Introducing the traffic citations index


Screenshot of Traffic Citations. 

It sometimes takes a long time to get the data one needs. The idea for a “citation tracker” came about a month ago. I created a list of the traffic infractions I wanted to track and then set about seeking them. The first stop was the Department of Finance. I knew they held the data for citations issued against “9-40-060”, or “parking or standing in a bike lane”, the trend on which I reported several times this year. It turns out they only had 3 of the 13 ordinances for which I requested data.

Go there now: Traffic Citations.

It has interactive charts for three violations:

  • 9-40-060: Parking or standing in a bike lane
  • 9-76-050 (b): Driving without proper headlights (or broken headlights)
  • 9-64-100 (d): Parking in a place that blocks a curb cut

The website will expand as more citation data is obtained. All datasets start in January 2011 and are aggregated monthly. I intend to update the citation index every 1-2 months. I might also use this opportunity to push City departments to open their data (#opendata).

For the moment, this tool is a proof of concept. I want to show the data and find the meaning later, but there’s a backstory: I started tracking bike lane blocking citations because I wanted to know, first of all, if citations were being issued. Then I got more curious and wondered if the “right” violations (read: dangerous, annoying, or causing traffic inefficiencies) were being enforced. An example of one that’s all three is parking in a bus stop: the bus needing to stop there discharges passengers into the street (dangerous and annoying) and possibly into the path of bicyclists, as well as delays rear traffic.

The citations that will be tracked in the future appear on the Traffic Citations website under “coming soon”, a diverse group. If you have a suggestion for a traffic citation to track, name it in the comments and why you think it’s significant to track it.

New plow tracker-style website hits the web in time for today’s snow storm


Snow plows already rumbling in West Loop. Photo taken this morning by Seth Anderson.

The City of Chicago’s Plow Tracker, debuting for last week’s snow storm, has some competition from Derek Eder and Forest Gregg, a programmer and a University of Chicago graduate student, respectively. Gregg is also the author of SVO: Powering your vehicle with straight vegetable oil.

Gregg found the data feeds that were powering Plow Tracker and worked with Eder to build a site that shows where snow plows have been, intimating which streets may have been plowed. Visit ClearStreets to see if a plow has traversed your street. The site is from a new organization called Open City. Continue reading New plow tracker-style website hits the web in time for today’s snow storm

Plow Tracker not ready for prime time


Thursday was the first time the City of Chicago turned on Plow Tracker, a website that shows the location of every snow plow in the “Snow Command” I reported on last week.

The web application could use some improvement. When I loaded the website at 11:50 AM, the map never loaded – searching for “plow tracker” on Twitter brought up a flurry of messages about the website, leading me to presume that the server was overloaded. The remaining page elements took over 60 seconds to load. On a second load I saw the map appeared as did 183 iterations of the funky snow plow icon.

Continue reading Plow Tracker not ready for prime time