The Mayor has recently launched an online community forum called CHIdeas to engage Chicago’s residents and businesses in a discussion on how to improve services at City Hall, create programs and initiatives in our neighborhoods, and enhance quality of life across the city. CHIdeas provides a structured platform to seek ideas from the public and promote community dialogue around key issues such as raising the minimum wage, early learning programs, library services, and public art installations.


CHIdeas Logo


Visit to add your voice to the conversation

Online urban city guide Yelp has helped millions find and review businesses in their area, from discovering a local deli to cure a lunch break rut to trying out a new hair dresser with fingers crossed and eyes closed. And soon, Yelp will not only be in our back pockets, but in our backyard as well. Yelp Co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have recently announced the expansion of Yelp to the Merchandise Mart, where it’s slated to open shop January 2015.

In addition to providing ratings and reviews, Yelp lets patrons “check-in” on the mobile app to their frequented restaurants to earn titles of Regular and Duke, even Baron of the Neighborhood – a lesser-known Yelp marketing technique. But beyond virtual royalty, Yelp is now offering Chicagoans something a little more substantial – jobs. They plan to hire 300 employees in the next 12 to 18 months in Chicago.

With offices in San Francisco, Scottsdale, New York, London, Hamburg, and Dublin, Yelp chose Chicago due to its pipeline of talented personnel from universities across the Midwest, along with its dedication to local business and a nationally-recognized technology community. The office in the Merchandise Mart attracted Yelp, as it sought a commuter-friendly location situated near Chicago’s thriving business district. Yelp is excited to play a part in Chicago’s rich history of innovation, which includes the Ferris Wheel, the skyscraper and brownies, to name a few.

“This vibrant metropolis is an ideal location to source talented new employees and connect with even more great local businesses. Chicago’s history as a leader in innovation and support of small business and tech industry growth fits seamlessly with Yelp’s initiatives, and we are excited to build a home here with Yelp’s seventh office,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, Co-founder and CEO of Yelp.

Since its 2004 launch in San Francisco, Yelp has connected millions of users to local businesses in 27 countries worldwide: US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Singapore, Poland, Turkey, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Japan and Argentina. And like that guy who always knows the newest, trendiest place in town, Yelp is popular. It boasted a monthly average of 68 million unique hits on mobile devices in the second quarter of 2014.

Yelp will be joining an already thriving tech community in the Merchandise Mart: technology hub 1871, Razorfish and MATTER, a start-up for next-generation health IT, medical device and biopharma companies. The City looks forward to welcoming Yelp to its skyline, in what is hoped to be a fruitful – and tasty – relationship.

From smart phones to digital cameras, from Facebook to Google, technology is a central part of our kids’ lives today. We’re happy to announce that Best Buy is now sponsoring Chicago City of Learning programs designed to build our students’ technology skills through fun, interactive workshops and activities.

“The Chicago City of Learning program continues to engage our kids, opening the doors to a variety of learning opportunities across the city,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The additional resources provided by Best Buy’s Geek Squad Academy will allow Chicago’s youth to explore a future in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. This will help prepare our children with the skills and education they need for college and a successful career.”

anyone-can-code[1]The CCOL initiative offers thousands of after-school and summer programs, through partner organizations citywide, designed to challenge youth to engage in new ways of learning. Hands-on projects afford children and teens to work with everything from traditional craft materials to state-of-the-art technology. Through the sponsorship, participating CCOL outlets will afford Best Buy Geek Squad Academy to teach Chicago’s youth about the latest technology that will set them up for future career and college success. Geek Squad Academy will provide tech experts to engage kids with activities such as robotics, 3D printing and audio and video production.

More information on the Chicago City of Learning can be found at

The City of Chicago has released a handful of new datasets which pertain to several parts of daily life in Chicago. The public will be able to explore the water quality at Chicago beaches, find who and which vehicles are licensed to carry passengers, activities for Chicago’s Micro-Market Recovery Program, and the geographic areas targeted by the City’s Broadband Innovation Challenge.

Sensors at Chicago’s Beaches

Chicago Parks District maintains automated sensors that report water data at the city’s beaches, including water temperature, water clarity (turbidity), and wave height–the same information 
The new dataset provides current and historical information from sensors starting during the 2014 swimming season. The graph below shows water temperatures every hour for each Chicago beach from Memory Day 2014 until present

These sensors will go offline during the winter, but the data will remain and be active each summer.

Public Chauffeurs, Vehicles, and Pedicabs

Every day, licensed chauffeurs carry Chicago residents in taxis, limousines, and even horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs. Each driver is licensed by the City of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP). Now, a dataset on the portal shows the licensed chauffeurs in the city and the vehicles authorized to carry passengers.

The public chauffeurs dataset lists which drivers have applied for a chauffeurs permit to operate ambulances, horse-drawn carriages, pedicabs, taxis, and livery vehicles (e.g., limos).

Meanwhile, public passenger vehicle licenses show which vehicles are authorized to carry passengers. The make, model, and year of vehicle is shown, including the vehicle color and type of fuel the vehicle uses. The graph below shows the most popular model for taxi cabs with an active license.

