Open Data Tool Boosts TOD in Chicago

A "TOD Calculator" developed by a Chicago non-profit promises to deliver quantifiable, digestible data on the community impacts of transit-oriented development.

2 minute read

March 30, 2016, 1:00 PM PDT

By Elana Eden

Chicago El

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock

The Grow Chicago "TOD Calculator," created by the Metropolitan Planning Council, uses public data to visualize information on a specific address in Chicago—from its zoning code and proximity to transit, to projections of the annual retail revenue, tax income, on-site jobs, and transit ridership a project built there could generate.

Since its release six months ago, developers, residents, aldermen, and small business owners have used the calculator to judge the impact of potential projects on their own communities.

The data has also influenced regulation—helping convince Chicago to expand its 2013 TOD ordinance by increasing the allowed distance from transit, eliminating parking minimums, and adding density bonuses.

Chicago is hardly the first city to look to open data projects for efficiency, transparency, and shared information to help guide policy. But as Sean Thorton, a fellow with Harvard’s Data-Smart City Solutions initiative, points out, data tech alone is not a magical fix for human, urban problems:

It’s true that without open data, the Calculator would not have been possible to build. Yet MPC’s creative work shows that the effectiveness of data portals themselves also has a ceiling. In order for open data to reach its full potential, those who consume it must be willing to take on complex tasks—like MPC and its partners did—to create tools and products that effectively educate and benefit the public.

The Grow Chicago interactive tool has been joined in recent months by other open data portals, such as OpenGrid in Chicago and GeoHub in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 in Data-Smart City Solutions

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