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Naming Edmonton: A Method for Classifying Edmonton Place Names

Matthew Dance

Update

We have geo-coded all of the names in the dataset! Thank-you to those who have contributed time and effort to make that happen!

Background

One of my desired outcomes in the Naming Edmonton Project is to classify all of Edmonton's place names based on origin (i.e. where did the name come from) and gender (if applicable). My hypothesis is that the vast majority of Edmonton's place names are British and if gendered, are male. I'd like to test that hypothesis and quantify the numbers; (1) the percentage of place names from the UK as compared to other locations, and; (2) the number of places that are named with a person's name, and the gender of that name.

But to test this hypothesis, I need a Naming Edmonton dataset that has been classified. And this is where you come in. I have developed the following method for name classification after consulting some naming literature and talking with Alberta's Geographical Names Program and an urban geography professor at the University of Alberta (Dr. Damian Collins). The intent of this method is to be rigorous so that we can create a defensible dataset.

What to do?

The Classifications

The place name is to be classified into 3 categories:

1. Name Origin (from Alberta Geographical Names Program):

Name Origins can be one of these:

Commemorative (A name, such as Alexander Thiele Park; or a feature such as a Castle in Castle Downs)

Land Feature

Botanical (i.e. Wolf Willow or Aldergrove)

Royal (Kingsway, Queen Alexander, Alberta)

Other or Unknown

The name origins are usually found in the description of the place, for instance, "Alexander Harold Thiele (1920-1981) was an Edmonton lawyer ...". 

2. Cultural Affiliation: Where did the feature or name from 1. above come from? This is the complicated part. I address how to check for cultural affiliation in the method below.

3. Gender: Gender can be defined as Male, Male and Female, Female or N/A. I describe how to assess this in the method below.

The Method (I have an example below)

1. You will need spreadsheet software to work on this - Excel, Numbers, etc. 

Please download a 'letter' from here - be sure to check the comments below to make sure you are not duplicating someone else's work (I have removed all data from these spreadsheets except the place name and description- don't worry, the geocoding has been saved). Please leave a comment below that you have downloaded and are working on that letter as we don't need to duplicate the effort.

2. Have a look in the description. Please look for clues or an explicit statement as to the name origin. Fill out the Name Origins column based on the details found in the description. Please also correct any spelling mistakes.

3. Look up the Edmonton place name in the Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names (here). Not all names can be found here, and if not Google the name such as 'Thiele Surname Origins', or ' Thiele Surname Origins Wiki'. From that determine where the name originated and fill in the 'Cultural Affiliation' column. For instance, the surname of Thiele is German, so the 'Cultural Affiliation' is German.

4. If it's a botanical or land feature name (i.e. Forest Heights or Wolf Willow), not found in the Oxford, attribute it to Canada - local flora, fauna, or land feature. 

5. If it is a FNMI name that has been transliterated to English, such as Blue Quill, indicate the 'Cultural Affiliation' as FN. 

6. Google it to see if there are any hits. For instance, Quesnel - I thought was a FNMI name is actually the name of a French explorer born in Montreal, after his father (Joseph) who was born in France. 'Cultural Affiliation' would then be French.

7. Finally, if the named place is a proper person's name, document the 'Gender' in the appropriate column. For the gender, please indicate one of the following: Male; Female; Male and Female; Not Applicable (N/A).

8. Save your work and email the document to me - matt@matthewdance.ca.

Please don't worry that you will make a mistake, just highlight the problem name and leave a note describing the problem in an adjacent cell. I will be double checking all of the data input to the spreadsheet. Thank you!

Sample

Sample of the naming method.

Sample of the naming method.

 

 

Web mapping tools - from beginner to advanced.

Matthew Dance

How do you make a web map?  

This post comprises a list of my mapping tools beyond those discussed in the Naming Edmonton events. For some more detail on the geographic concepts relative to map making, please see mapschool.

Data Sources

Open Data (definition)- Open data forms the basis for most of my base map data, my goto data portals are:

I mix and match the data found in these portals to try and make maps and do analysis that provide insight into questions of urban form and geography. When combined with one or more of the following GIS tools (GIS definition), open data can provide some pretty cool insight.

Desktop GIS

Cartographica - I mainly use Cartographica as a desktop geocoder and quick & dirty data viz tool.  I love how simple it is to dump data into the view window, and how quick it renders large data sets.  It is a light and easy way to quickly get a sense of a dataset, plus it has a 'live' map feed of OpenStreetMap or Bing. It can import or export to KML, and complete some lightweight data analysis like heat maps. Unfortunately, you have to purchase this software. 

 QGIS - Where Cartographica is light and costs, QGIS is robust and free.  It is a full GIS on your desktop, and because I run an iMac, the easiest way to do spatial analysis without loading a Windows VM for ArcGIS (and much cheaper too, as in free).  I love QGIS, but it requires a set of skills comparable to those used in ArcGIS and will require some effort to learn.  

Web Based GIS

MapBox - MapBox provides three services that I find vital - (1) web hosting, (2) base maps that can be styled, and (3) MapBox Studio which allows the user to build beautiful custom maps with imported data. Also, MapBox provides some great satellite imagery as a base map, and an awesome blog on what is new in mapping. It is more complicated to learn than CartoDB, but provides greater flexibility once you acquire the skills.

CartoDB - Perhaps the most straightforward web tool to use, CartoDB allows the user to simply import data, view the table or map, and then style the data. Many layers can be added, and simple analysis / visualizations can also be run. There are also a selection of base maps to choose from. I love how CartoDB makes temporal data come alive.  Check out this map of '7 Years of Tornado Data', and how you can almost pick out the season by the amount of tornado activity.  

Additional resources: 

This is not a complete list - in fact it is barely a list.  Please add a comment to point out what I am missing.

  • Code Academy - A free on-line coding tutorial that is interactive and problem based.  They offer tutorials for JavaScript, HTML, PHP and help you learn how to build web projects.  Very cool and free.
  • GitHub Learn GeoJson - GitHub is a place where programmers, especially those working on the OSS space, keep their code for others to download, use and improve upon. This is made by Lyzi Diamond.
  • Maptime! - An awesome list of mapping resources by Alan  McConchie (@almccon) and Matthew McKenna (@mpmckenna8).
  • Spatial Analysis On-line - As I try to remember my GIS courses, this is the on-line text that I reference to help me understand the analysis I want to run.
  • Mapschool - Tom MacWright wrote this as a crash course in mapping for developers.

