New & Notable

Chattanooga Open Data Report Shows Growth in Use, Available Data

Posted by on 27-Sep-2016

Today, the City of Chattanooga released the 2016 Open Data Report, which reflects on the City’s progress and looks to the future on ensuring transparency and accessibility of public data online. Under an Executive Order issued in 2014, Mayor Andy Berke increased transparency in city government through development of an open data policy and creation of an online portal.


“The city is committed to providing citizens with detailed info about issues affecting daily life. From public safety data about police and fire incidents to building permits, this info empowers residents to understand and react to what is occurring in Chattanooga neighborhoods,” said Tim Moreland, Director of Performance Management and Open Data. “Over the last year, we have seen incredible growth in citizens engaging with data on our open portal.”


Anyone can access the online portal, where data on reducing violence, growing the local economy, improving literacy, strengthening neighborhoods, and other community priorities, is readily available and continually refreshed. The 2016 Open Data Report reviews how people are using data available on the portal as well as future initiatives aimed at increasing transparency through access to new datasets and enhanced community engagement.


Upgrades coming to the site include the ability of citizens to request a dataset they would like to see on the portal. It’s something neighborhood leaders like Everlena Holmes, who has already received preliminary training on using open data, will be able to put to work in their community.


“This Open Data Portal will enable Block Leaders to track the status of their requests, be better informed about their neighborhood and able to compared the status of their neighborhood with other neighborhoods. They will be able to strategically plan for neighborhood improvements,” said Holmes, who is a coordinator of Glenwood Neighborhood Block Leaders. “Most of all, they will be able to obtain information on their own rather than depending on others. The information in the Open Data Portal would also be readily available to residents. This is empowering!”


Highlights from the 2016 Open Data Report


By the Numbers:


  • 202 City & Community Dataset Available on the Portal

  • 5 Times More Page Views on the Portal Compared to 2015

  • 2.5 Times More Downloads from the Portal Compared to 2015

  • 33 Times More Data Accessed Through Downloads

  • 16 % More Users of Data from the Portal


Key Findings of 2016:


  • Multiple departments and agencies work together to ensure timely, accurate, and complete data on the open data portal

  • More participation from community partners strengthens data available

  • Number of Open Datasets available are growing

  • The public is more engaged with the the open data portal portal

  • Data is being leveraged for apps and software development across the community

  • The City is working on automating uploads to ensure timely access to data


Key Findings for the Year Ahead:


  • Upgrades to the portal and a new related informational website are underway

  • Citizens will be able to request a dataset they would like to see on the portal

  • A new website will allow citizens to sign up to receive program updates


The City of Chattanooga will continue to host civic hack nights at City Hall, where anyone is welcome to participate in using city data to increase the quality of life for everyone in Chattanooga. Past hackathons have lead developers to create useful applications such as browsing 311 requests to informing residents how to easily find and contact their police precinct.


For more information, to sign up for updates, or to join the next civic hack night, visit http://connect.chattanooga.gov/opendata.


Explore the complete 2016 Open Data Report online at http://data.chattlibrary.org/Government/City-of-Chattanooga-2016-Open-Data-Report/i9ua-8tkn.

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Chattanooga Launches One of First Electric Vehicle Ride Share Programs in U.S.

Posted by on 14-Sep-2016

Twenty-six years after the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority debuted one of the country's first all-electric downtown shuttle services, Chattanooga will soon become one of the first cities in the nation with an electric vehicle ride share program.

Within the next couple of weeks, 20 Nissan Leafs will be stationed in various parking facilities in Chattanooga and Collegedale to provide drivers all-electric vehicles to rent by the hour through a smart phone app.

Backed by a $3 million grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority, CARTA contracted with a Los Angeles startup known as GreenCommuter to equip the Leafs to be rented by the hour via smart phone apps. CARTA also employed ChargePoint to install additional charging stations and EPB to add solar panels at the airport, in Collegedale and to generate clean power for the battery-powered vehicles.

Another partner in the program is a Chattanooga consultant, the Prova Group LLC, whose CEO and principal Philip Pugliese designed and deployed the city's Bike Chattanooga bicycle-sharing program.

"The electric vehicle car share program will reduce air pollution and traffic congestion and offer a safe, environmentally friendly alternative to owning a car," CARTA Executive Director Lisa Maragnano said during a ceremony at Hamilton Place Mall where one of the new charging stations has been installed. "The majority of the charging stations are located on a CARTA bus route, which will allow people to think twice about owning a car and lean more toward utilizing public transportation and the car share vehicle."

Maragnano said the typical motorist spends nearly $10,000 a year buying, insuring and operating a car, and the new greencommuter ride sharing program could help many people limit their transportation spending. Fewer vehicles would, in turn, free up downtown parking spaces and reduce urban pollution, program backers say.

TVA is sponsoring the program to help entice more motorists to try driving electric vehicles, which could help the federal utility gain new business and could help level TVA's load by recharging car batteries at low demand periods.

