2012_Detroit End of Year Report


Published on


Published in: Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

2012_Detroit End of Year Report

  1. 1. APPROACHThe City of Detroit’s Mayor’s Officeapplied to Code for America with a focuson issues related to blight and vacantproperties. With an understanding thatDetroit has an active and effective base ofcitizen groups, we approached ourengagement with the municipalgovernment to ultimately support andbetter connect government with the workof community-based organizations. InFebruary, we performed a wide-rangingneeds-finding assessment, meeting withover 200 city government staff, communityleaders, nonprofits, technical assistanceproviders, local foundations andindividuals. In doing so, we gatheredinformation to narrow our scope to focuson access to information and increasingcommunity group capacity.KEY FINDINGSCity in CrisisThe City of Detroit has experiencedmassive budget cuts over the past decade,concentrated most extremely in the pastfew years. In our time working with the cityalone, the Mayor’s Office imposed a 10%pay reduction and laid off 1,000 cityemployees. We did not escape the impactof these cuts — in fact, we had planned towork with two alternate city contacts (laidoff the day before our arrival) prior tofinding our current champion, KarlaHenderson a Group Executive in theMayor’s Office. Beyond actual layoffs, weencountered a cultural climate whereproblems and fears were amplified: riskaversion, scarcity of resources, and ageneral attitude of skepticism toward threenewcomers who might be out to eitherreplace jobs, or re-design the systemwithout your job in it.The budget crisis has had its greatestnegative impact outside City Hall. Reliablegarbage pickup and bus service is scarce,recycling non-existent. Broken street lights,60,000 city-owned vacant properties, roadsin extreme disrepair, and the elimination ofin-person police force at any police stationplague this city’s quality of life andintroduce new barriers to basic personalsafety. Dwindling city services combinedwith a history of governmental corruptionhave established extreme distrust in civicinstitutions by most Detroiters, regardlessof background or race.Civic InnovationDespite the immense challenges Detroitfaces, no accurate summation of the Cityshould exclude the overwhelming energy,commitment and value derived fromcitizen-led groups and their actions. It iscritical to build upon and support theexisting efforts to improve the gaps wheregovernment is not meeting citizens’ needs,the connections between existing groupsdoing good work, and to better facilitaterepairing a broken relationship Detroit haswith its citizens.Vacancy and blightAt a basic level, many problems thatcommunity groups and city employees faceare connected to vacancy. The City ofDetroit currently owns a massive surplus ofvacant or abandoned property which oftencause many of the public safety and qualityof life issues that affect Detroit. Currently,it is not easy to understand how to buyproperty or even know where city-ownedproperty is for sale online.
  2. 2. PROJECTSOur defined project areas seek to directlyaddress our the three identified areas ofinterest:LocalData Increasing Capacity of CommunityGroups with DataWe built a mobile data collection platformthat is expanding to cities across thecountry. This tool has catalyzed andsupported the existing work of community-based organizations and residents’ ability tocapture and visualize neighborhood-leveldata, and to meaningfully engage with citygovernment.We piloted LocalData with a partnershipbetween the City of Detroit’s PlanningDepartment and Wayne State University todocument and map commercial propertiesin the city. A graduate planning classquickly surveyed over 9,000 properties injust six weeks. The group found the mobileinterface to significantly increased theircapacity to document information at a largescale.Our second pilot involved Vanguard CDC-- a smaller non-profit communitydevelopment organization whichcompleted a survey of residentialproperties. All told, volunteers collectedinformation on over 1,000 residentialparcels.Thanks to support from the Knight NewsChallenge, we will be bringing LocalData tofour other cities in addition to Detroit inthe coming year.LocalData continues to be an open sourceproject. Our code is on GitHub. Themobile app is built on HTML5, JavaScript,and Leaflet, and the backend uses Node.jsand PostGIS.http://golocaldata.orgTextMyBus Access to TransportationInformationWe partnered with the Department ofTransportation to create Detroit’s firstpublic transit API, and provide an easy-to-use, text-message app to get accurateinformation to riders.When we started in January, there was noway for citizens to track real-time busarrival and departure time in Detroit. Thisis a critical need for residents who rely onthe bus in Detroit. Harsh winters, darkstreets and long waiting times in dangerousareas create a serious public safety concern.Missing hours or days of work due to spotty
