Last year, Cities named ten of its favorite metro datasets of 2011 from cities across North America, illustrating the breadth of what we might learn (regarding mosquito traps! misplaced vehicles! energy consumption!) in the still relatively young field of urban open data. For this year's installment, we're going one step further. Sure, raw data is great. But useful tools, maps and data visualizations built with said data are even better.
Below, you'll find our picks for 2012's best open data releases from municipal vaults, with an emphasis on tools that can be used by anyone, not just developers and data geeks. If we missed your favorite, please add it in the comments.
1. Crime in Philadelphia. Philadelphia snuck onto our 2012 list just under the wire,publishing last week a big data set on all major crimes in the city dating back to January 1, 2006. The data is now updated daily, covering incidents of homicide, rape, robbery, assault and theft. Philadelphia now joins Chicago, which released 10 years of crime data last year. Baltimore has a similar dataset. For Philadelphians more interested in live trends than historic ones, the city is now also mapping recent crimes (see the above graphic). A smart bonus feature: when you click on an individual incident, the map gives you an opportunity to "submit a tip" to the Philadelphia Police Department.
2. Bikeshare rides in Boston. Boston’s Hubway bikeshare system published a massive file of historic trip data earlier this year, then invited riders and developers to turn the information into something useful with a data visualization challenge. This map comes from one of the winners, Ari Ofsevit, showing the average speeds across different routes between bikeshare stations. Capital Bikeshare in Washington also publishes trip data. Nice Ride in Minneapolis did so earlier this year as well, although that release ran into privacy complications when it turned out the anonymoized data wasn’t so anonymous after all.