Open City

Starting Hamilton's Open Public Data Sets

By Joey Coleman
Published March 24, 2011

Open Hamilton is looking for information on the City of Hamilton website which can be converted into open public data.

The first two data sets are complete, thanks to the hard work of OH member Ryan McGreal and posted to the data repository on Raise The Hammer.

The first data set is a table of the locations of school crossing guards in the city. The City of Hamilton lists the locations in an HTML table on their website.

McGreal took this table and quickly converted the intersections into their geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) using a Python script. He made a data file of the information and plotted the locations using the Google Maps API.

The data can be downloaded in JSON or CSV format, and is now also available on the Open Government Data Initative repository. You can use OGDI to further analyze the information in Bar Graph View.

Using a similar technique, McGreal has also mapped the locations of Hamilton's recreation centres using another HTML table on the City website.

The map is available on Raise The Hammer and can be downloaded in JSON or CSV format.

These data sets represent the first layers in Open Hamilton's comprehensive City of Hamilton mashup map project: Hamilton Guide. The mashup map is inspired by VanGuide and will use all open data that includes geographical location data in the Hamilton area.

VanGuide allows users to select and layer data sets available in the Vancouver region. This information includes drinking fountain locations, bus stops, and parking lot information for a private parking company which publishes rates and locations in an open data format.

These are just some of the possibilities with open public data.

These two data sets were quick to create and not costly to produce. Opponents of open public data claim that making public data accessible this way will be costly and cause an "information overload." However, seeing crossing guard data displayed on a map is easier to understand that a large table listing the locations.

Open public data is the right thing for government to do and produces results.

this blog entry was first posted on the Open Hamilton website

Joey Coleman covers Hamilton Civic Affairs.

Read more of his work at The Public Record, or follow him on Twitter @JoeyColeman.


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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:44:06

Well, it's a start.

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By ThumbsUp (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:57:18

Glad this is starting to take shape. Nice Work, Ryan!

One minor glitch: There is at least 1 misplaced crossing guard on Beckett Drive (Queen Street Hill). By the looks of things there are several pins at that location. The 'top' one is the Woodward Ave./School data point, which also happens to be the last one listed in the CSV file.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:59:55

Good stuff guys, I look forward to the results of future work. I'd gladly pay to have people doing this stuff at city hall instead of paying for their lunches :)

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:51:17

it's gonna be pure anarchy in this city now with this info getting out...

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By Captain Poultry (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 14:44:44

I recently moved back to Hamilton and was searching for my closest community centre so that I could sign up for some programming. I was very frustrated at the process of having to do my own map search using the addresses listed on the city's webpage. Your map would have saved me considerable time and effort and was something I was expecting to find on the city's website in the first place. Well done and I look forward to your upcoming projects!

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 16:36:01 in reply to Comment 61473

Tell your councilor! They need to hear this.

Comment edited by z jones on 2011-03-24 16:36:11

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 16:46:06

Is it possible to add the school locations requiring supervision for both boards on the crossing guard map?

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By Nik Garkusha | OpenHalton (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 21:37:31

Awesome work, Ryan -- love the maps!!

I was in turn inspired by your work, and the lack of easy-to-use online tools for batch geocoding. I also really wanted to mash that up with Pedestrian Accident data that
Randy uploaded here:

With my rusty JavaScript skillz, I merged a few different pieces of code to make this Geocoder (Beta):

End result - map that mashes up the Street Crossing Guard info with Pedestrian Accident data:

Hopefully, others can use the tool to liberate the data & easily geocode it into new CSV (for OGDI) and/or KML for maps.


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By xx (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 22:25:45

Braeheid Ave and Guy Brown School, Hamilton, Ontario is showing wrong location, should be in Waterdown

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By xy (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2011 at 22:35:40

Isaac Brock and Pedestrian underpass is
43.192147, -79.788875

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted March 25, 2011 at 12:14:39

This rocks Ryan! Thanks for all your work on it. Now, would it be possible to tie comment options to the places you map? This would enable those of us without the skills to do the programming (like me sadly --- although I'd love to learn) to still contribute. For instance, I'd love to be able to add information like pool sizes, accurate schedules (which the City site lacks), etc., to the locations on the rec. centre map. Just an idea... P.S. As an aside, the LA Times have a great system for portraying local info geographically:

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By Nik Garkusha (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2011 at 14:03:14 in reply to Comment 61516


There are few projects, including one that my team worked on for City of Vancouver that do exactly that: VanGuide.

We're in the process of taking this Open Source project and making it city-agnostic, so that you can add different "views" for any city, like Hamilton.

Joey mentioned that VanGuide mashes up the data, but more importantly it enables citizens to tag, rate & comment the data.

Here's an "ALPHA" of the project -- updated for Hamilton feeds from OH/RT.

change the "perspective" to Open Hamilton on the left and then feel free to rate / comment / etc. and add your own landmarks

Nik |

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted March 25, 2011 at 16:08:51

Hey Ryan, I scraped the city data for property sales (mostly just to play around with the Google Maps API). Do you want this data? Is there a format you'd like it in?

Currently, I've just got a Ruby script that generates a Javascript array that I copy/paste into an HTML page.

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By Taxman (registered) | Posted March 28, 2011 at 19:51:55

Fantastic work Ryan!

I agree the Rec centre list needs to be updated to include facilities other than those "Indoor Gyms and Clubs" on the city's page. It should include pools, arenas, and other types of facilities.

It would be great if by clicking on one of the rec centres, it brought up a list of current and upcoming programs - things like free skate times, swimming lessons, etc.

Although I'm getting the sense that most of that data is not in a publicly available database, and would have to be manually updated everytime something changes. :-(

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By Momoko (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2011 at 12:18:06

Raise the Hammer is great :) Just came across it. I live/work in Toronto, but grew up outside of Westdale.

To both Joey/Ryan — have you heard of data journalist Pete Warden releasing an extremely-easy-to-use data-scraping toolkit last week? check it out:


Keep up the good work!


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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 01, 2011 at 09:46:48 in reply to Comment 61785

'sup Momo. Handy link.

-- Martin Z.

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