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Stats Government The Almighty Buck

How Open Government Data Saved New Yorkers Thousands On Parking Tickets 286

jfruh (300774) writes "Ben Wellington is a New Yorker and city planner with an interest in NYC Open Data, the city's online open government initiative. One thing he noticed in this vast dataset was that just two fire hydrants in the city generated tens of thousands of dollars a year in tickets. The sleuthing by which he figured out why is a great example of how open government data can help citizens in concrete ways."
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How Open Government Data Saved New Yorkers Thousands On Parking Tickets

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  • by AuralityKev ( 1356747 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @10:59AM (#47164311)
    No kidding - "Shut up before people realize we're SOAKING THEM!"
  • Bad coloring. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:05AM (#47164357)
    You could also paint your fire hydrants fire engine red or bright green so people would notice them instead of the blackish brown in street view. But seriously, if you have a hydrant on the sidewalk, you should have some sort of marking in the space saying its illegal rather than the standard markings.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:10AM (#47164409)

    Why is he left wondering why the DOT didn't analyze the parking ticket data? BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE TO. DOT and their associated fines act as the Executive, as opposed to the Legislative or Judicial Branches.

    It's trendy to consider society as a single organism in which everyone works for an optimal outcome, but the approach is flawed. The DOT is not in the business of analyzing which parking areas generate the most money, if anything, they should be in the business of optimizing the parking areas which make the LEAST money.

    +1 for geekiness and making the data accessible, but righteous indignation is really out of place and show a remarkable degree of insulation from the real world.

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:15AM (#47164461)

    I do find the whole fire hydrant thing in the US a bit odd - we have hydrant points here in the UK, but they are below ground with a small manhole cover over it, and are also positioned so they cannot be trivially blocked (either in the road, or on the pavement). We don't seem to have any major issues with inaccessibility, so why the US?

  • by bjackson1 ( 953136 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:18AM (#47164501)

    Here is my problem with contesting parking tickets. I once had a rental in Chicago (as I did not own a car at the time) that I had for a weekend. About a month later I got a parking ticket in the mail forwarded on from the car rental agency for parking in a no-parking zone. However, I never parked there, nor was in that part of the city. I am guessing the meter maid wrote down the wrong date or time on the citation as I was never there.

    However, I was presented with two choices: 1) Pay 75 dollar fine 2) Take a day of vacation time to go to the city and contest it on a Thursday.

    At the time, I made an after-tax rate of around 150 dollars per day. Even if I could do it in a half day, I am paying 75 dollars to possibly recoup 75 dollars. If I lost the argument, I paid 75 dollars to pay another 75 dollars. This is a real kobiyashi maru type situation for me, in which I just paid the ticket. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right, but it's the choice that makes the most sense.

    I've also got a parking ticket that I didn't feel was just for being parked in front of a fire hydrant. That time it was me driving, however, I had pulled over to the side of the road to use my phone as I was getting an important call. While I was on the phone, (with four way blinkers on) a police officer came up and asked me to move, which I did. Before asking me to move, they took a picture of my car and sent in the ticket. This was completely legal (I was 'parked' in front of the hydrant), but completely unjust to me. Again, it wasn't worth my time to try to contest it. It was legal but unjust (in my mind)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:33AM (#47164677)

    If the engine was on and you were in the vehicle, you weren't "parked," you were "standing." Most municipalities have different rules for "no parking" and "no standing" because if there was a real problem (e.g. the building caught fire and they needed the hydrant) you'd presumably notice and get the hell out of the way.

  • by ahabswhale ( 1189519 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:39AM (#47164741)

    Actually for all crimes, regardless of severity, plea bargains are the order of the day. The legal system couldn't come close to handling even 10% of the cases if they were to go to court.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:44AM (#47164767)

    The point of good governance is not to trick people into breaking the laws. Because if the law is fair it should be their for the public good. No parking next to a hydrant means that fire fighters can have quick access to it. Parking could delay the firefighting time, and cause far more damage then the fines would produce.
    So it is important that people follow the laws, and not just put things so we can just bring in revenue.

    As with any big data project. We just don't just store the data and magic happens. There are questions to try to figure out and answer. Having the public ask the questions means you get more out of the data.

  • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @01:00PM (#47165435)

    how is that even remotely fair? if you get charged with something, you have to pay a fee to even argue the merits of that accusation?????

  • by Agripa ( 139780 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @01:22PM (#47165651)

    It's fair because they say it is fair.

  • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @01:37PM (#47165823)
    Every New Yorker knows not to park in front of a fire hydrant. The question is raised by the practice of making a "protected" bicycle lane (on multilane streets) by changing the "parking" lane into a bicycle lane and changing the first traffic lane into a "parking" lane through painted indicators. It is not obvious that parking in the new parking lane is still considered parking in front of the hydrant. It makes practical sense that a hose would go across that space when needed, but it is is marked as parking and is no longer clearly adjacent to, or blocking access to, the hydrant.

    The purpose of that particular parking rule is fire safety (through access to the hydrants). There is no excuse for poor markings.

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