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MDI: Case Study – Parking Data

In May, the City of New York DOT announced a new, searchable map tool listing street by street parking regulations. The new online Parking Regulations DOT map layer displays the text of the parking signs on each street, so users can more easily determine when it’s legal to park in a certain area. While this information may be helpful to some New Yorkers (as one city councilman equated reading NY City parking signs to translating Morse code), others are questioning the real usefulness of the information.


This problem, of course, isn’t limited to New York City. Parking is an issue in any major metropolitan area, including Milwaukee. Milwaukee’s DPW offers a similar street sign search service, minus the handy map. Despite this tool, even city-savvy Milwaukeeans get lost amidst the numerous, seemingly random regulations, such as night parking, winter parking, and alternate side parking.


Here’s what’s missing…
Most parkers want to know exactly where to park, if a parking spot is available now, and how much the parking spot will cost.


PrimoSpot – So Close
Developers like those at PrimoSpot are using available data to try to improve the parking situations in New York City, Boston and Seattle. PrimoSpot is a parking tool that is first of all mobile (unlike the NYC DOT map), and secondly, the app is able to provide drivers with even more parking information by pulling from public sources and partnering with private sources. PrimoSpot is definitely doing what they can and on the right track, offering on-street parking regulations, handy maps, parking ramp rates, hours and discounts, meter reminders, and even bike rack locations.


The problem?
Further PrimoSpot development is limited by the lack of available data. From the website: “PrimoSpot regrets that it cannot tell if a spot is available at any given moment… but we are working on a solution.”


What if that parking data was available? And what if it was available in Milwaukee?


Open Parking Data via the Milwaukee Data Initiative
Many think of Milwaukee as a commuter city, whether for work or for recreation. So, to attract more outlying citizens into the City (from daytime meetings and lunches to the vibrant downtown nightlife), parking availability and ease are keys to boosting the local economy.


What if City of Milwaukee officials were able to standardize, compile and release existing data on Milwaukee parking regulations, and the digital data stored by Milwaukee’s new multi-space meter units? What if private sources, such as nation-wide parking giant Central Parking System and others, standardized, compiled and released their digital parking data from Milwaukee garages and lots?


The solution is Open Data. When parking data is made available to data professionals, Milwaukee’s local developers can create applications that benefit local people, communities, businesses, and city centers. Not only that, developers from other parts of the country will gain a growing interest in Milwaukee as more and more data becomes standardized and accessible – and that means long-term economic benefits for the entire cityscape. With Open Data, developers could create a Milwaukee parking app that allows users to see exactly where parking spots are available near their destination, when a spot is occupied or available (in real time!), and how much they can expect to pay. Future developments might even allow users to reserve a parking spot, potentially removing the hassle involved in downtown parking for good.


Through the Milwaukee Data Initiative (MDI), all this is possible – and more. With enough public interest in the project, the City of Milwaukee might be open to exploring options for standardizing and releasing the parking data. The City could even request that private companies add to the project, also releasing their parking data to Milwaukee data professionals. Milwaukee Data Initiative works not only to release the requested data, but also to establish connections between public and private enterprise and Milwaukee’s ever-growing IT community.


Improving Milwaukee’s economy through parking data? Just one beneficial idea from MDI.