Working with Garbage Data: DataLA Summer Academy Intern Story at LASAN

Richard Windisch | M.S. Geographic Information Science and Technology Program, University of Southern California

I am no longer a stranger to presenting in the Mayor’s Press Room!

I have been doing research through a partnership with the Mayor’s Data Team and the USC Spatial Sciences Institute the past two years, so I was elated to hear that I would be a member of the 2018 DataLA Summer Academy. The partnership has produced a granular analysis of LAPD crime data and a public-facing tool for stormwater conservation. Through the DataLA Summer Academy, I was assigned to the LA Sanitation Solid Resources Customer Care Division (SRCCCD).

Trash collection can often be an “out of sight, out of mind” problem; no one really thinks about it unless the problem is not taken care of. My third day on the job, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a garbage truck going around the city in the morning to see firsthand how the service request data is used after it is created! I really appreciated how hands on this experience was; I truly got down and dirty with the data. During my time at LASAN, I took on two main projects: address database maintenance and a public information web mapping application.

While certain solutions are in the works for a centralized address database for the city, it does not currently exist. Within LASAN, billing rates are determined by the amount of dwelling units at an address. Due to multiple databases that were updated at different times with information, I had to go through several steps to determine the unit count for an address. Overall, this project was about ensuring addresses are billed correctly and increasing the revenue LASAN receives through collection. There is no way to automate this process, so each address must be manually inspected and updated with information from four separate databases. Wish me luck and keep me in your thoughts as I continue to chip away at the 30,000 unconfirmed addresses…

The Story Map is an interactive and informative tool for city residents.

In order to accomplish the second project, I utilized the Esri Story Map interface to produce a public-facing tool to better understand services offered from LASAN Solid Resources Group Goal. The application is intended to be used by the everyday citizen and easily communicates information and data in an accessible manner. Different services are highlighted and visualized through interactive maps. The Story Map serves to empower the public through informed action. Los Angeles is at the forefront of the civic open-data movement and its commitment to being a data-driven city. In order to further share information, the Story Map concludes with a list of other civic open-data resources that can be used to further engage and inform citizens!

You can view my Story Map here.

2018 Mayor’s DataLA Summer Academy Cohort

I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the DataLA Summer Academy Cohort. Not only was I able to gain great mentors and professional experience, but also I was also able to gain a great group of friends! It was always so interesting to hear what other members of the cohort were experiencing and then discuss our individual approaches to problems with data. Taking part in experiences like the Data Batcaves and visit to the Netflix Data Science Team’s office ensured that this summer was a very well rounded experience filled with both fun and growth! My main takeaway from the summer was that data-driven analysis ensures a more equitable deployment of resources so that we are really making an impact on communities that have need. I am looking forward to staying on at LASAN and working with their Data Team during the fall semester.