  3. 3. bus service costs individuals their jobs.Allowing citizens to have a heads-up onwhen they need to leave their house tocatch the bus has the potential to impactthousands of the most vulnerable citizensin Detroit with simple technology.The CfA Detroit team launched the TextMyBus service in September 1st -- the firstday of school in the City of Detroit. Inconjunction with Mayor Bing’s support ofthe federal Safe Routes to School initiative,we launched the service with the WhiteHouse Strong Cities, Strong Communities(SC2) representative Portia Roberson,Detroit’s Chief of Police, CEO of DetroitDepartment of Transportation and theleadership of the Detroit Public Schools.In addition to strong support across cityagencies, we were happy to deliver asuccessful service. Since launch, we haveprocessed over 140,000 inbound messagesfrom 7,700 unique users. Approximately 550people use the service daily, a number thatincreases every week.All told, TextMyBus received positive press,in contrast to the typically neutral-to-negative tone of Detroit transit-relatedarticles. We have begun to reshape publicopinion toward transportation networks inDetroit and ultimately have nudgedDDOT toward thinking about city serviceprovision in terms of user experience. Moresubstantially, DDOT was previously the2nd-largest agency in the US without opentransit data; now they have open transitdata that includes real-time data, puttingthem ahead of many agencies.Long-term SustainabilityPerhaps the most challenging aspect of thisproject was to ensure that the servicewould outlive our time in Detroit. The SC2representative was particularly central toour strategy to secure longer-term funding.Though Detroit generally and DDOTparticularly are experiencing devastatingeconomic circumstances, we weresuccessful in partnering with leadership toreallocate funds within an existing FTAgrant to dedicate necessary funds for thenext two years as part of $2 Million setaside for regional transit that didn’t reachdevelopment.Our StrategyOver the past six months we’ve workedhand-in-hand with the Mayor’s Office andDDOT to expose the internally-trackeddata. Although they have been regularlypublishing static schedule GTFS data, theyhad no external interface for real-timeinformation. In a landmark move, the Cityof Detroit opted to publish real-timetransit data, which is now available todevelopers to build on top of. We decidedto build a demonstration app on this data:the text messaging service riders use today.We also co-hosted an apps challenge calledApps for Detroit, calling on Detroit-basedweb developers to build innovative tools ontop of the city’s newly-opened datasets. Injust two weeks we received 15 submissions,three of which were transit-related apps.One of the challenge winners, DDOTInfo,developed a low-cost solar-powered screento display real-time arrival data at stops orlocal businesses built with Raspberry Picomputers.PartnersThis project was a success because we had abroad set of partners in the city and at thefederal level. We worked most closely withDDOT and the Mayor’s Office to open thetransit data. But this project would nothave happened without support from theWhite House’s SC2 Initiative, which wascritical to negotiating a budget with the
  4. 4. Federal Transit Administration to make thisproject and other transit improvementspossible at DDOT. We additionallypartnered with the Detroit PoliceDepartment as well as the Detroit PublicSchool system around the launch to get theword out. Detroit’s most vulnerablepopulations are often those who rely moston the bus system. In support of the SafeRoutes to School initiative, we distributedinformation and hosted students to try outthe new service on their first day of school.TechnologyWe’ve exposed the scheduled and live data(routes, stops, arrivals, etc.) through theOneBusAway interface. Developers can usethat to build phone apps, live maps, livesignage, or whatever else they think of. Weuse the exact same interface to build thetext messaging service, which is our way ofquickly reaching a broad set of riders.Providing the live data in a usable way helpsensure that the experience can becomericher in the future without a reliance onany one organization to develop newtechnology. We successfully achievedsupport from executive governance topublish this data, and as a result, twoentries for the Apps for Detroit Challengemade