Colour and Maps

Because maps should be beautiful, I use these colour palette websites to make them easy to read and colourful:

Finally, NASA has a great 6 part series on colour theory called the "Subtleties of Color".

Naming is Colonialism

Matthew Dance

Take a look at a map of Edmonton. A close look, here or Google Maps would also do, here.

What do you notice? Roads? Maybe the map colours? Or perhaps the neighbourhoods? There's the river; and my house is around here (I always look for my house, or the house I grew up in). 

Sure. 

Look again at the names. 

Windermere. Keswick. Ambleside. Empire Park. I could go on (and on). 

In fact, of the 1300 or so  named places in Edmonton, the vast majority of them represent the names of places, or people, from the United Kingdom or Western Europe. Of those 1300 or so names, less than 130 represent the First Nations or Metis peoples who currently here or who lived here prior to Edmonton being "discovered" in 1754 by Anthony Hendey. Less than 130; that is about 10% of Edmonton's named places represent FNM peoples, and most of those FNM names are not culturally or geographically significant.

[Place names]…play an important cultural role by identifying our societal values and by serving as a medium to commemorate people and events. 
                    Government of Alberta Geographic Names Manuel (2012)

As Berg and Kearns (1996) state, “…naming places reinforces claims of national ownership, state power, and masculine control” and as such act as an explicit tool of repression. If you want to claim the narrative of a colonized place, name it after your places and people from where you came.

If we were to peer under this veneer of Britain, to peel back the thin layers of Monarchs and the Lake District, we would find a deep and yet largely unknown (to settlers) FNM history including a vast web of named places. What is it that prevents settlers from knowing this past? What does that fact say about the relationship between FNM peoples and Settlers?

Edmonton and its surrounds have been in use for at least 8000 years. Area archaeological sites date back to 6000 BC. To put that into perspective, if Settlers have been here for 2.6mm (remember that Edmonton was discovered in 1754), First Nations people have been occupying and using Edmonton for 8cm.

That is a thin veneer of Britain indeed.

Edmonton has been occupied for over 8000 years by First Nations people, and yet the vast majority of Edmonton place names are drawn from a thin veneer of settler occupation of the last 262 years.

Edmonton has been occupied for over 8000 years by First Nations people, and yet the vast majority of Edmonton place names are drawn from a thin veneer of settler occupation of the last 262 years.

Mental Maps

A mental map is an 'inner eye' representation of how we think of a place. Mental maps reflect the deep and nuanced understanding of place (those locations that are important to us) that each and every one of us posses, and Edmonton has millions of mental maps representing millions peoples thoughts on place. 

The one pictured below is from my MA research.  This image was captured from a 45 minute video of a person (an 'informant') drawing their mental map of Goldbar. The informant also discussed, in great detail, all of the features that were being drawn, and the memories each one invoked. The following quote is a short excerpt (from over 10 typed pages of description) of his memories of this place.

A mental map of Gold Bar (Dance, 2012).

A mental map of Gold Bar (Dance, 2012).

There was a path in the woods there, and we call that Moonies run because our teacher, Mr. Moonie, lived right there. My friend played guitar and I played guitar, and we used to take our amps, carry our amps across back and forth across the river. At this point here right in the middle of the bridge was we deemed that as perfectly half way, so we would say, ‘Okay, I’ll meet you on the bridge’. But yeah, I spent a lot of time down there, in Gold Bar.

Place

A place is comprised of its physical characteristics, the activities that occur there, and the meanings derived through interactions between users, their activities, and those characteristics (Dance, 2012). Places define how we see and use an urban area. Places are those locations that offer vibrancy and connection within a city, and focus our desire to live in a specific location.

And a place name is nothing more than short hand for all those nuanced layers of meaning. Place names are important, and Edmonton does not adequately recognize those people who have called this place home for 8000 years. In fact, the continued lack of formal process that acknowledge FNM place names in Edmonton is colonialism.  For a city in Reconciliation I would expect policy supporting the naming of Edmonton's places for historic FNM places names.

It's almost as though we Settlers are trying to deny a history.

Policy

The Naming Committee policy (specifically, Policy C509B) states that the purpose of the Naming Committee is to:

  1. Establish naming criteria;
  2. Establish principles for the naming of development areas, parks, municipal facilities, roads, and honorary roads, and, if requested by the City Manager, components of municipal facilities;
  3. Establish principles to recognize former Mayors; and
  4. Establish principles to recognize former Councillors.

 
Furthermore, The Naming Committee Bylaw 17138 [PDF] stipulates that 'The Naming Committee will establish and maintain The Names Reserve list.' and that City Council can appoint members.

While it is necessary to recognize former Mayors and City Councillors, it is even more important to recognize first peoples. That will not occur in a meaningful way until it is reflected in policy.

Reconciliation?

Current City of Edmonton place naming practice (supported by policy) is colonial in that settlers are imposing British names on an already named landscape: 

  1. Current place names are overwhelmingly British in origin;
  2. Policy supports the naming of places after council members and the Mayer, yet doesn't explicitly support historic or cultural FN place names;
  3. The Naming Committee is empowered to establish a reserve name list, yet there is no policy direction for the Naming Committee to research FN place names that are historic and culturally relevant.

If Edmonton is serious about reconciliation should that not be reflected in policy? If we are serious about reconciliation, should we not demand that it be reflected in City policies?

If we were to address these process shortcomings, naming Edmonton could be an act of reconciliation.

Naming Edmonton Project Update

Matthew Dance

The 'A' to 'Z' of Edmonton's names.

The 'A' to 'Z' of Edmonton's names.

I cannot believe the uptake that this project received from Edmonton's open data community. I had several people step forward and offer to help including Catherine SzaboMack Male and Aaron Budnick.  Despite this enthusiastic response, though, I am going to defer the start of this project until early March for one very good and exciting reason: The Edmonton Public Library has asked that we partner and make Naming Edmonton a community project. Great, right? But what does it mean? 

While we have not discussed the details as of yet, I can say that Naming Edmonton will be featured on Open Data Day, and from this I can also imagine a much higher profile and thus greater citizen take up and engagement.  

Citizen involvement is important to the project's success for a bunch of reasons:

  • Technical support - we could sure use some help migrating a lot of word files to excel;
  • Defining a work plan. I know it's boring, but having a plan to get from Ada to Zoie would be helpful in knowing what to do;
  • Thoughts on what the name data could be used for, this will help define some additional columns that we could crowdsource, and; 
  • Naming Edmonton will need a huge number of people willing to populate the empty spreadsheet - in effect filling up the 10000 cells that will complete the dataset.  