"Today is a day we find ourselves in the fast lane yet again," Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said. "Chattanooga is a place where innovation happened. We're the first mid-sized city to have an Innovation District and now we're the first city to launch an electric car ride sharing program."

The electric car ride sharing program will use a membership model and was developed for Chattanooga by GreenCommuter founder Gustave Occhiuzzo. The entrepreneur initially developed GreenCommuter to provide electric-powered vans for ride-sharing by workers to and from work in Los Angeles, and he quickly realized the vehicles also would be available during the day and after hours and on weekends.

Occhiuzzo came to Chattanooga when CARTA solicited bids for the new TVA-funded electric vehicle ride sharing program.

GreenCommuter will make the new Nissan Leafs available for $9 an hour to members, who pay an initial registration fee of $25 and an annual membership of $50. Occhiuzzo said the membership fees will be used to also pay for some of the initial trips for the early adopters of the program and he said the rates for most people will be less expensive than the costs of owning your own vehicle.

"This is a proactive city and there is a lot of support with both a lot of charging stations and solar generation to ensure that that this is clean power," Occhiuzzo said. "We're finishing our beta testing and prepping the vehicles, but people can sign up for the service as of today."

Users will be able to utilize GreenCommuter's app to find a nearby rental electric car, use a Smartphone to unlock it and start the engine (no key is involved).

The business model for GreenCommuter envisions up to 45 persons signing up as member for each vehicle. The cars will be rented by the hour and by the day by both individuals and businesses and their presence throughout the region, combined with CARTA's free downtown shuttle and citywide bus system, should allow commuters to give up their car ownership, if they choose.

TVA officials said CARTA's electric car-sharing idea was a good fit for TVA's $3 million Solar Assist Electric Vehicle Charging Program grant. Andrew Frye, a TVA power utilization engineer, said he hopes the program will expose thousands of drivers to electric cars and help more people realize the advantages of driving battery powered vehicles. Frye said the cost of starting the program in Chattanooga is only a fraction of the BlueIndiy electric vehicle ride-sharing service started in Indianapolis, Ind., at a $41 million initial cost.

From a pollution standpoint, Frye said the Nissan Leaf vehicles are equivalent right now to driving a car that gets 50 miles per gallon and by 2020 after TVA moves to greener generating sources it will equal driving a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon of gas.

"Through the research and work that TVA has been doing with electric vehicles back to the 1980s, we've learned that electric vehicles are very efficient and easy to drive and cost a third of the operating expense of a gas-powered vehicle," Frye said. "But while we've learned a lot, we still have more to learn, including figuring out how best to get the general public to be more familiar with and to use electric vehicles. That's why this program and the opportunity to touch so many people is so exciting and important to us."

Maragnano said in addition to CARTA's electric shuttle downtown and the new electric car ride sharing program, the bus service will take delivery in February of two new 35-foot electric-powered buses with inductive charging and CARTA has funding to buy three more similar buses.

"So we continue to move on in the charge for electric vehicles," she said.

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Chattanooga Launches Website to Guide Convicts through Expungement, Voting

Posted by on 13-Sep-2016

The city of Chattanooga on Monday launched a website aimed at helping people with criminal histories regain the right to vote and expunge their records.

The website, restoremyrights.com, provides information on the expungement and voting restoration processes.

Anyone convicted of a felony in Tennessee after 1981 is ineligible to vote, according to state law, but in some circumstances, a felon's voting rights can be restored.

Typically, voting rights can be restored if felons have served their entire sentences, have paid all court fines and restitution, and are up-to-date on child support, according to state law. People convicted of certain crimes — like aggravated rape, first-degree murder or treason — can never regain their right to vote.

"This is a systemic issue that we can do something about," said Chantelle Roberson, a local attorney who helped create the website.

Mayor Andy Berke also pledged to help cover court costs for people who want to expunge their criminal records but can't afford the $450 fee.

He hopes to raise money from community sources to pay for the fund, and he is hopeful city money won't need to be used, he said. No money has yet been pledged or donated.

"Part of this is going to be how many people are we talking about who need this?" he said. "We don't know if the number right now will be 10, 20, 40 or more. If we can get people with applications who meet all the criteria, we do think that the community support is there to encourage that without, necessarily, the assistance of city government."

People with a single criminal charge on their records are usually eligible to have that charge expunged if the charge was a misdemeanor or one of a handful of felonies, and if the person has paid all court costs. The person must have also completed all punishment at least five years prior to the expungement.

Expungements can be completed for free if a charge was dismissed, if a person was found not guilty, and in a handful of other circumstances.


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PODCAST: The Future of Our Miller Park District

Posted by on 10-Sep-2016

The future of Chattanooga's city center will look very different. By 2018 the number of people residing in our downtown will have doubled and the public spaces that we take for granted will be completely transformed. In today's episode we sit down with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Landscape Architect Wes Michaels, & City of Chattanooga's Jenny Park to discuss the vision for the future of our downtown and the redesign of Miller Park, Miller Plaza, & Patten Parkway. 

CLICK HERE FOR PODCAST


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