use of the underlying transit data APIthat we set up! These innovative takesleveraged previously unavailable data. Theuse of existing, open source software alsogarnered national attention for Detroit’scivic technology movement.http://textmybus.comSide Lot Program City-owned PropertySales & InformationThe City of Detroit currently faces amassive surplus of publicly-owned property.Currently, it is not easy to understand howto buy property or even know where city-owned property is for sale online. Byexploring digital solutions with the City’sPlanning and Development Department,we are working toward a more transparent,streamlined and friendly customerexperience for city residents and city staff.http://hampelm.github.com/sidelots/Apps for Detroit Connecting webdevelopment community to the CityWe launched a two-week app challenge fordevelopers in the Detroit area. As part ofour mission to connect community groupsand technologists, we invited localnonprofits to submit challenges. We pairedover two dozen challenges with five newdatasets from the city -- including real-timebus tracking information. Judges from localmedia institutions, nonprofits, and the Cityare reviewing entries for their focus onlocal issues and technical achievements.Grand prize winners were flown to SanFrancisco to represent the Detroit techscene to technology and civic leaders.http://appsfordetroit.org
  5. 5. Brigade Engaging civic energy aroundtechnology and open dataWe’re supporting local civic hackers andtechnologists. A leader of CfA Brigade inDetroit has stepped forward and alreadyhelping to bridge the gap betweencommunity, technology, and cities.http://brigade.codeforamerica.org/)PARTNERSAcknowledging the existing channels oftrust and effectivity in Detroit’s sociallandscape, we focused our efforts onworking with both public and privatepartners to carry out project development.GovernmentMayor’s OfficePlanning and Development DepartmentCity Planning CommissionDetroit Department of TransportationBuildings, Safety Engineering &Environmental DivisionMedia & TechnologyWDETDetroit Free PressHuffington PostOmnicorp DetroitLoveland TechnologyDetroit Venture Partners / M@adisonBuildingTechtownAcademicWayne State UniversityUniversity of MichiganNon-ProfitMichigan Community ResourcesData Driven DetroitVanguard CDCTop:At the 2012A#ied Media ConferenceBottom: Karla Henderson, City of Detroit, andVince Keenan, publius.org
  6. 6. EVENTSOur team has held several successfulcommunity-building and informationsharing events with local partners. Here’s asnapshot of each of the events:Urban Geek Drinks MeetupFebruary 2012As our first introduction to Detroit, weheld a very successful mixer to gatheremployees from City Hall, localtechnologists and anyone interested inurbanism to learn about the mission ofCode for America, meet and greet theDetroit fellows and ultimately meet eachother in an informal setting. Hosting thisevent with Jerry Paffendorf (LovelandTechnologies) who is both an ex-Bay Areatechnologist and a leader in communityorganizing and the arts in Detroit allowedus to interface with over 75 individuals,including representatives from the Mayor’sOffice, the City Council President CharlesPugh, Department of Planning andDevelopment, Ford Motors, the DetroitDepartment of Transportation and manyothers.Property and Technology WorkshopFebruary 2012We invited dozens of experts on vacantproperty, technology, communityorganizing, and data to talk about theintersection of property and informationtechnology. Representatives from localnonprofits lead breakout discussions onpublic data, housing speculation, and theapplication of technology in Detroit tosolve these issues.Prashant Singh, Code forAmerica, and NaomiPatton, City of DetroitJim Xiao, of Detroit Venture Partners atProperty and Technology Workshop
  7. 7. Apps for Detroit Challenge KickoffJune 2012At the Apps for Detroit kickoff, wepresented challenges from nonprofit tolocal developers, activists, and Cityrepresentatives. Over 75 communitymembers attended our event at Signal-Return Press, a new storefront forprintmaking funded in part by the KnightFoundation.Allied Media ConferenceJune 2012We attended the Allied Media Conference,a gathering of hundreds of organizers, to“share tools and tactics for transformingour communities through media-basedorganizing” hosted annually Detroit. Wepresented on the Civic Hacking for SelfGovernance panel, hosted a Code forAmerica table in the exhibition area, andconnected with civic media experts fromDetroit and around the nation. Web developers at Signal-Return Press for theApps for Detroit kick-off
  8. 8. Code forAmerica Team Detroit with KnightFoundation’s Rishi Jaitly and Mayor Dave Bing