Waze — Louisville’s First Internal Hackathon

After Louisville became the 5th US city to be part of the Waze CCP program, we started collecting the shared real-time, anonymized traffic data from Waze users. When Metro processed this data and ingested it into a database, our Office of Civic Innovation immediately saw the data’s inherent value and knew it could benefit departments and improve the lives of our citizens.

Road closures and construction events sent to Waze from our Open Data Portal

Ed Blayney, our innovation project manager, took the first steps with the Waze data and worked with Mike Reynolds in IT to process the data, and our traffic department stakeholders to find initial value and use cases around traffic speeds, signal timings, and fixing equipment at non-connected intersections. But we knew there were more uses to be found.

Early Use Cases

One of Innovation’s early data use cases was looking at traffic jams and speed around large events, hoping to improve traffic flow for future events. Here’s an example looking at Thunder Over Louisville, a large waterfront fireworks show to kick off two weeks of Derby festivities. The activity spikes on the map below started around 9pm to 11pm when the show first started, ended, and then people were trying to get home.

Animated map of Waze traffic during our Derby Festival fireworks show.

Other examples including comparing reports from citizens via 311 and comparing them to the same Waze reports for certain categories, like potholes, missing traffic signs, roadkill, and weather issues.

Event Preparation

A (second) analog hackathon station during our internal Waze hackathon.

We prepped our internal Data Governance group for the Waze hackathon by running an analog hackthon the month before (getting them exposure to how these events are run and the kinds of outcomes you could expect) and prepped for it in our July monthly meetup.

Additionally we invited employees in specific departments (Police, Air Pollution, Parking, IT, Public Works, Budget, HR, Health) and local Metro government partners (Downtown Partnership, KYTC, KIPDA, our Waze citizen editor, TARC).

Read about all of the details, schedule, data sets, and project ideas on our Waze event preparation web page.

Waze Internal Hackathon

People spent most of their Friday participating in the city’s first internal hackathon. About 45 people were there throughout the day at our OPI2 coworking space, the LouieLab, including Mayor Greg Fischer [in spirit via video].

We collaboratively pitched about 15 different projects initially, and narrowed it down to just 6, organized into small groups. These groups worked throughout the day, pulling down Waze data and merging it with other data sets (lane closures, 311, collisions, traffic counts, census) and learning new toolsets in the process (Power BI, Carto, MS SSMS, GeoEvent Processor).

A slice of the participants at the LouieLab event space.

The Projects

At then end of the day, the groups presented their projects:

  1. Crash Analysis. Looked at secondary accidents and traffic collision fatalities, combined with Waze accident reports, and mapped the results in Carto.
  2. Getting Cars Off the Road. Looking at Waze congestion, how could we create incentives to increase bus ridership? Want to do a city-wide employee survey and compare HR data for home and work addresses with TARC routes. Target certain areas with detailed TARC route data and LouVelo bike share incentives for last mile. Use Waze to validate results later.
  3. Rain’s Affect on Driving. Looked at driving habits during rain using NOAA rainfall data. Pushed Waze data from source database to Power BI to Excel to ArcGIS to visualize.
  4. Heavy Truck Traffic. Air Pollution Control used KIPDA truck counts at intersections for air quality applications. Would like to export and warehouse the data for analysis.
  5. Cameras for Collisions. Use the ESRI’s GeoEvent Processor to get Waze alerts for an accident where cameras are active so the Real Time Crime Center can be notified and point the cameras at the accident immediately for quicker response time and monitoring.
  6. Speeding Monitoring. Currently when citizens report speeders in an area, LMPD is required to send a police unit to monitor the area. Instead would like to use Waze to look as speeds along the corridor for a few days and get data to determine if there is speeding, and what are the most likely times, and then send an officer. Also use Waze to see if this has an immediate, short, or long term impact.

The Outcomes

This event met our goals of exposing the enterprise to the new Waze data, educating and training on new tools and growing skillsets, and working across department silos on innovative projects collaboratively.

We feel internal hackathons are an effective way to train employees on new tools, get them using new data, create collaboration between departments, and most importantly institutionalize innovation.

Many participants now want to do internal hackathons with their department’s data and resources. The innovation team will work to push events like this across the city, including leadership participation, and make them part of our city’s strategic planning.

The Future

Our team is working to create a Hackathon Kit for internal use, templates for OPI to use, a process map, and some standard procedures for hackathons. We’ve run a bunch of events like this, and now want to formalize our knowledge and cement the value into Metro.

Currently we use a combination of internal servers and cloud services to access the Waze data. We are working on an end-to-end Amazon AWS solution to process, store, and analyze the data, and will share this on Github when complete for other cities to use and easily replicate.

Thanks to everyone who participated and look for more events like this in Louisville. Keep innovating!