The Fabrique des Mobilités Québec team continues its series of interviews with the goal of identifying the major issues and challenges related to curbside in Montreal. This time the interview is with Ms. Carole Philibien, data analyst at Jalon.
The fabrique des mobilités Québec team continues its series of interviews with the intention of understanding the major issues and challenges associated with the curb in Montreal. In this article, Carole Philibien, data analyst at Jalon, begins by contextualizing the major issues surrounding the Montreal curb in 2022. She then presents the main strategic guidelines as well as the portal that allows the exchange of information that is still not well known to Montrealers. In conclusion, Ms. Philibien examines the future of curb sharing over the next ten years.
The current context and challenges
ST: Based on your experience, what are the major issues and challenges related to curbside in Montreal?
Carole: The first concern is a lack of knowledge and a poor understanding of what exists, which is not properly inventoried. People don’t know the parking signs, for example. For its part, the AMD does not have a map of all the parking spaces that are available on the Island of Montreal. If this inventory exists, it is not necessarily accessible and even less so when it is a matter of accessing and understanding the data.
The second challenge is the sharing of this street curb by different meanings between the different citizens: delivery people, merchants, citizens, those who are on bikes, those who are in cars.
ST: How, through your activities, to you in particular and to Jalon more in general, do you participate in responding to these issues and challenges?
Carole: One of Jalon’s missions is to enable data to be collectable and compiled in one place, and potentially to make it usable by all. We make sure that all the data is accessible and has been adapted to the different levels of understanding needed by the people who want to use it. Then we make the platform and this collected data available, which is better defined, more clear, as well as tools to be able to do analysis and better understanding of what’s going on around the curbs, whether it’s in their usage, their availability, their use.
ST: Today, at the Jalon level, what type of subjects do you currently have data on?
Carole: We have all the data from the City of Montreal, including the location of schools, types of schools, and all types of places in Montreal. We also have all the data on parking signs, Communauto stations, buses and subways. We also have all the data of the housing lots of the city of Montreal, that means where the houses are. I am forgetting many…
The key strategy for managing curbside challenges
ST: Do you have a strategy for selecting the data you add to the library? Is it just by opportunity? Is it related to the needs, the wills, the priorities?
Carole: Strategy is a combination of all these. It can be by opportunity but also by necessity. For instance, on the accessibility index, we integrated the data on the geography of the dissemination areas that the federal government had defined, because we needed it to make our measurements. It was a need not connected to mobility itself.
We are also very interested in all of the issues surrounding mobility in the Montreal and Quebec context. For the moment, we are focussing on this level. We will also look for the additional value that we can generate with regard to these data.
Finally, all of our partners may need to store data or perhaps share their data. For example, the Cop Carbone integrates panel data, provided by the FabMob, in order to make an accurate inventory. This data will be in the platform. We also have other external partners who want to provide their data that can be easily shared with others. This opens up the question of open data and data sharing, which can help in the construction of analyses and combinations of data and therefore push the reflection and analyses one step further.
ST: What is the path that data follows, from the raw data you receive to the results you present to the public?
Carole: Let’s use the example of data that are on the Montreal open data portal. We will retrieve all the relevant information on a dataset with our tool, then determine the type of data it contains in order to better incorporate it into the Jalon databases in a raw version. We then move on to staging: we make sure that the data types are common to each other so that we can make quick comparisons. So we will be unifying the date formats, the Booleans (“true” and “false”), and also the geolocalized data so that they are all on the same streed. For example, on the accessibility index, I joined all the location data: in the city of Montreal, parks are one table, recreational facilities are another table, and places of interest yet another. I have joined everything in one chart and I have made sure that all my columns are the same so that if I need to search for any place, everything is in the same location and in the same format
From these elements, we can see the cross-references that will be made. We can work on the data and eventually create new tables. These are data that we add to the initial data set and that will be helpful for the future. So we will create new tables that are linked to the first tables and with which we can make the necessary calculations. This will be generated in the new table and these are the tables that will be accessible to the application that has been created.
The goal is to ensure that when the data is updated, the system will automatically also update all the data in the tables that were created afterwards. This way, if a piece of data changes, for example a new park is created, it will also be included in the table and will be shown on the visualization tool.
