Posts filed under ‘Open Data’
I’m so annoyed.. or elated.. I’m not sure.
I just made a fully-functioning Toilet Map for England & Wales in just over an hour.
Click the image to try out this map of 1611 loos:
This is because over 80 of the 406 councils responsible for toilets now publish public toilet open data, thanks to the Local Government Association (LGA) Local Government Open Data Incentive Scheme, open to councils in England & Wales.
By developing a standard, the toilet data contains extra details that people need to meet their needs (open, accessible to them, attended, free, etc..). It also means it’s incredibly easy to use the data, as it can all be combined into 1 dataset from 80+.
To put this map in context:
The first toilet map I made, in 2010, was a Google Map of 56 Public and Community Toilets in Wandsworth. It took me 5 hours and a trip to a cemetery.
The second, The Great British Public Toilet Map of 10000 toilets, has taken 3.5 years (so far), several thousand pounds, and the combined effort of developers, enthusiasts and hundreds of members of public.
The map above I made with no skill whatsoever:
- I downloaded the .csv file containing all the data from http://schemas.opendata.esd.org.uk/PublicToilets (by clicking the ‘1’ at the bottom of the page).
- I opened this in Excel and went ‘ooo!’.
- I then uploaded the dataset to CartoDB using a free trial.
- I clicked ‘View map’ and selected the 2 columns containing the Latitude and Longitude infomation from a drop-down list.
That didn’t take an hour. That took about 10 minutes. However it only showed a few hundred toilets, yet there were over a thousand rows of info in the .csv file.
On closer inspection, I found that the Lat & Long columns were a mix of Lat / Long and Northings/Eastings. So for those toilets that had the latter, I pasted the Northings/Eastings into a different column. I then found a site to convert them by googling ‘convert northings eastings into lat long’ – I used gridreferencefinder.com. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it wouldn’t be much work to use the Ordnance Survey’s own converter instead. I then used a VLookup function in Excel to enter in the corresponding Lat/Long for each Northing/Easting. I was quite pleased with this, but I could have used Copy/Paste.
I then uploaded this dataset, tided up the new map using the nice CartoDB interface and picked out which details would be shown when you click on each toilet. I’m still reeling at how easy it is.
Now, The Great British Public Toilet Map has 10000 toilets, 10 x the amount shown on this map, or listed on the LGA site and data.gov.uk.
This just serves to show the potential of more councils, and other providers (train stations, service stations, shopping centres) joining up to publish standard public toilet open data (or any open data), that could help the public or improve a public service, especially for those that need them most.
The Great British Public Toilet Map launched last Wednesday 19th November on World Toilet Day*
Previous versions of the map have existed since 2011, but this is now the largest publicly accessible toilet database in the UK by some way. It has over 9500 toilets, and I’d be confident of saying that the map will help you to find toilets no matter where you live.
If for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t, you can add, edit and remove toilets until it does! We’ve had over 1000 toilets added this week.
There are also a tiny minority of locations where the data has gone a bit loopy with duplicate loos or inaccurate locations. Don’t be shy about removing those that you think are wrong, or telling us at firstname.lastname@example.org about parts of the country that may need a little attention. You’ll be doing us a huge favour.
*As well as World Toilet Day, it was also GIS Day (Geographic Information System). They might as well name it Toilet Map Day.
The toilet data deluge continues..
I don’t pretend to understand these things entirely, but it looks like two separate datasets:
- .xml called ‘Step-free Tube guide and Toilet data‘ professing to have toilet info for all Tube, Overground and DLR stations
- .csv for Toilets in Bus Stations
This delivers on one of the Mayor’s earlier commitments; that TfL would publish their Under-, Over-, Tube and Bus station toilet data
by Spring 2012; in response to the London Assembly’s 2011 report into London’s public toilets.
Thank you Transport for London! Unlike a toilet, it’s better late than never.
It never rains but it pours..
I’m still catching up on everything that’s happened in the past year, but it seems that Ordnance Survey are opening up their toilet data!
Or to be very, very, specific..
“..recently we have enabled our IP to be used in an open data release of one council’s toilet data, and if any others approach us for releasing toilet data this is likely to be on the same terms”
It’s great that OS have recognised that open toilet data is in the public interest and personally I think they deserve a really big hug.
Past posts on the OS saga:
BIG NEWS in the search for local council toilet data.
After years of emailing councils requesting open data about their toilets, it is now suddenly being published, in bulk, in a useful format.
22 datasets have already passed ‘technical review’ in the last couple of months, with 80+ in the pipeline!
