By Data-Smart City Solutions • August 31, 2018

Each week we will bring you a summary of what happened this week on our site, on Twitter, and in the wider world of civic data. Suggest stories on Twitter with #ThisWeekInData

Reshaping the Safety Net: The Integrated Benefits Initiative State Cohort — Code for America

The Integrated Benefits Initiative—a network led by Code for America, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Nava Public Benefit Corporation—recently announced its partnership with five states to launch pilot projects aimed at making public benefits, such as Medicaid, more accessible. The projects include the development of digital services like change-reporting tools, two-way SMS communication between caseworkers and clients, and digital assisters for remote communities.

How Utah Uses Big Data to Make Highways Safer — GovTech

Using data analysis, Utah Department of Transportation engineers are able make the state’s roads safer in a number of ways—for example, by installing extra shoulder protection where it is needed. In the past, projects were prioritized in a semi-ad-hoc manner, usually on the basis of anecdotal evidence. Now, DOT decisions are based off actual data made accessible through tools like Numetric and the United States Road Assessment Program.

On Hawaii’s Big Island Text Alerts Prove Critical — Route Fifty

The Hawaii Police Department has used Everbridge, a critical event management software, to send out emergency notifications about extreme natural events—for example, Hurricane Lane this month and the eruption of Kilauea in May—for many years. According to their PR liaison, the tool is particularly handy for prolonged events, as it allows police to send out regular updates as it develops. The platform even has the ability to assess the performance of alerts and scale as needed.

Making the Most of Data-Driven Government — GovTech

Earlier this summer, Seattle Times columnist Gene Balk compared the results of a Seattle University survey to local crime data, revealing large mismatches between Seattle neighborhoods’ perception of crime and its actual occurrence. Many residents were angered by the insinuation of their delusion, and believed the crime data to be inaccurate for a number of reasons, including the underreporting of crime. Paul W. Taylor, editor-at-large of Governing, argues that the story illustrates the limits of data’s authority and the importance of public agencies using effective storytelling to map data back on to reality for residents.

Your Bus Is On Time. What Does That Even Mean? — TransitCenter

A bus is “on time” if it arrives within a certain range of its scheduled arrival, but different agencies set different standards for the metric, making comparisons difficult. To make matters even more complicated, agencies are able to change their own standard whenever they please, which sometimes makes individual performance difficult to track.

Using publicly-available data, TransitCenter compared the performance of transit agencies from across the nation using the SFMTA standard, and noticed a few trends: Less-congested cities tended to perform better, and overall performance was much worse than what agencies reported individually, with Tri-Met earning first place for a 75% weekday “on-time” rate.

“Using a stricter standard may make on time performance at transit agencies look worse… but being honest about on-time performance can build trust with riders and create a sense of urgency to confront the problem,” writes TransitCenter.

$6.6 Million Grant from Laura and John Arnold Foundation to Fund Texas Policy Lab at Rice University — Laura and John Arnold Foundation

Rice University’s School of Social Sciences will begin working this fall through the Texas Policy Lab with officeholders and state agencies to support evidence-based policy in the state of Texas. The Texas Policy Lab, which is supported by a $6.6 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, will join a network of labs using research and analysis to provide policymakers measurable solutions to issues like homelessness and youth employment.

Columbus, Ohio, to Build Multimodal Trip-Planning and Payment System — GovTech

The city’s Smart Columbus initiative, in partnership with the Central Ohio Transit Authority, has released an RFP for the development of an application that allows users to plan and pay for trips through one system. The project is one of many smart city efforts funded by a $40 million grant awarded to Columbus in 2016 for winning the US DoT’s Smart City Challenge, and will combine access to a number of different services, public and private, through a single transit app.

The app is slated to go live in July of 2019.

Introducing a New One-Stop Shop for Writing Open Data Policy — Sunlight Foundation

The Sunlight Foundation announced yesterday the launch of its Open Data Policy Hub, which consolidates content from five different websites on the drafting and enacting of open data policy. The Hub includes a step-by-step guide for creating an open data policy, a customizable policy generator, guidelines for policy, and a collection of policies from around the country.