Guest post by Tim Moreland, cofounder of Open Chattanooga.

Have you ever been frustrated when looking for a parking spot in downtown Chattanooga, or sat wondering at a CARTA bus stop if you missed your bus or if it was just running late? This Feb 24th, Open Chattanooga will sponsor the first in a series of  themed hack-a-thons to address common urban problems through open data and technology. This month’s Transportation-themed Hack-a-thon will bring together thinkers and doers in the fields of transportation and technology for learning, debating, connecting, and creating. If you’ve ever been frustrated or confused by Chattanooga’s transportation systems and thought, “there’s got to be a better way,” this is the event for you!

What the heck is a hack-a-thon anyway?

A civic hack-a-thon is a event where programmers (geeks) and citizens meet to brainstorm ideas and develop collaborative computer applications aimed at making the city a better place. These hack-a-thons are very much in the spirit of collaboration and openness. The recipe for a successful hack-a-thon includes a wide range people with complementary skill sets and perspectives on the city: urbanists, civic hackers, City representatives, developers, graphic designers, GIS professionals, neighborhood leaders, observant and passionate residents – anyone with a passion to make their city better.   As a Code for America Brigade “alpha city,” Chattanooga is joining an group of cities leading the wave of open data and civic innovation sweeping the country. (Read more about the Brigade’s “Code Across America” event).

What will  happen at the Transportation Hack-a-thon?

Transportation is a major metropolitan issue, with direct impacts on economic strength, environmental sustainability, and social equity.  Recent advances in technology (“web 2.0”, mobile computing, open source software, open data and APIs, and spatial analysis) present an opportunity to improve mobility more immediately and at a lower cost than has ever been possible in the past.

Submit and vote on transportation applications you would like to see in Chattanooga athttps://hackchatt.uservoice.com. These ideas will form a jumping off point for brainstorming at the hack-a-thon.

Open Chattanooga’s Transportation Hack-a-thon will focus on major themes such as:

  • What are some of Chattanooga’s most pressing transportation problems and how can they be addressed with technology?
  • Open transit data: What are the best practices for developers to use it and transit agencies to publish it? What are the technical challenges?
  • How can developers help transit agencies lower the cost of technology?

The day will be designed to identify pressing transportation problems and creative solutions using a collaborative/interactive process. As a result, what comes out of the hack-a-thon will depend on who attends. That being said, the following are some of the hard outcomes we hope to achieve:

  • Release of a new multi-modal trip planner called Routr
  • Updating Open Chattanooga’s open data website to provide more data to the general public and civic hackers (you can view our transportation data on the website here, more data coming!)
  • Get transportation professionals, users and civic hackers in the same room together and see what happens!

List of the day’s program (Participants are encouraged to attend some or all of the sessions depending on schedule and interest level)

8:30 – Welcome and Introduction
9:00 – Hack-a-thon Overview
9:30 – Transportation Problem working sessions (brainstorming)
10:30 – Teams created/hacking begins
12:00 Break for lunch. Snacks and beverages will be provided throughout the day.
1:00 – Keep hacking
3:30 – Start preparing for presentation
4:00 – Teams presentations
4:30 – We’re done

You can register for the event at https://hackchatt.eventbrite.com/.

Open Chattanooga, the event organizer, is a local movement of citizens, geeks, techies, and City employees working together to make local public data, open, available and useful. Open Chattanooga uses technology as a platform to encourage government transparency, accountability, and accessibility while also empowering citizens to design their own solutions to civic problems.