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Politics & Economics ▾ GDP measures are like toilets. The UK's private postcodes restrict innovation. Yorkshire could learn from Ireland's success. Alternatives to GDP are a waste of time. Fiscal balance in the UK "Not like London" Innovation takes time to measure Fifa and the right In defence of the € GDP mystery Liberal protectionists 5 types of EU voter Asylum responsibilities STEM vs STEAM The Economist & Scotland BBC Bias? Northern rail consultation What holds us back? Saving the Union Summing it up

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Last modified: 12 December 2016

Open data in Birmingham, 2016 round-up

I moved to Birmingham nearly two years ago and increasingly the city and its region are where I try out new products. More and more open data about the city is on the Birmingham Data Factory. Here are some of my favourite things that we've built using data from there and elsewhere in the past two years.


I show a mix of local datasets (eg. EU referendum results) and national datasets on an easy-to-understand hexmap of Birmingham's wards. This provides insight and comparison with similar cities without the distracting complexity of maps.


I use the Transport for the West Midlands public transport API to collect and calculate delays for a selection of bus routes in and around Birmingham. The goal is to calculate a single number that shows how well a bus services is running. This will help community groups engage with transport planners and politicians to improve bus services.

Midland Metro passenger stats

Usage data for the Midland Metro (tram) is provided on Birmingham Data Factory. In preparation for a big increase in passengers in 2016 I built an infographic of the route showing how passenger numbers have changed over time.

Patterns of car ownership

Denser cities are more efficient, more productive, and use up less land. If the UK is to grow while continuing to reject new cities or significant expansion onto the greenbelt of existing cities then it needs to make places like Birmingham much denser.

I'm interested in what stops us living at higher densities. It's clear that a big part of the answer is the space needed for cars. The problem is that as we get richer we own more cars. This is the main driver behind ever-decreasing population densities in our cities.

So I built a tool to explore which parts of the country were unusual. Where are the places in the UK where people have enough money to own a car, but choose not to?

Better use of space than car parks.

A huge amount of land in England's large cities is taken up by car parking. What could do with the land instead? How many homes could we build? How many parks?

I decided to write a tool to help people calculate that. It works in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield. I could make it work in more places with some funding.

Economic analysis

The West Midlands has huge potential for economic growth. This would almost certainly improve the lives of its citizens.

But currently the region faces big economic challenges. My economic analysis tools help to compare nearly two decades of economic activity in the West Midlands with the rest of the UK and Europe. Seeing our performance in context is important when targeting interventions, avoiding failure elsewhere, and learning from the success of other places.

What next?

The next three things I want to look at are,

  1. The Birmingham and West Midlands real-time traffic data API.
  2. More data on Birmingham's housing stock so I can repeat this analysis that I did for Leeds.
    Social housing data is available already and I'd love more data on the historical number of empty homes by ward (like in Leeds), and the homes that are currently planned for the future.
  3. Other transport data such as historical car park availablity and cycle route usage.

If you've got time or money to help, please get in touch! :)

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