The City of Hamilton has just published a comprehensive map and listing of city-owned properties.
By Ryan McGreal
Published April 14, 2011
this article has been updated
As an early contribution to the goal of open public data, the City of Hamilton has just published a comprehensive map and listing of city-owned properties:
The map application is a Java applet that runs in the browser. It allows you to overlay a Hamilton map with a number of points of interest, including bus routes, water and sewer mains, buildings, parking lots, and ward boundaries.
Access to the map requires you to acknowledge that you have read and agree with the following disclaimer:
For your convenience, we are providing information about Construction Projects in the City of Hamilton. We will do our best to ensure you have the most accurate and reliable information. However, the City assumes no responsibility for any errors and is not liable for any damages of any kind resulting from the use of, or reliance on, the information contained herein. Due to a number of variables, information is subject to change as the Construction Project progresses. Dollar figures are based on the budgeted amount approved by City Council.
I was able to get it to run in the Firefox 3.6 and Chrome 11.0.696.43 beta browsers running on Ubuntu 10.10. I was not able to get it to run in any browser on Windows XP, even after updating the version of Java I was running.
This is one of the problems with using proprietary technologies like Java applets, which require users to have the correct runtime installed and which transmit the data in a binary format.
Another issue is that it is usually impossible to extract the data from a Java applet in a usable format. However, the City has provided the line-by-line city property data in Microsoft Excel format.
This is also a proprietary format, but the free-and-open-source OpenOffice productivity suite is able to open and access XLS files.
Debbie Spence, Communications Officer with the Planning and Economic Develompent General Manager's Office, notes that this data set is still a work in progress.
Please note that some of this information may not be complete in all fields (i.e. category - parks and open space, cemetery etc. in the Excel spreadsheet) and other data may not be up-to-date.
She adds that the city is in the process of creating a single, comprehensive Zoning By-Law for the entire city and that this process means some zoning rules for particular land use types may still be harmonized.
This is an important early step from the City in support of an open public data policy and an encouraging demonstration of good faith from the Planning and Economic Development Department, whose senior management recognize that open data should be embraced rather than feared.
City Manager Chris Murray has already issued an information update to Council explaining and supporting the concept of open public data. As well, the City's Legal and Information Services departments have acknowledged that the City is moving forward with an initiative to modernize the City's approach to data licencing.
Staff have already worked with Raise the Hammer to create an accurate map of crossing guard locations across the city, and have expressed interest in collaborating with the Open Hamilton citizens' group.
We can expect still greater public value as the City and the community continue to increase their understanding of the potential benefits of a commitment to open public data and community engagement.
Update: The city owned building data is now available in the RTH Data store in HTML, JSON and CSV format. You can jump to the changed paragraph.