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Using crowdsourcing to create a dataset — on parking in Wilmington

“Usually, we work with data that’s already out there,” said Open Data Delaware cofounder Ryan Harrington. “This was the first time we actually made the dataset.”

A group of volunteers gathered at The Mill to create some data. (Photo courtesy of Open Data Delaware)
Where do you park in downtown Wilmington?

It was a question brought up by Open Data Delaware member (and resident mapping guy) Steve Hess. One that seemed easy enough to answer with a bit of searching. Ryan Harrington, cofounder of Open Data Delaware, soon realized that not only has Downtown Wilmington’s parking data not been analyzed, it didn’t exist, period.

And so, a project was born, and, thanks to a National Day of Civic Hacking crowdsourcing event hosted by ODD on Aug. 11, the data finally exists.

“Usually, we work with data that’s already out there,” said Harrington. “This was the first time we actually made the dataset.”

To gather the data, the 20 or so folks of all ages and experience levels who gathered at The Mill that day, downloaded the Survey123 app customized by Hess and spread out to survey 250 segments (most were standard city blocks), from 10th to 2nd on Market Street (north to south) and Walnut to Jefferson (east to west).

The data started taking shape on the map in real time. You can see the current version of the map, still in development, here.

A look a the customized Survey123 app. (Screenshot)

A look a the customized Survey123 app. (Screenshot)

Ken Grant, manager of public and government affairs at AAA, participated.

“This project is a great example of the community coming together to provide a real service to all who live, work, and visit the city of Wilmington,” Grant said. “In one day, a group of volunteers were able to collect useful information and learn about mapping.”

What did ODD learn from the data collection, and what can Wilmington do to improve parking? A few things came up:

1. Saturday parking

Most parking signs downtown tell you how long you can park and the hours it’s enforced, with the exception of Sunday, when you can park without paying the meter. Only it’s not just Sunday that’s the exception, it’s Saturday, too, according to theWilmington Code of Ordinances. Every Saturday. Many signs are misleading you into thinking you have to feed the meter when you don’t.

Wilmington parking code Sec. 37-263

Seriously, you don’t have to feed the meter on Saturday. (Screenshot)

2. Watch for anomalies

Some signs allow for only 15 or 30 minutes of parking, instead of the more standard two-hour maximum. Loading zones and childcare drop-offs can be some of the most confusing areas for parking.

3. Most of downtown Wilmington takes non-coin payment via the ParkMobile app

And most streets that don’t are meterless — but still have time limits unless you have a resident sticker. All metered areas still accept coins.

4. Even with the confusing signage and codes, street parking really isn’t too bad downtown

Like a lot of things, Wilmington gets a bad rap when it comes to parking. It doesn’t compare to the headache of large-city parking by a long shot. Now that we have ParkMobile and the nightmare of coin-only meters is over, the worst thing about downtown parking has more to do with unclear signage than finding a space (and, come the winter holidays, with Wilmington’s tradition of offering more free parking downtown, signage will only be more confusing).

The data from this work in progress will be available to use for other app developers and projects, but for now, it’s still in the alpha stage, with plans to add more info, cover missed areas and eventually add downtown parking garages.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Open Data Delaware, including the group’s monthly Code & Coffee and Newark Codes events, check out the ODD website.

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