Jalon : an unknown information sharing platform for citizens.
ST: The Jalon platform is also a library where third parties can come and “help themselves”. Who wants to access this data and how do they obtain it?
Carole: The purpose is to make everyone want to retrieve this data. But for the moment, in reality, few citizens are using the portal. It is more likely to be used by researchers, students, possibly people from the City, and other mobility partners.
For access, you just need to create an account on the Jalon platform. It is then possible to retrieve the data either by downloading the files, or by visualizing them – for the moment the raw data is available – or with APIs. The library shows all the datasets we currently have on the platform, which are already public.
We also include private data, but to access it, you have to make internally approved access requests. This does not happen frequently. Often, it is users who want to integrate data but do not want to share it with the public. So, for the moment, we leave this data private and give access to this data to these individuals only.
ST: So what would be my benefit in adding data to your library if I’m letting you do the calculations?
Carole: The interest would be that it serves as a bridge or if you have a need for your data to be compared with other data that are on the platform. It could also make it easier to share even this private data. Because you may want to share private data with partners, but not “at large” with the community. So here it would be easily accessible, and the person who is giving the data is uploading it to the platform and not worrying about how third parties can get it.
ST: Related to that, what is Jalon’s current position on the open data issue? I suppose it’s part of your DNA.
Carole: Indeed. In 2021, Jalon’s goal is to follow the approach that Montreal wants to adopt with respect to open data, i.e., to promote open data and help partners open their own data. There is also a desire to fully explain to people what the benefits of opening up their data are, to encourage this exchange. The goal is to create a positive circle between people who share their data and make it accessible, so that they can use the data of others who also share their data, in order to advance sustainable mobility. So yes, it’s definitely part of the DNA of the library.
ST: To understand what you are saying, Jalon is positioned as the “safe space” of open data, the “share your data, if you put it with us, it will be well treated, well protected, shared when it makes sense and with whom it makes sense” side.
Carole : That’s the purpose: to follow the Montreal Digital Charter’s principles, to follow those principles as closely as possible and to encourage other partners to follow those principles. And it’s not that simple!
ST: What is the main reason for that? The main reason is the legal and security problem?
Carole: Yes, the culture of open data is not widely promoted, especially in private enterprises because for them, their data is their own business, so there is no point in sharing it, or even the danger of sharing it. In addition, there are all the issues of security and anonymization of data, to avoid that cross-referencing data allows the identification of a person, for example. So there is a whole business and contractual side to it, but there is also a whole security side to protect the individual and prevent the data and the individuals from being traced. And this is still a rather complex area to combine. Both are almost contradictory. On the one hand, we want more transparency and, on the other, we don’t want to show the data.
ST: Is there any other curb-related data, other than parking, that you are currently working on and/or that you wish you had access to and that you would like to work on but haven’t yet?
Carole: At Jalon, we are more involved in thinking about accessibility for reduced transportation. And we are participating in the FabMob project.
But personally, I would like us to be able to access all the curb data that can be an obstacle to people with reduced mobility. Or even to the availability of bike racks, how a bike can “park” somewhere.
It would also be interesting to have access to data when parking spaces are removed. This would allow for the analysis and the creation of prototypes, visuals to show the real impact that it will have. And we should be able to share this data with merchants and users of these curbs. This would perhaps make the debate less exclusive and would make it possible to convince people.
The future of Montreal’s curb side
ST: What would your ideal curbside look like in 5, 10 years from now?
Carole: I would imagine a curb that is no longer just for parking, but something that is part of everyone’s urban use, like a passageway. The use of this curb would be quite versatile and change quickly. It could be used for parking when it is needed, and for social gathering places, why not? Let it not be just a barrier to the street. For that, there should already be a stage where parking is not a requirement. That the citizen and all the different levels of governance reappropriate this area. I like the idea that it can change, can evolve, according to the days of the week, the times, possibly because it could simply be a form of commitment. But it would certainly be nice if it were no longer just a parking space and if, behind it, people were able to get around other than in a car by themselves.
In the context of the information raised by Ms. Philibien about the Montreal curbside context and strategy, the future is constantly evolving. We hope for a more versatile use and a re-appropriation by citizens of urban parking areas in the next decade.