Transit

Dan Morgan starts first day as first U.S. DOT chief data officer

What has been known for weeks and already publicly celebrated by open data insiders was today formally acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Transportation in a Twitter retweet: Dan Morgan is the agency’s new chief data officer.

On an personal level, this is really special, not just because Dan (affectionately, and now officially, known as “Data Dan”) is one of the smartest and most passionate people I know when it comes to using the power of data to solve transportation and safety issues, he is also pretty hilarious.

Congratulations to Dan, DOT and the United States of America.

The position was posted in early June.

Park.IT or ticket

GovFresh highlights the products and start-ups powering the civic revolution. Note: This is not a product promotion or endorsement. Learn how you can get featured.

Co-founder Manohar Kamath shares his vision for Park.IT.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

When you drive into a busy city like San Francisco, the problem is where to park, as the parking occupancy is often over 95%. Second question, can I park here and will I get a ticket? Park.it creates happy drivers driving in cities like San Francisco, by helping them avoid parking tickets or tow away charges along with parking (street and garages) choices at their fingertips.

What civic problem does it solve?

People on average spend 20-30min of their time searching for parking. This adds to the city traffic congestion leading to unhappy drivers. Park. it Lite App help drivers find on and off street parking, obey city parking laws and reduce pollution from traffic congestion. Overtime with large user base, Park. it will have collected enough user data/behaviors to develop parking analytics which can help city government and local businesses to provide incentives for people to make San Francisco their favorite destination.

What’s the story behind starting park.it?

Myself (Manohar Kamath) and Calvin Liu are the founders of www.Park.it . The company was founded in the year 2010. We worked together in Semiconductor and EDA industry. I (Manohar Kamath) live with my family in Fremont and visit San Francisco often for business and pleasure. Every time I faced the problem of finding parking, may it be in the financial district, North beach, Fisherman’s wharf, AT&T Park, theatre areas etc. Invariably ended up parking in garages (which can be expensive) due to the fear of getting a parking ticket or being towed away not knowing the parking rules. Calvin on the other hand, has been living in San Francisco downtown for over 10 years and faces the challenge of having to remember to move his car for street cleaning and has gotten his car towed away due to parking sign changes. We also have stories from friends and family who are new to the city and have racked up hundreds of $$ of parking tickets. All of this, set us on the quest of solving this parking problem in metro cities.

We launched the first Beta version of the App (both on Android and iOS) in Dec 2011. This helped us in user validation. We started out with a subscription model (monthly and/or yearly) but soon found, people didn’t like to create accounts and provide credit card info. We also received feedback from users about usability. Inspite of these issues, we saw large number of users downloading and continuing to use it till today.

For the last several months we worked on fixing usability issues, removed the need for users to create accounts and provide credit card info. Beginning 2013, Park.it Lite was released.

What are its key features?

Find parking either around where you are at or near your driving destination in the following manner,

Specify a parking duration (30min to 3 days)

Enter your driving destination address (Type or Speak) OR select current location. Currently Speak (Voice to text) is only supported for the Android platform.

Choose to display only what is desired: No parking areas, Street parking and Garage parking

In-phone notification in case the specified parking duration is exceeded or instant alerts like active tow away, street sweeping, or incline parking. This saves you getting parking tickets from PEO (Parking Enforcement officer).

For metered street parking or parking garages, the cost per hour is shown.

If SFPark metered spaces with sensors are available, the number of open spaces are displayed on real time basis.

Displays (Red hat Pin) your parked spot in case you have forgotten.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

Freemium model

Park. it Lite (Free version) with advertising currently available on Google Play and App Store.
Park. it Premium (paid version) with no advertising and special features will be made available in the future.

How can those interested connect with you?

Screenshots

Park.IT

Park.IT

Park.IT

Park.IT

2011 GovFresh Awards entries and voting now open

2011 GovFresh Awards

Every day, tech-minded citizens across the country are doing good by their communities, literally geeking out about how they can help re-define the relationship government has with its citizens, using technology as a democratic tool to collaboratively empower both.

So much is happening in the civic technology community – website redesigns, new websites, open data initiatives, apps, camps, developer contests, hackathons and more – it’s hard to get a perspective on or truly appreciate the collective work of these dot-dogooders both inside and outside government.

That’s why we created the 2011 GovFresh Awards.

It’s time to recognize and honor all that’s been accomplished this year.

It’s time to say thank you.

Here are the categories. Start entering and start voting.

SF Routesy founder on open data, advice to developers and government

Routesy is a public transit iPhone app built on DataSF open data that includes real-time schedule information for San Francisco Muni, BART, Caltrain and AC Transit. GovFreshTV talked with founder and developer Steven Peterson about his experiences creating the app and asked him to share his advice to civic developers and government.

Full interview:

Advice to government:

“Government really should be working with developers to figure out what formats they can provide data in in order for developers to create the best products possible. They should also continue to just be open and publish as much data as possible, because that’s really where the innovation and technology around that data is going to come from.”

Advice to developers:

“Take advantage of the large amount of data that’s actually available from the city and other public sources. There are a lot of great things that haven’t been built yet and really a lot of opportunities to take that public domain stuff and make it into something really useful. I would also advise developers to actively talk to people in government and to let them know what data they want available that’s not available and to make sure everything’s working the way it’s supposed to and to have a good relationship with those public officials.”

Download Routesy on iTunes or connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Routesy founder talks open data, gives advice to civic developers and government

Routesy is a public transit iPhone app built on DataSF open data that includes real-time schedule information for San Francisco Muni, BART, Caltrain and AC Transit. GovFreshTV talked with founder and developer Steven Peterson about his experiences creating the app and asked him to share his advice to civic developers and government.

