A week or so ago, I accidentally found that my Local Council (Reading) have a web page displaying live information (every 5 mins) on how full each of the town centre car parks is. Its a few clicks into the site and presented as a table and a basic map. You can see it here.

Whilst I think its great that someone has done all of the hard work to collect the data and get it up onto the site, it didn’t feel like it was particularly useful in the format its in. Above all its not particularly mobile friendly… which is kind-of what you’re likely to be using at the point when you want to know whether the carpark you are heading for is full or not.

So as an exercise in ‘how easy would it be to do something with the data’, I built this… Its a live view of how full each of the six main car parks in Reading is right now. (Note: For some reason it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer – sorry – although fine in Firefox, Safari, Chrome etc)

UPDATE: 9th Sept 2010 – The councils website is currently saying that its carpark web service is unavailable… So the map below doesnt work at the moment Update: 24th Sept 2010 – Appears to be up and running again :)

… It shows a google map, uses Yahoo Query Language to scrape the information off the councils web site, converts the info to a ‘percentage full’ figure, then pops markers on the map which are coloured green, yellow, or red depending on how full the carpark is.

Its not particularly polished – and there are loads of ways it could be improved, but for a quick hack, its not a bad start.

If you want to use it yourself (without having to link to this blog post) then you can get it here http://jimanning.com/rdgcarparks

Having hacked this together it set me thinking along the lines of…

  • It took around 2 hours to make this
  • I’m not a fantastic coder & it was the first time I had used the google maps API & Yahoo Query Language
  • based on the above, one days work, from someone who knew what they were doing, would be all it would take to make this a super useful thing.
  • If Reading council made the data available in a more ‘consumable’ way then it would be even easier to build stuff like this.

So the thought I’m left with is… what’s stopping Reading Council from turning all the data they have into formats that are more easily accessible and therefore more useful to the people who live here?


4 comments until now

  1. Steven Smith @ 2010-08-13 17:40

    Brilliant display of coding, however what does the script do when a car park is closed? For example at 9pm when Holly Brook closes for the night surely it should display 100% empty causing confusion?

  2. Matt Carey @ 2010-08-13 17:54

    In a word. Money.

    My impression from the past has been, if the council can’t do it in house then they won’t outsource it.

    Inhouse people can be great but lack the vision and skills of people on the outside. People who could look at what they are doing and think of easy ways to improve it.

  3. Steven – completely valid point. At the moment is just presents what is displayed on the councils site in a different format.

  4. I really do like what you’ve done there. Having this available as a web app would be incredibly useful as finding the page on the Reading Council website is hard enough as it is.

    The car park data is displayed in RBC’s website in HTML (so I gather) so very interested to find out you can pull this info from any website in this way.

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