Yesterday at the civic hack day in Palo Alto, a team of neighborhood organizers and software developers banded together to create an mobile application to help solve a thorny problem in the city – overflow parking on neighborhood streets. To measure neighborhood parking occupancy, the city has been conducting surveys about twice a year, but that does not provide detailed enough information to understand the nuances of the problem.
So Nielsen Buchanon, a retired healthcare executive who lives in the Downtown North neighborhood, set out to gather data. Using a pencil and a pad of paper, he and other volunteers counted the cars parked in the neighborhood, and mapped the information on paper maps. To make it easier and faster to gather more data, and analyze it more quickly, a team of “civic hackers” set out to automate this manual process, using Palo Alto’s civic hack day on Saturday, June 1.
The Realtime Visualization and Mapping Project (REVAMP) is a mobile application that enables volunteers to collect data about parked cars in the neighborhood, using a mobile phone or tablet. The data is stored in a database, and can be visualized in a map. Future features will visualize the data by date range, and provide animated displays of streets filling and emptying of cars over the course of days, weeks, and months.
The data is stored in the same format used by the city to collect parking data. The team hopes that City staff will be able to use the volunteer-gathered data to help create solutions for the parking problems. Elaine Uang is an architect who is involved in local planning related policy issues. Kristin Kam is a software developer specializing in GIS, web and mobile applications. Adina Levin is a software and civic entrepreneur active in environmental issues and active transportation.