It's an ambitious project, and will require a large crowd from which to source data, but I think with the right plan and exposure we can do it.  

What do you think? Let me know. 

Alberta Avenue

Matthew Dance

The image above was taken by Mack Male and can be found on Flickr.  The idea for this bloig post came from a comment that R90S made. I will follow-up with more comments in the coming weeks.

Introduction

This post will draw heavily from the City of Edmonton's Alberta Avenue Neighbourhood Housing Profile (2014). A PDF download of that document can be found here. Please note that all conclusions drawn from the data presented are mine, and not the City of Edmonton's.

The purpose of this report was to:

...allow stakeholders and the City of Edmonton to identify specific housing policies, programs and pilot projects with strong potential for improving neighbourhood housing conditions in five inner city neighbourhoods: Alberta Avenue, Central McDougall, Eastwood, McCauley and Queen Mary Park. (Page 4)  

Furthermore, the report states that:

...the neighbourhood is transitioning from a typical “inner city” to again become a desirable place to live and raise children. Housing is more affordable here than in most of Edmonton and more families are moving here. Revitalization efforts, coming from the community, arts groups and the City, are making neighbourhoods such as Alberta Avenue more attractive to families. (Page 6)

Income 

The data presented below can be found on on pages 19-20 of the report. 

Alberta Avenue average household income grew by 64.4% from 2001 to 2011 and is $60825/year (2011). Edmonton's average household income in 2011 is $90340.

The household income ranges are as follows:

  • 29.6% earned less than $30000 in 2011, down 50.5% from 2001.
  • 27.3% earned between $30 & $60000 in 2011, down from 30.1% in 2001
  • 43% earned more than $60000 in 2011, up from 19.4% in 2001
  • According to Stats Canada after-tax low-income measure, 18.7% of Alberta Avenue residents are considered low-income.

Housing

Housing data for Alberta Avenue can be found on pages 24-27 of the report.

From 2001 to 2011, the average monthly rent has increased $353 to $887 per month. The average resale price for a house in Alberta Avenue increased $104 410 from 2005 to 2013. In 2013 the resale price is $225 188. The average duplex sells (in 2013) for almost $293 000, up 86.2% from $157167 in 2005. There are, as of 2010, 274 non-market affordable housing units, representing 6.1% of Alberta Avenues units.

Affordability of Housing, from Alberta Avenue Neighbourhood Housing Profile (2014), page 29.

Affordability of Housing, from Alberta Avenue Neighbourhood Housing Profile (2014), page 29.

Households earning minimum wage ($9.95/hr or $20,696/year), or collecting social assistance such as Alberta Works ($323/month core shelter payment for private housing) would not be able to afford the average rent or resale house price for this neighbourhood. (Page 29).

Summary and Conclusions

In the period from 2001 to 2011, the number of households earning over $60K in the neighbourhood of Alberta Avenue increased by about 24%, while at the same time, those earning less then $30K decreased by 50%.

Also from 2001 to 2011, rent has increased 60% and the resale price for the average house has gone up 86.4% and for a duplex, 86.2%.

By these metrics it seems that lower income people are being displaced by wealthier Edmontonians in (on?) the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood. This is in line with the conclusions of the report, and with the language used to describe the changes occurring in Alberta AvenueI. Further more, specific language such as "...transitioning from a typical “inner city” to again become a desirable place to live and raise children (page 4)"  imply that gentrification is not only occurring, but that is is a desirable outcome.

While gentrification may be inevitable, there are both positive and negative outcomes.

Positives and Negatives of Gentrification, from Atkinson and Bridge, eds., Gentrification in a Global Context: the New Urban Colonialism, p5. 2005 Routledge. This book can be found on Google Books.

The tension between the positives and negatives of gentrification will be explored further. 

PLEASE NOTE: I am looking for specific policy options that Canadian cities have in place that curb or support gentrification. Please drop me a note or leave a comment with a link if you have any insight into this. Thank you!

 

 

 

Naming Edmonton: From A to Z

Matthew Dance

Dear Edmonton (and the World),

I need your help; I would love some project collaborators with technical skills.

A number of years ago I happened upon a copy of Naming Edmonton: From Ada to Zoie by the City of Edmonton and published by the University of Alberta press. I was intrigued by this old type of document, a gazetteer that provides lengthy descriptions of Edmonton's places, including the origins of the name and their geographic location within Edmonton.

But the book also provided insight into Edmonton's lost names. Who remembers the Rat Hole, the tunnel under the CP rail line on 109 Street at about 104th Avenue? Or Namao Avenue, now 97 Street?

This book provided a glimpse into our past, and documents how Edmonton's names came to be - those in use now, and those no longer in use and at risk of being lost. As a physical document, it is in many ways as dated as the notion of a gazetteer, something to be held and admired as if it's an antique from the 18th Century. 

Except that it's not an antique, or even physical as I have an electronic copy of the book, and permission from the publisher to transform this collection of Word docs into an open data set similar to the Aboriginal Edmonton dataset. Aboriginal Edmonton was a small scale collaboration between me, the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Archives. We were able to take this small dataset (about 187 lines in Excel) and transform it from a collection of Word documents into a table that included coordinates, name origins and name description. These data, pictured in part above, can be found in the City of Edmonton's open data catalogue

I think it would be valuable to transform the Naming Edmonton dataset in the same way - but, I need your help. For this project to work, the Word files that contain about 10 000 names have to be transformed into structured Excel files that will allow a group of people to add pertinent data, such as coordinates, and to verify existing data. So, the first step is to, somehow, computationally transform and structure the data.

If you have any ideas, and want to help, please get in touch either through this blog, on Twitter of via email.

Thanks,

Matt

Riverdale

Matthew Dance

Header photo by Randall (taken in 1991) from Flickr.

Introduction

The intent of this case study of Riverdale is twofold - to investigate how likely it is that Riverdale is being gentrified through an examination of a variety of data including income, ownership & rental rates, length of residence and building permits; and to test out my method of examination given the data that I have on hand.

Riverdale is a wealthy community with 44% of households earning over $100 000. A further 21% of households earn over $80 000, and 25% of households earn less than $50 000 per year. These data are form 2010 and are found in Riverdale's Demographic Profile produced by the City of Edmonton. All other data reported in the post are from the City of Edmonton's open data catalogue

Ownership and Rental Rates

Figure 1: Riverdale ownership rates as a percent of total housing for a variety of housing types. 

Figure 1: Riverdale ownership rates as a percent of total housing for a variety of housing types. 

