As Mayor Bill Peduto prepares to end his eight-year tenure in January, his office announced a new initiative in open data and government transparency with the aim that it will continue under new Mayor-Elect Ed Gainey’s term.
Dashburgh, a dashboard-style website from the City of Pittsburgh and related organizations, aggregates data on how the work of city officials is helping the public, making that data easily readable to anyone visiting the new site. Pulling data from 32 sources across City offices and departments, Dashburgh highlights information such as 311 request records, public safety operations, administration activity and neighborhood development. A note on the site says that over time, Dashburgh will pull from even more data sources in the hopes of sharing the most robust data with residents.
“We have worked hard over the past eight years to create a more modern, transparent government and this comprehensive new tool allows our residents to see our open data in an easy-to-understand dashboard,” said Peduto in a press release. The new website caps off the larger efforts Peduto’s administation made over the last several years through its open data program, which included the launch of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) in 2015.
A drop-down menu at the top of the site allows visitors to choose which category of data they’d like to inspect. Each option has its own sets of charts and numbers, including the date those numbers were last updated, what the year-over-year change is when applicable and how to share the data with others. One category cutely named “Parks, Trees, N’at” shows an overview of Pittsburgh’s parks and outdoor maintenance, including park maintenance stats, tree planting rates, park equipment inspection and more.
Beyond basic tracking of volumes and rates, Dashburgh also highlights specific programs run by the city that shows how well they’re achieving their intended outcomes. One example of that is the equity category on the site, which illustrates data from youth programs like Rec2Tech and economic development ones like the Pittsburgh Partnership. Both show enrollment levels — which appear to have decreased since last year — and student demographics in an effort to show the successes and failures of the programs so far.
For any data that’s more difficult to show in a simple chart, Dashburgh has links to other helpful tools. Take the neighborhood development dashboard for example. Along with graphs on permits and inspections, there are also links to other sites like Burgh’s Eye View, which overlays 311 requests, code violations, traffic incidents and more on a map of the city.
“We expect to add new measures over time and build on the foundations we have laid to be a data-driven City government,” said Innovation and Performance Acting Director Heidi Norman in the release. “Dashburgh serves as a vehicle for City residents to view how we’re meeting our service goals, and how we carry out key activities to deliver critical City services.”
The introduction of this new tool from the city could be one early sign of how Gainey’s administration will continue the initiatives of Peduto’s when it comes to open data — something Technical.ly asked him about this summer in our then-mayoral candidate survey. While much of this information was already available in one form or another through the WPRDC and city-run organizations, the consolidation of it in Dashburgh makes for a more accessible presentation, ensuring that all Pittsburghers are kept in the loop on the city’s activities.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-