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City and VPD Make it Easier to Find Crime, Public Art and Parking Meters Online

The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department have announced new or improved public data-sharing initiatives this week.

The City's announcement is related to their Open Data website, which allows people to access city data online. Currently, geospatial data, such as laneways, bikeways, graffiti locations, heritage properties, homeless shelters and public art installations, is offered, with other data coming later. Some datasets can be accessed directly on the web with either Google Maps or Bing Maps, while other data can be downloaded in various formats for offline use.

The project was first announced last September, with the second version -- with more data sets and easier access -- unveiled on January 20. It's a great improvement over the City's original VanMap site which was difficult to use and incompatible in various ways with different browsers and different operating systems.

parking meters in Vancouver

A City of Vancouver dataset in Google Maps.

The Open Data site, on the other hand, is a pleasure to use -- especially the datasets that are linked to Google and Bing. Just click on the Google or Bing icon and you quickly see (for example) all the pedestrian-activated traffic signals in Vancouver, school boundaries or parking meters. The site is still in beta, so expect more datasets and usability in the future. My only beef is that the City hasn't made it easy to find (perhaps because it is still in Beta?). From the City's home page I had to click on Maps, then VanMap and then a link halfway down the page. I'm sure there are other ways to access it, but the City needs to trumpet such a great resource more openly.

The other announcement came from the Vancouver Police Department, which is launching an email crime alert service next week. You can sign up for the alerts at http://www.vpdcrimealerts.ca/ and get alerts based on postal code (you're not limited to just one postal code, by the way.) The VPD also gives you the option of receiving weekly links to their crime maps. As the service hasn't started yet, I can't comment on the actual content.

I'm impressed. In the past month, TransLink, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department have all announced major new internet services or improvements. It's an interesting time to live in this city, and not just because of a certain sporting event taking place in a few weeks.

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