With a nice snowstorm underway in Ottawa on this Friday the 13th, it seems timely to have a look at the state of the art in online snow information.
Chicago got a pre-launch writeup of its "snow portal" in the Economist - Winter strikes Chicago: Shovel ready. UPDATE 2012-01-14: And a launch writeup in the New York Times: Snow Site Lets Chicago See if Plows Are Really in a Rut. ENDUPDATE
The site has now launched, with the simple URL http://chicagoshovels.org/
It includes realtime GPS positions for snowplows on a map, as well as the ability to "adopt" a sidewalk for shoveling (sharing your adoption over social media) and to volunteer to shovel snow.
I was unable, however, to find any plow-specific datasets in the Chicago Data Portal (there are datasets about snow route & winter parking restrictions, as well as snow alerts).
Ottawa is a pretty snowy city too, although so far we're not close to our near-record 432 cm of snow received in 2008. (Yes, 4.32 metres of snow.)
Ottawa also has GPS-equipped plows. What would you like to see in an Ottawa "snow portal"? I'm not sure live positions of snowplows on a map is the most useful, although it's great as a demo.
- Snow & accident & quality based directions. "I want to get from X to Y, what routes are available for walking / driving / cycling that are cleared and safe, how recently were they cleared and when will they next be cleared? What do conditions look like? How busy / slow are they?"
This could use e.g. data and images from Ottawa's existing sensors, traffic cameras & incidents reports, and crowdsourced condition reports from ottawabikingproblems.ca and ottawawalkingproblems.ca
- Since the snow & ice are not just problems, they're also recreational opportunities, you could expand this to include e.g. sledding hills, canal & outdoor rinks (including the Rink of Dreams) skating conditions, cross-country trails, ski hill conditions etc.
A few resources that are already available:
- NCC - Rideau Canal skating conditions
- Ottawa Open Data Portal - Cycling network
- Ottawa Open Data Portal - Outdoor rinks (2009)
- Ottawa Open Data Portal - Sledding hills (2010)
I'd like to hear your ideas, or if you prefer Facebook, Open Data Ottawa has also asked this question.
Since snow is common across Canada and the northern US (as well as in northern Europe), is this something that the Civic Commons or the Canadian G4 group of cities could work on?
I also wonder about where we could get more data. Now that we have "smart" parking meters with wireless payment capabilities, could every parking meter also be a local realtime weather sensor?