Wellington’s first Civic Hackathon was held over the weekend of November 1 and 2.
More than 30 designers, developers, hardware specialists, mesh network builders, residents, urban planners, GIS wranglers, transport enthusiasts, and train and plane watchers spent two days hacking the transport issues affecting the Eastern Suburbs and the CBD.
“One of Wellington City’s greatest challenges and contentious issues is that of traffic management and flow,” says Ian Apperley, co-organiser, Civic Hackathon.
“Traffic being pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, taxis, freight, and private vehicles. Therefore the challenge was: How do we increase the quality of transport around the Eastern Suburbs Peninsula and to and from the Central Business District?”
The group worked over the two days to produce five ideas that they then presented to a Dragon’s Den-style team that included Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, as well as team representatives and members of the Miramar business improvement district group.
All but three of the Wellington city councillors visited along with one of the Greater Wellington Regional Councillors.
Taxis were one of the issues - Apperley says thousands of travellers disembark every day at Wellington Airport, and hundreds of taxis can congest the route between Eastern Suburbs and the CBD as waves of passengers arrive.
“The team set about about figuring out how to reduce the number of taxi trips, decrease the cost of taxi travel for the passengers, create networking opportunities, and reduce impact on the environment,” he adds.
“TaxiPool allows a passenger to find travellers heading to a similar destination as they exit their aircraft.
“Quickly linking together people, travellers can then share a taxi, saving cost on their fares, reducing the number of taxis on the road, and so reducing pollution and congestion.”
Real Time Bus Travel Application
Apperley says bus travel is suffering from a lack of technology boost in Wellington.
“In other major centres you can see when your bus is coming in real-time,” he adds. “However, in the capital the bus company can’t, or won’t make that information available for developers. So what to do? Collect it ourselves.
“The Real Time Bus Travel Application allows you to see exactly when your bus is coming, where it is on a map, the mood of the driver, and how full it is.
“Better, it’s gamified: that means that you collect points by participating and stand to win Snapper Dollars each month.
“When you hop on to your bus, you check-in, tell the world how full the bus is, glance at the driver for their mood, and obviously every time choose that smiley face.
“This means that you can not only see when your bus is coming, you can choose whether you want to get on a full bus, or wait 10 minutes and have another coffee while waiting for a bus with a driver who is in a fantastic mood and all the seats you could want.”
Apperley says that by taking the data from AraFlow sensors that collect bluetooth signal movements, this team worked on visualising traffic flows across the city, intersection by intersection.
This visualisation could be used to show drivers which is the next least congested intersection on their route into the city, so as to follow a path with less traffic than the main routes.
Travel Corridors and Future Innovators
This team looked at alternative modes of transport and different ways of getting into the city: from travelators, to extra ferry services, tunnels, gondolas, monorail (slightly tongue in cheek), and other types of transport.
Using the Internet of Things this team built pedestrian and cycle-trackers for a fraction of the cost of buying them off the shelf.
“Items that cost more than $3000 can be hand-built quickly for around $150,” Apperley says.
“To demonstrate this the team built a series of Internet of Things pedestrian and cycle trackers that monitored pressure, used and could take weather readings, air pollution data, and a host of other data.
“Prototypes will be installed shortly on some of Wellington’s mountain bike tracks to help gather usage data.”
All of the ideas from the weekend have been open sourced and published on the Hack Miramar Website.
The groups are going to speak with the council before the end of the year in an effort to seek support for developing the prototypes for the weekend to full public availability.
Plans for the next Civic Hackathon have begun, with March 2015 set down as the likely date for Version 2.0, which will face a new challenge and generate new ideas.