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Turning Dirty Streets Clean through Comprehensive Open Data Mapping

Through a Clean Streets LA initiative called CleanStat, Los Angeles is the first city to map the cleanliness of every one of its blocks.

This story was originally published by Data-Smart City Solutions.

Los Angeles, Calif.’s comprehensive Clean Streets LA (CSLA) initiative is effectively addressing street cleanliness using the power of data and mapping. Through a CSLA initiative called CleanStat, Los Angeles is the first city to map the cleanliness of every one of its blocks. CleanStat data, and an accompanying story map that provides context and explanations, are hosted on the GeoHub, LA’s map-based open data portal, meaning the results of the initiative are easily accessible by residents and other departments. Since launching CleanStat almost a year ago, the city has reduced unclean streets by 82% and somewhat clean streets by 84%. During the last quarter of 2016, unclean streets made up only 1% of the total street segments and 87% of the streets were rated clean.  

The data-driven Clean Streets LA initiative exemplifies the benefits of quantifiable service delivery. Los Angeles Sanitation (LASAN) uses the data to identify abandoned waste hotspots and improve deployment of cleanup crews. It is also exploring ways to predict future deployment through forecasting and predictive analytics.

Clean Streets LA Initiative

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the Clean Streets LA (CSLA) Initiative through Executive Directive No. 8 in April of 2015 to replenish the funding stream for city cleanliness services that had been significantly reduced during the recession. Under ED8, the mayor called for a robust partnership between the city, residents, businesses, and community organizations to improve the cleanliness of Los Angeles’ streets. 

CSLA is a citywide partnership with the Mayor’s Office, LASAN, the City Administrative Officer, the Bureau of Street Services, the Information Technology Agency, the Office of Community Beautification, the Los Angeles City Council, the Board of Public Works, the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, and the Los Angeles Police Department. LASAN is the leading agency responsible for implementing the initiative. 

A core part of CSLA is CleanStat, a comprehensive block-level cleanliness system which launched a year later in April 2016. To generate this data, LASAN’s five two-person crews drive over 22,000 miles every quarter to assess the cleanliness of 42,000 blocks in Los Angeles using video and geographic information system (GIS) tools. This process is thorough and time-intensive; crews drive through the country’s largest municipal street network and assign a cleanliness score to each block in the city. Additionally, crews use this opportunity to log service request tickets in the city’s 311 system using the mobile app to reduce response time. 

LASAN uses CleanStat as an operational and reporting tool to improve routing to different areas in the city and ensure effective and equitable service delivery. LASAN holds monthly meetings with operational staff to review successes and challenges in service delivery throughout the city and brainstorm ways to improve in future quarters. In addition to internal reviews, LASAN reports quarterly findings to council districts to help them decide where to allocate new garbage receptacles and where to target beautification efforts. Since launching CSLA, the city has deployed more than 1,500 garbage receptacles across the city, which are all mapped on the GeoHub.

Mayor Garcetti relies on CleanStat to ensure that the city stays on track to meet its CSLA goal of eliminating dirty streets by 2018. The quarterly data collection to date shows the city is improving street cleanliness and is on track to meet this goal. 

CleanStat uses GIS technology “to understand the city and develop a comprehensive method of looking at trends,” explains Los Angeles Chief Data Officer Lilian Coral, who managed the addition of this data to the GeoHub. By quantifying service delivery, the city can better prioritize high foot-traffic areas, act swiftly to drive out pervasive illegal dumping under freeway off-ramps, and make data-driven decisions on where to deploy trash bins in areas with persistent litter. 

As an essential piece of the built environment, streets have a measurable impact on livability and economic prosperity. Pedestrians are more likely to visit businesses and events on cleaner streets and will likely avoid streets with bulky items and litter scattered across if they have the option. Ensuring cleaner streets is a crucial part of the city’s commitment to faster, more data-driven service delivery across neighborhoods.

How CleanStat Works

CleanStat crews use Esri’s ArcGIS Collector app to take geocoded images and determine the cleanliness score for each of the 42,000 street segments.

When recording the cleanliness of a street or alley, the assessors assign a score based on four criteria:

  1. Loose litter: Scattered items that are typically discarded in a litter bin, including green waste.
  2. Bulky items: One or multiple intact solid objects that one LASAN crewmember can easily place inside a refuse collection loading truck.
  3. Weeds: Overgrown vegetation protruding onto city property that may obstruct pedestrian travel.
  4. Illegal dumping: A pile of debris that requires specialized equipment or additional resources to dispose of that are not regularly covered under the normal LASAN service guidelines.
A street is rated 1 if the street is clean, 2 if it requires some cleaning, and 3 if it requires immediate attention. These scores are color coded on a citywide map of streets and alleys.

Visualizing data-driven government through the GeoHub

In order to make this data accessible to residents, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Data Team, led by CDO Lilian Coral, translated the open data generated from the Clean Streets LA Initiative into an interactive story map that lives on the GeoHub. The map presents the data to the public in a scrolling format that is easily accessible and interactive, with curated map displays and accompanying explanations. 

The story map works to use narrative tools to alleviate the data literacy gap that obstructs many residents from engaging with open data. It aims to educate and engage Angelenos by guiding users through the data collection process, the results, and how residents can take action to report issues on their block through MyLA311.

The story map, which has over 40,000 views, was recently added to Esri’s Maps We Love, a collection of high-quality maps recognized by the world’s leading GIS provider, for its simplicity, elegant design, and ability to engage the public. According to Esri, “The Clean Streets LA map does more than provide data about litter… it helps build healthy relationships between citizens and government in Los Angeles.”

Los Angeles’s open data achievements have received other national acclaim — in October 2016, Los Angeles was presented with one of two national inaugural Analytics 50 Awards by Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and Los Angeles and Boston were the only two cities to receive the award.

The street cleanliness story map is one of a number of visualization tools on LA’s GeoHub that highlight the important role open data plays in informing and improving the lives of city residents. The success of this map demonstrates the power of storytelling in data visualization and how story maps can bridge the gap between active data users and nontechnical audiences seeking more information about how their city runs.

Clean Streets LA demonstrates Mayor Garcetti’s commitment to seeking innovative, location-based approaches to prevailing city issues. Tackling street cleaning on a micro-local level using spatial analytics empowers both the city and residents to use data to drive improvements as both parties can measure and track changes in an accessible and visual platform that wouldn’t be possible without CleanStat.