Peterson answers the following questions:

  • What is Routesy?
  • What challenges did you face developing Routesy?
  • What advice do you have for civic developers?
  • What open data advice do you have for government?

Full interview:

Advice to developers:

“Take advantage of the large amount of data that’s actually available from the city and other public sources. There are a lot of great things that haven’t been built yet and really a lot of opportunities to take that public domain stuff and make it into something really useful. I would also advise developers to actively talk to people in government and to let them know what data they want available that’s not available and to make sure everything’s working the way it’s supposed to and to have a good relationship with those public officials.”

Advice to government:

“Government really should be working with developers to figure out what formats they can provide data in in order for developers to create the best products possible. They should also continue to just be open and publish as much data as possible, because that’s really where the innovation and technology around that data is going to come from.”

Download Routesy on iTunes or connect on Facebook and Twitter.

In New York and San Francisco, TransportationCamp aims to build a better to and fro

TransportationCamp

Photo by Richard Drdul

Transportation enthusiasts will gather in New York City and San Francisco over the next few weeks for TransportationCamp, a series of transit-meets-tech unconferences organized by the non-profit OpenPlans. TransportationCamp East will be held in New York City March 5-6 and TransportationCamp West in San Francisco March 19-20. There are also Ignite #Transpo afterparties. Here’s how it works, and here’s where you can suggest ideas.

Nick GrossmanOpenPlans Director of Civic Works Nick Grossman discusses TransportationCamp’s objectives and transportation’s impact on the bigger issues around Gov 2.0 and open government:


What is TransportationCamp? Who should attend?

TransportationCamp is an “unconference” focusing on the intersection of transportation and technology. How is technology (such as mobile apps, powerful mapping tools, open data coming from government agencies, etc.) changing the way we move around our cities? How is it changing the way we plan our cities? What does this mean for governments agencies who manage transportation systems, for companies working in the space, and for citizens? How can we insure that advances in transportation tech help us work towards equitability and sustainability goals, and not against them?

For two upcoming weekends (March 5-6 in NYC and March 19-20 in SF), a group of about 250 technologists, transportation enthusiasts, public officials, and others will convene to discuss these issues and work on related problems. This is not a traditional conference: following the BarCamp or “unconference” model, nearly all of the working sessions will be proposed and led by attendees.

You should attend if:

  • you work in transportation operations or policy, especially in roles relating to the management of technology and data;
  • you work for a company that’s building tech tools for transportation (there are tons of startups entering this space right now);
  • you’re a transportation or urban planning advocate with a futurist bent (either skeptical or optimistic OK!); or
  • if you are just generally interested in how cities operate.

We already have a great list of participants signed up for each event, representing these communities and more. Both East and West are currently sold out, but if you’re interested, you should definitely sign up for the waiting list, and we’ll do our best to open up tickets.

What is the goal of the camps and longer-term objectives?

The technology landscape, effecting transportation and of course more broadly, is evolving really quickly. TransportationCamp intends to make connections between many players working in the space, across industry and sector lines, to help make sense of the problems and opportunities. By bringing together a group of people who share a common interest but do not often cross paths, we hope to spark collaborations and partnerships and provide a venue for collaborative problem-solving.

In this short-term, this might mean connecting a transit agency with members of the software development community who are building apps on that agency’s data, to help inform the direction of those data sets. Or simply exposing people to a side of the problem that they don’t typically think about.

Longer-term, we’d love to see that connections made during TransportationCamp have blossomed into longer-term projects, collaborations, and partnerships. As the organizers of TransportationCamp, we can’t force that to happen; but we can create an environment that’s fertile ground for these types of connections.

How do transportation issues relate to broader open government / Gov 2.0?

The transportation space is a great one to watch for those interested in “Gov 2.0” for a few reasons:

First, from a public service perspective, transportation is one of the only government services that people interact with directly on a daily basis. Whether it’s riding the subway or paying for a parking space, transportation is one of the most accessible and tangible government sectors. We think that’s why we’ve seen such an explosion in government and private sector innovation in the transportation space: agencies across the US are opening up data sets for developers to hack on; entrepreneurs and interested citizens have made hundreds of transportation apps (from bus trackers to tax-sharing apps and way more).

Second, beyond the immediate mobility and efficiency concerns represented by the transportation app explosion, transportation planning is an area where policies, plans, and their related public involvement processes touch countless citizens. While innovations in “open government” approaches to transportation planning are slower to develop and materialize, they will no doubt have a major impact on how cities are planned and managed. We believe that agencies that are experiencing the benefit of Gov 2.0 on the efficiency side will also be more inclined to pursue open government activities on the planning side.

So, transportation has really been an amazing place to study the effects of “Gov 2.0” approaches, and we expect this to continue.

Follow @transpocamp and the #transpo hashtag on Twitter.

The case for open transit data

This is an awesome short film from StreetFilms.org that convincingly lays out the case for open transit data.

Later this year, the State of Delaware will – for the first time ever – release all of its transit data in open formats. This is the result of a bill introduced this past legislative session by State Senator Bethany Hall-Long.

I’m hoping that there is a lot of excitement generated as a result of this data being released, and that our leaders in state government realize the potential benefits of opening up all kinds of government data.

It would be great to see state government engage local developers (from all over the Delaware Valley and the Philadelphia area) and have them build all sorts of cool civic applications with open data.