22 is already about as much as I managed in 3 years…
But how? (quick answer – the Local Government Association asked them to)
and why? (quick answer – they’re paying them)
In February 2013 I made a formal request for public toilet location data via data.gov.uk.
The Open Data User Group took up this request – cogs whirred, people in meetings said ‘Toilets!”, plans were developed (OK so I don’t know the details..) and the Local open data incentive scheme was born, with public toilets as one of the three datasets it would focus on.
Managed by the Local Government Association (LGA), the Local open data incentive scheme offers up to £7000 to councils if they publish open data about key themes in a consistent format.
The current themes are public toilets, planning applications and licensing of premises. They get £2000 per theme and a bonus £1K if they do all three.
Approved data will be collated and will also appear on data.gov.uk for people to use and make maps and find toilets etc. etc.
Thank you people who made this happen for taking the request seriously, not overlooking the unsexy topic of public loos and spending your money to get better information about a vital public service.
On Friday 5th September I gave the Open Data Institute‘s weekly Lunchtime Lecture about The Great British Public Toilet Map.
You can listen again/flick through the slides to my talk ‘Excuse me, where is the toilet (data)?‘
The ODI have also written a blog post to summarise it, ‘How open data can help us all to find the toilet‘
Thank you, ODI, for inviting me to do this.
Councils have a statutory obligation to respond to FOI requests within 20 days. Our Research Assistants Lizzie and Billie were tasked with sending out the FOI requests to the councils, as part of our current work on the project, funded by the Nominet Trust.
They identified 405 district councils and unitary authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If the public toilet (and community toilet scheme) information on each council’s website was sufficient, they recorded this data. However if it was non-existent, or so brief that it was useless (e.g. “We have 6 public toilets.”), they sent FOI requests, working through the UK region by region. In total they sent 314 FOI requests.
As luck would have it, someone (Jonathan Roberts) had already made FOI requests to 31 councils for information about their public facilities, including toilets, including many in Wales, through the website What Do They Know?, so they only had to follow up on a few of these.
Lizzie wrote our request based on the advice from that site and feedback from Owen Boswarva following a previous blog post. Our request can be read at the end of this post.
Did it work? At last count, We had responses from 199 councils, equivalent to a response rate of 63%, in excess of our 50% target.
We were still waiting for a reply from 115 councils. A few had been chased 4 times as the 20-day period had passed without response. Of those that replied, the majority have sent data (or a pdf of data). A minority have directed us to the information already on their website. A couple have sent links to pre-existing open data. At least 1 council asked us to foot the bill, requesting £450 for the data to be collected. We declined.
Next we have to unpick what we can actually do with the data.
Whilst The Great British Public Toilet Map is a non-commercial use, the map does have to be sustainable, so we need the option to use the data for commercial purposes too.
Guidance shared by @_datapreneur about Section 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 says that datasets have to be made available for re-use, including for commercial purposes, if certain conditions are met.
Does the toilet data fit this description? I think it does. So long as the council ‘own’ the data it is theirs to release for re-use.
An exception would be Ordnance Survey location data. I’m also not sure about toilets provided by a third company, e.g. the Superloos. Could they ‘own the rights’ to the information about their opening hours, rather than the councils, for example? Is that even practical? At what point is information simply in the public domain?
At least one council has decided to share the information under EIR (Environmental Information Regulations) instead of the FOI Act, which makes things different again.
And what about the councils who specifically said it could only be used by The Great British Public Toilet Map, and for non-commercial gain? If they had no right to, are we ignoring them at our peril?
My next task it to get to the bottom of these questions, hopefully in a way which doesn’t involve extensive back-and-forth email conversations with 300 separate councils.
Suggestions, as always, are extremely welcome.
Dear ### Council,
We are writing to request details of your public toilet provision. We intend to use this information as open data for the Great British Public Toilet Map. This is a project started by the Royal College of Art and funded by the Nominet Trust to make it easier for people, in particular those with reduced continence, to find toilets.
Please treat this as a request for information under both the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and under the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, we request a dataset that covers all your toilet provision including public, library, parks and associated offices (one- stop offices for council tax payment etc). In short any toilet provision you offer to members of the public including those under any community toilet scheme you may have in operation. The specific data we require, if held by the Council, is:
– the longitude and latitude / postcode / exact location
– Opening times
– If there is a cost to use the facility
– Male / female
– Disabled access (including RADAR scheme)
– Baby changing (male and/or female)
– specialist provision such as urinals and/or squatting toilets
We request that this data is provided to us via email and if possible in a spreadsheet (XLS) format. We also request that this data is provided under licence that allows reuse, ideally the Open Government Licence.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter,
The Great British Public Toilet Map