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Cities learn to run better on data: New York, New Orleans, Baltimore

Cities learn on run more efficiently on analytics, and the nation's busiest transit agency opens up its data to third-party developers.

City governments and mass transit agencies are perpetually caught in a fiscal vice, attempting to keep taxes reasonable on one side to sustain economic development, while keeping the flow of services going on the other. Here's where open data and analytics is providing some help, as demonstrated in some of the nation's largest cities.

In a couple of new pieces in American City, Christian Madera describes how city governments and transit authorities are turning to open data and analytics to improve services and cut costs.

As Madera explains, the concept of data-driven city government is showing great promise. For example, the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, recently announced plans to deploy a new data-driven performance management and accountability system modeled off of Balitmore's CitiStat program.

Baltimore's CitiStat is a management strategy that regularly pulls together city officials to review data and performance metrics. The program is modeled on New York's CompStat, the system created to track high-crime zones throughout the city to better allocate police resources.  CitiStat expands this data-driven thinking to all agencies and functions across the city.

Madera describes how the system works:

"While programs like CitiStat aren’t technologies themselves, they rely on large amounts of data collection and near- or real-time analysis (hence the “Stat” part). Using traditional and geographic information systems, staff can generate a snapshot of the city’s performance in different service areas (such as public safety or sanitation).  In cases where the city is performing poorly, municipal managers can be held accountable for developing and implementing a plan to make things right – reporting on their progress at the next meeting. Constant measuring, feedback, and adjustments are the name of the game. The outcome, proponents argue, is more efficient, results-oriented government."

In another data twist to improving city services, Madera describes how New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority has opened up its scheduling data to third-party developers in hopes of encouraging the creation of third-party apps and services such as real-time bus and train locators. As Madera describes it:

"The first big step came earlier this year, when the agency began publishing its scheduling data on its newly revamped website.  The release of the data, and its integration into Google Transit, helped to coalesce a group of developers-slash-transit geeks interested in creating services such as real-time bus and train locators and signs – technologies that have deployed in other cities either by transit agencies themselves, or increasingly by tech-savvy riders."

MTA has even gone so far as actually sit down and meet with potential developers, while also announcing the release of additional data such as turnstile and bridges and tunnel data, elevator/escalator status updates, and other performance measures.

Now these are important steps to smart cities and smart transportation.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com