Shutterstock

A new portal will collect open streams from different cities, making for easier comparisons.

The federal government wants your city's data.

A new open data portal on data.gov creates a shared platform where American cities can make all of their streams available in one place. Four cities – New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle – have already done so.

The new clearinghouse features thousands of openly accessible data streams, including information on building permits filed in these cities, a regularly updated feed of Seattle Fire Department 911 dispatches, budget documents and tons of maps of things like parks, film locations and building footprints.

Chicago has 1,826 data feeds on the site, New York has 1,087, Seattle has 711, and San Francisco has 310. The federal government has made 6,560 of their own available.

It's part of an effort to democratize the public data streams that governments collect, putting them into the hands of citizens. More pointedly, these open data efforts are aimed at civic-minded computer programmers who might be interested in turning these raw data streams into useful websites or mobile applications.

New York, for example, has run a series of competitions aimed at encouraging developers to turn these open data streams into useful applications. The latest batch of winning projects include a mobile subway trip planning tool, a pre-kindergarten and elementary school search tool, and an educational application that highlights Brooklyn's city-owned vacant lots and potential reuse ideas.

The federal government has had its own data available through its online portal for the past few years, and seems to be actively encouraging cities to follow course. But, at the local level, the open data movement hasn't taken off as widely as some in the community may have hoped. Only 15 city or county governments currently have open data websites. Having a federal-level project focused on city data may help convince more cities to get on the burgeoning open data bandwagon.

JustASC / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Videos

    5 Ways to Seriously Battle Traffic

    So long as cars are among us, road pricing, ramp meters, diamond-shaped intersections can mitigate horrendous commutes, a new video explains.

  2. Design

    The Rivers of the U.S., Collected Into a Nifty Subway Map

    A designer who spent his youth floating on rafts has conjured up a delightful transit guide to America’s waterways.

  3. Transportation

    5 Reasons to Be Wary of Elon Musk's Hyperloop

    High-speed vactrains might be the ticket for a Martian colony. As a practical transit investment for Earth, the technology has a long way to go.

  4. An empty storefront on a sidewalk with a "retail space for lease" sign in the window
    Life

    How Cities Can Save Small Shops

    Some places are already taking action, but New York City is lagging behind. Here’s a blueprint for keeping local retail healthy.

  5. An illustration of a grid of canned food
    Equity

    What's the Matter With Little Free Food Pantries?

    They highlight food insecurity, without doing much to take a bite out of it.