From 2009 - 2014 the total number of housing units increased from 940 to 965. The number of single detached houses increased by 14, row houses by 51, and apartment units by 18. Duplex/triplex/fourplex decreased by 58. These numbers seem to indicate that the land occupied 'plex' units were used to build single family homes and row/apartments. 

While I have rental and owner data for 2009, 2012 and 2014, the rate of 'no response' for the 2014 data ranges from 23 - 28% for single-detached, 'plex',and apartments. Row houses stand at a 'no response' rate of 5%. I will, therefore, not consider the 2014 data. 

Figure 2: Riverdale rental rates as a percent of total housing for a variety of housing types.

Figure 2: Riverdale rental rates as a percent of total housing for a variety of housing types.

Between 2009 - 2012 ownership rates in Riverdale have decreased for most housing types (please see Figure 1), but most precipitously for row houses which saw an ownership decrease of just under 80% (from 84% in 2009 to 15% in 2012); apartments (1-4 stories and over 5) decreased by 9%. Ownership of single detached houses increased by just over 5%, and 'plex' ownership increased by 24%.

Rental rates for the same time period, 2009 - 2012 (Figure 2), decreased for single family homes (7%) and 'plex' buildings (24%). Rental rates increased for row houses by almost 70%, and by 7% for apartments (1-4 stores, and 5+). 

Building Permits

The building permit data spans from 2009-2015 (see Figure 4: Summary Table of Riverdale Building Permit Data). The vast majority of build permits were issued for building new single family houses - 37 were demolished to 45 builds indicating that there were 8 new houses built on land not perviously occupied by a structure. The 45 builds represents 4.5% of the 965 residences in Riverdale, and cost almost $15 million to construct. Detached garages were big, with 47 detached garages being constructed valued at $342 000; most of these garages were built in conjunction with a new house. 11 new semi-detached houses were built costing a total of $4.7 million.

In contrast, the new 'lower value' dwellings - apartments, duplex's and row houses - were not constructed at all, and only showed a very modest number of interior or exterior alterations (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Summary Table of Riverdale Building Permit Data. Although Decks and Garages have been pulled to show their value as a group, each deck and garage is associated with a house, and they are not stand alone buildings.

Figure 4: Summary Table of Riverdale Building Permit Data. Although Decks and Garages have been pulled to show their value as a group, each deck and garage is associated with a house, and they are not stand alone buildings.

Demographics

From 2009 to 2014 the demographics of Riverdale have shifted. Specifically, there was increase in the number of men and women in the 60 to 80 year old cohorts (135 people), the 35 - 39 (19 people) year old cohort and 0 - 4 year old cohort (9 children). All other cohorts saw a decline for a total of 259 people. The 2009 census had a no response rate of just under 10%, while the 2014 census had a no response rate of close to 15%.

Figure 5: 2009 and 2014 demographic data for Riverdale. NOTE, the scale bars on the bottom of each graph are slightly off. From www.data.edmonton.ca.

Figure 5: 2009 and 2014 demographic data for Riverdale. NOTE, the scale bars on the bottom of each graph are slightly off. From www.data.edmonton.ca.

Conclusions

In summary, ownership rates are down for all housing types except single family homes and 'plex' homes. Similarly, rental rates are up for all housing types, except 'plex' and single family homes. The most striking change is in row housing which saw a decrease in ownership by 80% and an increase in rental rates by 70%.

In addition, the vast majority of renovations, including new builds, were allocated to single family homes - 45 new single family homes, as compared to 0 new homes for all other housing types. 

Finally, Riverdale is seeing a decline in all age groups except for 0-4. 35-39, and 60-80.

I think that there are a number of gaps in this data. Specifically, I would have liked to have seen time series of income data to see home family income has shifted and time series housing sales data, and school enrollment data for the Riverdale PS. I would also have liked to see a higher response rate for the 2014 census data. That said, I think I can draw some broad conclusions. 

1. Middle aged people are being replaced by senior citizens, and those at the upper end of the child bearing years, and perhaps their young children.

2. The housing market is shifting from owning to renting, except for single family homes and duplex/fourplex, where ownership rates are up.

3. 4.5% of older single family houses are being replaced by new builds.  

I think that Riverdale, while not being gentrified in a classical sense of having a primarily low income population be replaced by a higher income population, is seeing a shift based on money. I suggest that those who can afford to are buying the older and smaller houses, where a small portion (4.5%) of those single family homes are being rebuilt. I think the larger trend is for older people (the 60-80 demographic) to retire in Riverdale with it's close proximity to downtown and nestled within the river valley - close to trails and quiet. The smaller trend is for high income families to settle here with their young children.

Those who are younger, with no family or with an income of under 50K are renting the older apartments and row houses. I have no idea why the row house ownership plummeted.

What are your thoughts? What did I miss, or are you seeing an alternative story with these data? Please let me know.

Bookending Gentrification

Matthew Dance

This will be my last blog post for the next couple of weeks while my kids are out of school for the winter break. I'll be back on 06 January 2016.

The term 'gentrification' is limited.

It is limited in that it only describes the outcome of a power imbalance that exists between those who are displaced but who already rent or own, and those who are doing the displacing.

As Smith (1982) states:

"By gentrification I mean the process by which working class residential neighborhoods are rehabilitated by middle class homebuyers, landlords and professional developers.  I make the theoretical distinction between gentrification and redevelopment. Redevelopment involves not rehabilitation of old structures but the construction of new buildings on previously developed land. (Gentrification (2008)"

As a term, gentrification is limited in the process it describes, the people who are affected and the outcomes achieved. I have called this 'Classical Gentrification' after Elise Stolte's use of the term in a comment on a previous blog post.

This classical gentrification has a number of process based theories (demographic, social, political, and economic) associated with it (please have a look at the Gentrification Wikipedia page for an overview). These are important theories that warrant a close look and contextualization to Edmonton.

But, none-the-less, the term gentrification is limited - as it should be. If the term was too broad we would not be speaking about anything specific. 

Spatially, gentrification references neighbourhoods, and not spaces that are smaller - such as blocks or specific development projects - or bigger, such as entire cities. Or spaces that straddle neighbourhoods, for instance a community that may cross a neighbourhood line.

Temporally, gentrification pre-supposes that developments (houses, apartments, etc) are already built and occupied, and as such ignores those spaces that are undeveloped. Even the term 'development' is problematic. Who is determining that an area is not developed, or is under-developed?

