Going Where No Street View Has Gone Before

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Santa Catalina Island, located southwest of Los Angeles, was a void on maps until a few enthusiasts armed with 360 cameras set about imaging its streets and noting mislabeled addresses.

Santa Catalina Island and its lone city, Avalon, were incredibly hard to navigate as late as September because local street-level imagery was nonexistent.

Google Street View lacks a financial interest in mapping out-of-the-way places like Catalina, so the Pacific island southwest of Los Angeles, but still part of L.A. County, was a virtual void.

This can present challenges for first responders like firefighters, who require accurate addresses and routing in their line of work.

That's where MaptimeLA steps in.

“There are hundreds of thousands of dark areas of Los Angeles County that need good mapping, and they need good mapping from people who live in that area,” said Jon Schleuss, a Los Angeles Times data visualization reporter by day and MaptimeLA organizer in his spare time.

The L.A. Times uses the free, open source project OpenStreetMap for things like crime mapping, where most people rely on mobile apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze. If you’ve ever seen a Craigslist map, you’ve witnessed OSM data in action, but L.A. government agencies are the other prominent users in the county.

OSM base maps come in handy importing the shapes of the approximately 3 million buildings in the county, so there’s a collective interest in improving local data and, thereby, local maps.

Schleuss, an Arkansas native with an occasional craving for “small town vibes,” recently proposed MaptimeLA, which meets every other Thursday, camp out in Catalina the weekend of Oct. 1 to map it.

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island (OpenStreetMaps) 

MaptimeLA wasn’t alone in its endeavor, teaming with Sweden-based startup Mapillary to capture images with cheap 360 degree cameras the platform stitches together into a street view via advanced computer vision algorithms. What Google Street View does by car, Mapillary does through crowdsourcing to canvas hard-to-reach places.

“Everybody had a good phone in their pocket with a decent camera and GPS, so we could place the photo on the map,” said Johan Gyllenspetz, Mapillary cofounder. “The virtual reality community is pushing better, cheaper 360 cameras, and consumer-grade cameras are getting better as well.”

Upon arrival, L.A. County Fire Captain Gary Black let MaptimeLA use his operations room, complete with a gigantic, offroad fire truck, to work.

There are about 1,100 addresses on Catalina Island, and residents chose house numbers themselves.

In many cases, map points were based on assessor records and focused on the middle of properties rather than the main entrances of structures. If properties weren’t square, map points might even be shifted to adjacent parcels, Schleuss said.

House numbers were derived from the imagery taken and documented so map points could be moved, when necessary, to the proper home or building.

Not only does the fire department have the correct addresses now, but their routing software will be able to find ideal streets easier because map points won’t lead them to the center of large parcels. Tactically, 360 street views will enable Black’s crew to scout the scenes of fires in advance on mobile devices to plan maneuvers.

Back on the mainland in East Hollywood, Schleuss lives near a Braille institute around which the city is constantly rebuilding sidewalks. Blind and other visually-impaired residents can’t necessarily tell when a sidewalk is closed until they’re on top of a plastic barrier, confused.

Updating under construction sidewalk data in an open source app for those residents would be immensely helpful, he said.

“As a community, we benefit from everyone getting involved in that project,” Schleuss added.

As for Mapillary, Gyllenspetz envisions cities using the platform to document street trees, lights and traffic signs—noting changes in things like speed limits.

“If we do this on a regular basis, we can even help the city understand what was there before and what isn’t there anymore,” he said.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.

NEXT STORY: Navigator Award Finalist: Lillian Coral, Chief Data Officer, City of Los Angeles

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.