special recognition to Transit Bay, which gives blind or vision impaired BART travelers the ability to ascertain real-time departure times of the trains they’re waiting on. The app relies on voice recognition software and the person simply tells the app their departure station and the app’s speech synthesis will respond with all real-time departure trains from this station. It will also tell you any BART system service advisories. Access is free to the platform and can be done in numerous ways: – by Skype phone – by SIP phone – by Inum phone.

I don’t even remember when we had to use those crazy fold-out schedules, and hope and pray the times were right and things were running on time. Thank goodness for up-to-the-minute data integration or public transportation could be a lot more inconvenient. At least if you’re going to have to wait for a train, you’ll know it ahead of time!

About Alexis James

Alexis James is the managing moderator/editor at an online marketing startup, while maintaining her own social media clients via 10thFloorPR.com. When she's not submerged in the web up to her eyeballs, she creates, markets and sells her own line of eco-friendly pet clothing (EarthsBestFriend.com), and postulates about life, politics and religion on her blog, alexisinthecity.com. You can track her down via her blog, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

5 Responses

  1. sarah

    great coverage of the many apps that are springing up from DataSF. my favorite is CrimeSpotting. it makes crime look sexy. not sure why more people don’t know about all these apps. can make life in the city so much nicer.

  2. mark

    The Accessible Parking SF App is specifically for blue-zone (disabled) spaces. It is not for any other type of parking site. There wasn’t much description on the site, but I added the text below:

    This website is a tool to help locate public blue-zone parking spaces near a destination (blue-zone spaces are spaces reserved for those with a disabled placard). No other parking features are included on this site.

    Thanks for the listing.

    Mark

  3. Hi, what platforms do this application use. Is there anyone that offers that for mexico, or is there a how-to-guide to create a site that will do the same for a city in mexico?
    thanks

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