Gentrification is focussed on physical places and mostly ignores a range of non-physical attributes that may be associated with a place. Sure, more recent conversation of gentrification does include the dissolution of social structures that occur when people are displaced (please have a look at the article about Regent Park in Toronto). But gentrification does not address the non-physical attachment to a place that can be reflected in place names or historical uses / buildings.

Finally, our conversation around gentrification does not adequately address the displacement of people who are not owners or renters, but who still use a place. For instance, the development of the Quarters area of Edmonton is not impacting housing, and those that own or rent. But the development of those parking lots in the Quarters is shifting an outdoor social space used by homeless people, or those dwelling nearby. Our conversation doesn't include how the homeless or the inner city poor are impacted.

An image of an orthophoto being annotated by inner-city residents on how they use outdoor downtown spaces. 

An image of an orthophoto being annotated by inner-city residents on how they use outdoor downtown spaces. 

While the range of concerns raised above are not gentrification, they are all related through power. The decision makers - for instance City Administration and Urban Developers - are not negatively affected by the decisions enacted in the downtown core, and are the ones who benefit financially from the development. 

I propose that in addition to gentrification, we have a continuum that describes urban displacement from the view of power and that describes who the decision makers are, and the ways in which they benefit. And on the flip side, we should do a better job at describing those who are impacted, and the ways in which they are impacted.

We are a city that is in a process of reconciliation with FNMI peoples. Very often it is those FNMI who are negatively impacted by development decisions. We can do better.

Saskia Sassen wrote in a recent Guardian Article that:

Cities are the spaces where those without power get to make a history and a culture, thereby making their powerlessness complex.

We need to ensure that we protect those voices, that those without power are the first to be considered in urban development. Furthermore, we must not only protect everyone's history and culture, we must start to unearth those histories buried under Edmonton. 

Gentrification: Building Permits in Edmonton's Downtown Neighbourhoods

Matthew Dance

Edmonton's Arena, perhaps most symbolic of downtown development. Photo by Mack Male.

Edmonton's Arena, perhaps most symbolic of downtown development. Photo by Mack Male.

Edmonton's downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods are undergoing some pretty serious development. In an effort to focus my thinking, I looked at the building permit data from 2009-2015 (NOTE: 2015 is not a complete data set), from the City of Edmonton Open Data Portal, for  the following neighbourhoods:

Boyle
Central McDougal
Cromdale
McCauley
Oliver
Queen Mary Park
Riverdale
Rossdale
Westmount
Downtown

What follows is an overview of what I saw in that data.

Figure 1: Annual development estimate from building permit data for 4 downtown core Edmonton neighbourhoods (2009-2014) 

Figure 1: Annual development estimate from building permit data for 4 downtown core Edmonton neighbourhoods (2009-2014) 

Figure 1 includes the neighbourhoods of Downtown, Oliver, Boyle and McCualy. Downtown's curve is a reflection of various commercial permits with a spike of investment promised in 2010 (coincides with the approval of the Capital City Downtown Plan in July 2010) and again in 2015.  Oliver's curve is a reflection of both residential development until 2012, and the bump in 2013/14 reflects investment in the Brewery District. Boyle is seeing development as part of the Quarters and is mostly commercial (See Figure 4) and McCauley development is being driven by mostly residential, retail and a small amount of commercial (see Figure 4). 

Figure 2: Annual development estimates from building permit data for 6 downtown Edmonton neighbourhoods. (2009-2014).

Figure 2: Annual development estimates from building permit data for 6 downtown Edmonton neighbourhoods. (2009-2014).

Figure 2 is more modest in that the dollar amounts are hundreds of thousands to tens of million dollars, rather than 100's of millions+ represented in Figure 1. All of these neighbourhoods are seeing a mix of development between commercial, residential and retail. I will discuss these neighbourhoods more later.

Figure 3: Estimated building permit value 2009-2015. Purple circles are worth 100 million (for the smaller purple) and 200 million plus, green circles are 1 million to 10 million, yellow circles are lees then 100 000, and the small yellow dots are less then 50 000. Multiple circles around a single point indicates multiple building permits were granted for that location.

Figure 3: Estimated building permit value 2009-2015. Purple circles are worth 100 million (for the smaller purple) and 200 million plus, green circles are 1 million to 10 million, yellow circles are lees then 100 000, and the small yellow dots are less then 50 000. Multiple circles around a single point indicates multiple building permits were granted for that location.

In combination, Figure 1, 2 and 3 tells me (unsurprisingly) that vast majority of Edmonton's big projects are occurring in the downtown core, with a large number of smaller projects happening in adjacent neighborhoods.  These projects comprise a mix of new developments (like the arena) and redevelopments such as City Centre Mall. 

My initial concern was that Boyle Street was being gentrified. Smith (1982) defines gentrification narrowly as "... the process by which working class residential neighborhoods are rehabilitated by middle class homebuyers, landlords and professional developers.". This indicates, by Smith's narrow definition, that Boyle Street is not being gentrified, as no working class people are being displaced by the developments being built there. This is true, and was reflected in the comments on my last gentrification blog - Most of the developments are occurring on undeveloped land, and very few of them are residential (see Figure 3). 

Smith's definition of gentrification does address those who own or rent, but not those who don't or those who are transient. In other words, homeless people can be displaced from the places that use on a daily basis, and not really count within Smith's scope. And while I don't know how to measure this (the displacement of homeless people), I wonder who of the uncounted is being displaced from Edmonton's downtown core, and most especially from the streets adjacent to the new arena development. This idea of "non-classical" gentrification will have to be explored later.

Figure 4: Permits by Building Classification. Small red dots are residences (apartments, condos, houses) and associated structures (detached garages, sheds, etc). Blue are engineering (infrastructure maintenance, utilities, hoarding, etc). Green are various retail, restaurants and bars. Yellow are offices. Rings, for instance a green dot ringed by yellow, indicates that a location has permits for both, as an example, retail and office.

Figure 4: Permits by Building Classification. Small red dots are residences (apartments, condos, houses) and associated structures (detached garages, sheds, etc). Blue are engineering (infrastructure maintenance, utilities, hoarding, etc). Green are various retail, restaurants and bars. Yellow are offices. Rings, for instance a green dot ringed by yellow, indicates that a location has permits for both, as an example, retail and office.

The most interesting data from this dataset comes when Figure 2 and Figure 4 are looked at in combination. Relative to the downtown neighbourhoods, the neighbourhoods in Figure 2 have modest investments, but have seen jerky growth from 2009-2014. For instance, Riverdale as increased in dollars from 2.1M in 2009 to 5.8M in 2014; Rossdale from a low in 2009 of just over 400K to a high in 2014 of almost 9M. Referencing Figure 4, we can see that most of that money must be in residential development for both neighbourhoods (lots of red dots) as there are few yellow or green dots.

