October 28, 2016

MUSA Brown Bag Lunch: Lauren Ancona

past event


Continuing their series highlighting GIS work happening around Philadelphia, the Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics (MUSA) program, held their second Brown Bag lunch of the year on October 28th. Hosted by Penn IUR, the event featured Lauren Ancona, Senior Data Scientist of Web Analytics, Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation, City of Philadelphia. Ancona discussed her efforts to create the interactive web map, “Parkadelphia”, which visualizes parking regulations in the City of Philadelphia.

Ancona began by explaining how her then-job working with data analytic combined with her frustration over the parking situation in Philadelphia led her to begin searching for data on residential parking districts on her own. Finding information buried in the text of the zoning code and no associated visual data, Ancona created her own map of the parking districts using an open source mapping platform called MapBox. For the past 2 years, she has been working on improving the map to make it as accurate and accessible as possible to users.

There are many layers that affect where a car can park in Philadelphia and none of the information had ever been pulled together into one location. Much of her work has consisted of pulling together data on, not only residential permit districts, but also locations of street meters, driveways, fire hydrants, PPA parking lots, valet permit zones, and snow emergency routes. Spatial identifiers are often incomplete or absent from the data, however, complicating the process. For example, the inventory of parking meters in the city only included the 100 block location of meters with no specifics for where or what side of the block it was located, Ancona described. Different city departments and the PPA were able to provide some information, but consideration had to be made about anonymizing data associated with parking tickets, for example. To fill in gaps or verify information, she used the city’s Cyclomedia aerial image data.

Ancona also stressed the focus on data presentation to ensure Parkadelphia is a useful tool. She had to consider who would be using it, in what environments would they use it, and how could she make it easier to share. Noting the benefits of open source solutions, Ancona explained that Parkadelphia uses GitHub to store its code and host the site. It is fully responsive for both web and devices, recognizing that many people would use it on the go. Parkadelphia launched in March 2016 and has seen fairly steady user rate, which spikes following press events. Ancona noted that the next Parkadelphia update will include the locations of handicap parking spots, and that longer-term, the goal is to use the open data from Parkadelphia for informing larger planning goals and policies, such as estimating parking demand from the searches on Parkadelphia to provide to the city’s planners.

Ancona also shared some of the work she has been doing with another city-wide project, the Community Health explorer. This undertaking, she explained, is a data visualization project aiming to share indicators of public health at Philadelphia’s district-level. The focus on the project, Ancona described, is increasing the public consumption of data by creating visually understandable and appealing graphics. Ancona encouraged those interested to attend her presentation on the Community Health Explorer at the upcoming Map, Measure, Manage event on November 15th. Ken Steif, Director of Penn’s MUSA program, wrapped up the event by thanking Ancona and encouraging the audience to attend next month’s GIS Day on November 16th. The next MUSA Brown Bag Lunch will be in January.




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