I wonder if these data point to gentrification occurring in neighbourhoods peripheral to the downtown core?

Finally, I would like to see a dollar breakdown between residential and commercial for the other peripheral neighbourhoods including Queen May Park, McCauley and Central McDougal. This should keep me busy for a few blog posts.

As always, please let me know what you think on Twitter, or in the comments section below.

REQUEST: I would love to look at residential building permits relative to residential housing sales. If anyone has access to all sales data for Edmonton from 2009-2014, please let me know as I could use the data.

Addendum, 11 December 2015

I thought that it was important to add a couple of maps:

Figure 5: The Quarter's Boundary. Small red dots are residences (apartments, condos, houses) and associated structures (detached garages, sheds, etc). Blue are engineering (infrastructure maintenance, utilities, hoarding, etc). Green are various retail, restaurants and bars. Yellow are offices. 

Figure 5: The Quarter's Boundary. Small red dots are residences (apartments, condos, houses) and associated structures (detached garages, sheds, etc). Blue are engineering (infrastructure maintenance, utilities, hoarding, etc). Green are various retail, restaurants and bars. Yellow are offices. 

Figure 6: Heat map of Edmonton's downtown neighbourhoods. This heat maps is showing clusters of residential (all housing types) building permits. 

Figure 6: Heat map of Edmonton's downtown neighbourhoods. This heat maps is showing clusters of residential (all housing types) building permits. 

Figure 5 shows at greater detail the development with the Quarter's district of Edmonton.

Figure 6 points to some of the hotspots of residential development. I am specifically interested in exploring 4 right now: 1: The Victoria Promenade (more for interest sake then gentrification); 2. Rossdale (this neighbourhood has been in the news lately and I am keen to understand what is happening there); 3. Riverdale - I am interested to dig deep and understand this neighbourhood from the time of the original brickworks, and finally; 4. McCauley.


AirBeam or Bust

Matthew Dance

The AirBeam

The AirBeam

This one is going to be a little nerdy.

It's been a while since I've written about emerging mobile air quality sensors such as the Air Quality Egg or the AirBeam. To recap what I've written previously:

1. Regulatory sensors cost a lot of money to install and operate, about 500K for the hardware plus operating costs (~50K/year). They are hard to site and typically fill up a small ATCO trailer, and so are not easily portable.

2. On the up side, they are sensitive and the standard to which all other, non-regulatory sensors are compared.

3. In contrast, new emergent sensors such as the Air Quality Egg and the AirBeam offer a much less expensive alternative (>200$), that are portable and consumer friendly. A citizen could, for instance, set an Air Quality Egg up on their downtown balcony and feed open air quality data to the web.

4. The downsides to emerging air quality devices are (a) we are uncertain about the data quality, and (b) how they will perform in the cold.

Working with the City of Edmonton and the Alberta Central Airshed we tested the AirBeam PM2.5 sensor adjacent to the Woodcroft Air Quality Station neat the Telus World of Science. We ran thew AirBeam sensor for 3 days until the fan started to sound funny, and the BlueTooth connection to the Samsung 5s (the data storage 'module') was lost. I created the following two graphs in Tableau:

1 minute average AirBeam data as compared to a co-located regulatory PM2.5 sensor at the Woodcroft Air Quality Monitoring Station.

1 hour average AirBeam data as compared to a co-located regulatory PM2.5 sensor at the Woodcroft Air Quality Monitoring Station.

Great.  The graphs look good.  

But I had to run some stats to really draw any conclusions from the data. I normalized the data to minute time-series (the AirBeam records per second) and checked that I had a similar number of data points for both the Woodcroft and AirBeam data (with 16 points of each other), I ran a linear regression (NOTE - **I am not a stats guy. If you have a suggestion, let me know in the comments section**) with an R Squared of 0.621.

 

Scatterplot of AirBeam vs Woodcroft PM2.5 data collected over 3 days and normalized to 1 minute averages.

Scatterplot of AirBeam vs Woodcroft PM2.5 data collected over 3 days and normalized to 1 minute averages.

AirBeam has some testing results (here and here) suggesting that an R2 0.7 to 0.9 could be expected. The testing that produced an R2 of 0.9 or better (meaning that there is a high correlation between the baseline data from a regulatory (or similar) sensor and the AirBeam data) were conducted under ideal, indoor, conditions. Those of 0.7 were in more real world outdoor conditions.

An email form the manufacturer of AirBeam states that "High humidity and fog will falsely elevate the AirBeam's measurements.". They did not mention cold.

I am optimistic with these results. They indicate that the AirBeam PM2.5 sensor has some potential for citizens to engage in environmental monitoring.  More on my concerns with the sensors, citizen science and open data later...

 

 

Gentrification in Edmonton

Matthew Dance

Canada Place was built between 1985 - '88 and displaced a portion of Edmonton's original Chinatown. 

Canada Place was built between 1985 - '88 and displaced a portion of Edmonton's original Chinatown. 

I want to talk about gentrification within Edmonton, and I'm not sure the best way to do that other than to write a bunch of blog posts on what I've been thinking. Please provide comments here and/or on Twitter (@mattdance). Disclaimer: I have a bunch of privilege being white, male and wealthy. I do not intend to speak for anyone but myself, and I hope to start a respectful conversation about what development means in Edmonton, and how development impacts those with the least amount of power in our society. 

Gentrification, WTF?

Gentrification was first termed in 1964 by Ruth Glass in her description of how Urban Gentry 'emerged' or occupied some London neighborhoods, displacing the working class occupants (from 'Gentrification' (2008) by Lees, Slater, and Wyly). 

Neil Smith (1982) said:

"By gentrification I mean the process by which working class residential neighborhoods are rehabilitated by middle class homebuyers, landlords and professional developers.  I make the theoretical distinction between gentrification and redevelopment. Redevelopment involves not rehabilitation of old structures but the construction of new buildings on previously developed land. (Gentrification (2008)"

Both authors define gentrification within the geographic scope of a neighbourhood. But, gentrification can be spatially more encompassing - rather than limit the displacement of people from discrete neighborhoods, gentrification can be used to describe a class based displacement of people from any spatial scale - from smaller spatial units such as low-rise walkups, right though to districts and entire cities (or other areas of similar scale).

Gentrification can be defined broadly as the displacement of people, from their place (land, block, whatever) by others who are more wealthy and/or powerful. It is important to note that the words 'displacement', 'neighborhoods', 'movement', 'shift' and many others found in the gentrification literature (academic and promotional) are code for the dissolution of a social structure. Gentrification is about rending communities of poor people apart to the benefit of the rich. 

Here are two examples or research that frame the questions of gentrification within Edmonton.

  1. In their paper Revanchism in the Canadian West: Gentrification and Resettlement in a Prairie City (2007) the authors argue that the process of revitalizing the downtown east side of Edmonton, roughly equivalent to the what we now call The Quarters, (The City of Edmonton The Quarters planning document can be found here [PDF]) points to not just gentrification, but aggressive vindictive gentrification. The authors participated in the City of Edmonton public 'visioning' process and evaluated the support documents.
  2. In contrast, research conducted at the University of Alberta (the poster can be found here) used demographic data to document population change in a number of downtown neighborhoods indicated that despite significant investment, gentrification has not been an issue in downtown Edmonton's growth.
From The City of Edmonton's 'The Quarters Downtown: Urban Design Plan'. A detail of Figure 2-4: Existing Land USe.

From The City of Edmonton's 'The Quarters Downtown: Urban Design Plan'. A detail of Figure 2-4: Existing Land USe.

The two examples highlight different conclusions based, in part, on different but equally valid approaches to researching similar questions.  Example 1 used an activist research qualitative approach by participating in a public process and critiquing that process, including support documents and how discussions were framed at public meetings. Example 2 opted to use a quantitive approach by securing demographic data to capture population and income shifts. These data were used to build a 'gentrification' model within a GIS. 

Questions of gentrification are important as they highlight power shifts at a variety of spatial scales; from small public spaces to neighborhoods and cities. As urban land use changes (the development and naming of 'Ice District', The Quarters, infill housing) those without a voice can haver their communities dismantled, impacting individuals by putting them out of home, and requiring them to move from their social networks and communities of support. It is not just the questions that are important, but also but how we frame and attempt answer them.

In the coming weeks I hope to explore these issues within Edmonton by using concrete examples coupled with some research and theory. If you have any comments please let me know.

 

 

Paths for People

Matthew Dance

Yesterday Paths for People launched a policy campaign in Edmonton asking for a redesign and rethink of Edmonton's transportation infrastructure.  Here is my take (disclosure - conflict of interest - I know the folks behind Paths for People, and participated in obtaining collision data their underpinning the map - coded by @geodarcy - and thus their policy suggestions - you can read about my role here).

Paths for People state that:

Paths for People believes in the power of urban design to encourage and facilitate people getting around the city in healthy ways. We believe that a grid of high-quality active transportation corridors in Edmonton (routes that make biking and walking safe and comfortable) will increase quality of life for residents, and get many more people outside enjoying the city.

This statement is telling as I think it identifies their goals clearly - urban design, active transportation, and thus increasing the quality of life for residents of Edmonton. This is smart and upbeat.  They also released a map that shows two main (and interesting) pieces of data - where people get hit by cars, and the percentage of people who commute by walking or biking per neighborhood. 

Screen capture of the Bike for People collision map.

Screen capture of the Bike for People collision map.

Sometimes accepted policy and design just doesn't work. You know that based on your experience with apps on your phone or that preverbal VCR with the time blinking 12:00. You just don't find them - the apps or VCR-  easy and intuitive to use. Like the VCR, our streets are designed based on policy and practice. If you were to look for data indicating areas of poor design on our road network,  I would suggest that those areas are defined by accidents which waste both time and money, and may injure or kill someone. If you see more accidents in one spot, compared to others, those are hotspots of poor design - the 12:00 blinking on your VCR.

What is it about those locations that are causing a disproportionate amount of accidents?  This is not about any one accident, or poor driving, this is about poor design.  For instance, is there an obstructed field of view for drivers or pedestrians? Perhaps a bottleneck putting too many cars, bikes and walkers in one place? I don't know. I am not a design expert. That does not mean the question in invalid.

Paths for People are stating another policy option - 30km/hr residential (not arterial) speed limits.  We already see this speed limit in Edmonton's school zones, and the city has a number of neighbourhoods with a 40 limit. 30km/hr is not a random number, but rather one based on what the pedestrian safety data indicates (see an interesting Wikipedia article here). In addition to being safer, a speed limit of 30 makes roads friendlier - these public spaces can then be used by the public for cycling, running, whatever. I know my back goes up when my kids are playing out front and a car zooms by. I am less anxious when cars slow down recognizing the off chance that my kids may do something stupid and run out on the road.

I don't have answers. But I do appreciate Paths for People opening a policy based discussion with the citizens of Edmonton that has been respectful (check out the comment section on this Edmonton Journal article) and needed (and based on data!). We don't need to live with poorly designed streets, we just have to demand better.

Crowdsourcing A Traffic Safety Spreadsheet

Matthew Dance

The Transcription and Validation spreadsheet that Karen created on Google Docs.

The Transcription and Validation spreadsheet that Karen created on Google Docs.

I love our open data and cycling community in Edmonton.  

My blog post from yesterday, The City of Edmonton's FOIP Request Process is Broken, has received a over 200 views in less than 24 hours (for me, huge) and has generated many emails and Twitter conversations regarding the state of FOIP Response in the City.

Furthermore, Karen Parker has created a Google Drive spreadsheet to crowdsource the data.  Thanks Karen!

How the crowdsourcing works

You need two documents:

  1. A PDF of the traffic safety document can be found here.
  2. The Google Drive document can be found here.  

Steps

  1. Open a window with the traffic safety PDF in view.  You can work from this window, or you can download and print the document.
  2. Open another window and navigate to the Google Drive document and select a page from the tabs on the bottom. Check the page 'status' from a drop down menu found in the upper left corner of each page. The options are (1) Transcription in Process, (2) Not Started, (3) Transcribed, (4) Validation in Process, and (5) Validated.
  3. If the Google Docs page needs to be 'Transcribed' or 'Validated', find the corresponding Traffic Safety sheet and Transcribe or Validate.
  4. Have a beer/scotch/gin/glass of wine.

Thank you for helping to transcribe these data!

The City of Edmonton's FOIP Process is Broken

Matthew Dance

Conrad Nobert is a community activist and cycling geek. He is interested in improving the cycling infrastructure in Edmonton and non-motorized safety. Pedestrians and cyclists should be able to travel throughout the city in a safe manner without fear of being hit by a car.

So, of course, this begs the question of how many people per year, cyclists and pedestrians, are hit by cars?  How safe are Edmonton's streets? The city tracks this data, but it is not posted on the City's Open Data Portal. 

Enter the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) request that Conrad and I made in an attempt to have a look at this data.  I, of course, wanted to make a map like the one of Calgary's most dangerous intersections, Conrad is interested in looking at where the dangerous places are in Edmonton, and advocating for bike and pedestrian infrastructure to make it better.

In other words, Conrad is interested in looking at the data that policymakers have to inform their positions on these same questions. As it stands, City of Edmonton administrators and elected leaders can look at this data.  And, as the City's own Open City policy states:

The City believes that a democracy values and respects public input and engages people in decision making. Public engagement enhances the City’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions by leveraging the collective knowledge of the community.

To truly engage with the public, on the issue of road safety, we the members of the community ought to have access to these very same data.

Back to the FOIP request that we sent in. We very quickly learned that City policy (i.e. no good reason) prohibits the sharing of digital products. While our request was quickly met, we were sent 24 8.5x14inch pages, printed double sided, of spreadsheet data. 

Page one of 24 double sided pages printed from a large Excel spreadsheet.

Page one of 24 double sided pages printed from a large Excel spreadsheet.

While we appreciate the speed with which we received the data, it is next to useless and a big-old-waste of time and money. There is next to nothing we can do with these pages without investing some considerable effort in transcribing and verifying these sheets. 

The actions that accompanied our FOIP request fall far short of the expectations set by the City of Edmonton's Open City policy. In fact, it almost looks like the City is trying to obscure how bad the traffic safety problem really is. And we certainly cannot engage in a policy process when there are technical and cultural barriers to receiving information needed for sound policy decisions. 

Update - 30 April @ 17:47:

I've received a great response from this blog post, with many people asking to see the scan so that they can work some OCR magic (i'm looking at you Karen and Edmonton Bike Commuters). Thank you! The PDF scan can be downloaded from here [20mb PDF download from Google Drive]. If you can indeed work the magic, I promise to post the data here, and submit it to the City of Edmonton Open Data portal.

Tree Map of Edmonton

Matthew Dance

I love the City of Edmonton's tree dataset.  This is reflective of how rich an open dataset can be, where there is great detail provided for each tree, and every tree owned by the City of Edmonton is reflected in the dataset.  Click on a few points to get a sample of the data's richness.

Now, as rich as these data are, they are relatively uncontroversial and unlikely to cause much of a stir or debate with the City.  This is not the point of open data.  The promise of open data is to allow citizens to engage with policy makers on substantive issues facing the city. To allow citizens a view of policy making, and the tools to effectively challenge, or support, those policies.  To do that, the City of Edmonton should release more controversial data, such as all bike-vehicle interactions, development permits, and building permits.

The shame is that we could have many more data sets as rich as these tree data.

Open Data Day 2015 (#ODD2015)

Matthew Dance

It is only fitting that the Edmonton's Public Library host the ODD2015 Hackathon (on 21 February 2015), as the Library stands for three of the main themes of this years hack, and events leading up to that hack: (1) Inclusion; (2) Civic Engagement, and; (3) Literacy.

Inclusion

The Edmonton Public Library is a space held in trust for all of Edmonton's citizens. It provides equal access, and does't care which community you belong to, or how you self identify. To reflect this level of inclusion, and to push back on the culture of exclusion seen in so many tech industries (think GamerGate and Open Street Map), the #ODD2015 Hackathon is instituting the following Hacking Code of Conduct:

Our hackathon is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, previous hackday attendance or computing experience (or lack of any of the aforementioned). We do not tolerate harassment of hackathon participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate at any hackathon venue, including hacks, talks, workshops, parties, social media and other online media. Hackathon participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the hackathon without a refund (if applicable) at the discretion of the hackathon organisers.

Civic Engagement

Arnstein's Ladder of Citizen Participation describes the relationship between government and citizens. At the bottom of the ladder, citizens are manipulated and have no power.  At the top of the ladder, citizens and governments are indistinguishable.  While I would not hazard to guess where we sit relative to the City of Edmonton or the Government of Alberta, I do know that Open Data and hacking serves to move citizens up the ladder.

As we learn to use the tools hacking, and by this I don't just mean coding, but other tools such as data scraping, design, networking & outreach, generally organizing around the building of something, we are more engaged with each other and more likely to push back against government policy.

In the best case, we are provided the data with which governments make decisions such that we can draw our own conclusions.

Remember:

Real change comes from the bottom up. Innovation occurs at the interface of diverse minds and perspectives. Collaboration is hard. It requires stepping beyond comfort, into the unfamiliar. It’s worth it.

Literacy

Finally, libraries are all about literacy. And so are Hackathons; only it's call numeracy in the data context. If you learn one thing at a Hackathon, it should be not to be afraid of data, and don't worry, because you can't break it.  Play with the data, and start exploring how to use your spreadsheet.  If your an expert at Excel, download QGIS and start playing with an open source and free GIS.  Think about the data, and the stories it might tell, and how it might address your frustrations with the Government process.

Resources

Finding a place in tech without writing a line of code.

Open data resources from Canada and around the world

Datalibre.ca: A blog which believes all levels of Canadian governments should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens.

Map school offers an introduction to maps and map making.

The Elements of User Experience describes the design process to build good software.  There is a lot of non-code that goes into software, and this website/sample chapter provides good insight.

Open Data Tools offers a range of tools to help understand the open data sets that you may be working with.

I use AimerSoft PDF Converter Pro, in conjunction with ScanSnap to convert either paper or PDFs to excel data tables.

Parking in Edmonton

Matthew Dance

This is a great example of how you can use opendata, coupled with an interactive map platform and some FOSS GIS tools, to create a deeper understanding of landuse within a dowtown core. In this instance, I've created a map of Downtown Edmonton that includes building footprints, parking surfaces and trees. You can zoom into the map to take a closer look at the tree density, and by zooming out it's possible to see the amount of land dedicated to parking.

To take this map further, it would be pretty easy (though potentially very time consuming) to calculate the land area for each land use tyope, including surface lots. It is even possible to calculate an approximate surface area for the roadways, and thus calculate the percent of landuse dedicated to cars.

The data I used in this instance is from Open Street Map's Metro Extracts for the building outlines (although the City of Edmonton has just released an updated and better roofline dataset). The surface lots I hand drew in QGIS, and the tree data are from data.edmonton.ca.