Additionally, the data also shows if the vehicle is wheelchair accessible, the name of the company which owns the vehicle and their address is also available through this dataset.

Finally, the dataset also includes permits recently issued by BACP in response to a new city ordinance. Individuals who applied to pedicab licenses are displays alongside other public chauffeur applicants. Want to just view pedicab permits?

Micro-Market Recovery Program

The portal contains several datasets on the Micro-Market Recovery Program ( in the City of Chicago. The city has identified several MMRP zones to provide real estate purchasing assistance to stabilize the local housing market. Community development organizers work to provide residents the ability to buy vacant or abandoned properties from absentee landowners and banks to revitalize neighborhoods.

The MMRP data consists of five different datasets covering addresses, building permits, cases, and violations and inspections of properties within MMRP zone. A map of the boundaries for each MMRP zone is also available.

Need to link data, for instance, matching violations with cases? You can join the data using the address_key or address_grouping_key fields.  Below is a diagram showing the relationship between these tables.


An entity-relationship model showing address_key and address_grouping_key used across the MMRP datasets.

Broadband Innovation Zones

Last year, the City released a request-for-qualifications for companies to build gigabit or near-gigabit broadband in designated innovation zones at affordable prices. We’ve posted a machine-readable, GIS map on the broadband innovation zones. Maps can be explored within your browser, so you won’t need to use special GIS software to view the innovation zones.

Stay in the loop

Keep tabs on technical updates with the portal at our new status blog. You can keep in touch with the open data team through @ChicagoCDO or

So, you’ve come to rely on the open data portal to power a website, a research project, or simply browse. First, thank you! We do want to make the open data portal an effective platform for everyone.  In the inaugural open data report, the city laid out a commitment to release a status blog to keep users in the loop about changes to the portal.

Today we’re happy to launch the Chicago Data Portal Status blog to keep you in the loop about changes and issues with the data portal.  The portal contains nearly 600 datasets and is over 3 years old. The platform is improved and we will be cleaning-up and continuously optimizing the portal for better performance and consistency. We will be keeping you informed of those changes so you can understand when and why changes were made.

A large portion of the portal is a sophisticated setup of automated scripts that refresh data on a daily, weekly, or monthly process. But, sometimes things go wrong. If something does malfunction, it’s important that we provide a basic service of keeping our users up-to-date on the resolution.

What kind of things will we write about at the status blog?

  • Work on migrating geographic datasets from attachments to browse-able maps
  • Change the API call name to correct a spelling error or improve consistency.
  • Provide an update if we have a technical issue or out-of-date dataset.

The blog will be updated if we notice an issue or if one is brought to our attention. Feel free to reach out to us via Twitter or email.

Chicago Public Library and Google Chicago are partnering to bring the latest innovation in STEM education to Chicago: Finch Robots! Thanks to Google’s donation of 500 Finch Robots, anyone with a library card can check out one of the fun, hands-on robots to learn the basics of computer coding.


The easy-to-use Finch Robots are programmable devices that can move, make noises, light up, and even draw, allowing students to bring computer coding to life. Using the Finch, students as young as eight years old can learn the basics of coding in over a dozen programming languages and environments in a fun, interactive way.

Offering Finch Robots at Chicago Public Library is another step towards Mayor Emanuel’s goal of providing STEM education for Chicagoans of all ages and making 21st century job skills like computer programming accessible across the city. The robots can be checked out individually or in packs of five, making it easy for teachers or community organizations working with larger groups to take advantage of the state-of-the-art technology.

Any adult patron of the Library can check out a robot, either at one of the six CPL locations where the robots are housed, or through the Library’s holds system using

Lesson plans and tutorials for the Finch can be found on the website. For more information, check out this video to see the Finch in action!


Today the City of Chicago announced the winners of the Chicago CleanWeb Challenge. This year-long hackathon challenged developers to use city data and create technological solutions for environmental issues. There are four incredible winners of the CleanWeb Challenge. Check them out below!


First place winner Planet Lab created an entirely new platform for STEM learning that can be used by students across the city. They’re connecting kids with top researchers and scientific organizations and providing classrooms with the best hands-on science education materials out there. It’s an amazing new way for students to learn and save the planet – all while having a great time.


Love playing FarmVille? You’re going to love Build It! Bronzeville, the second place winner of the CleanWeb Challenge.  The Build It! project connects neighborhood development to a fun online game that helps communities decide what resources they’re going to need. The more you play, the more you learn about the community!


Save money on your household utility bills with BetterNRG. This team won third place for coming up with their app that can analyze your energy usage and find easy ways to save you money. BetterNRG even gives you a Nest Smart Thermostat to monitor energy usage


Honorable mention goes to LINK Up Illinois, a new platform that makes farm-fresh food affordable to people in Illinois who use LINK cards. LINK Up Illinois is using technology to help people across the state get the tastiest, freshest food grown right here in Illinois.

 Congratulations to all the winners! Learn more about the CleanWeb Challenge here.

In honor of Earth Day celebrations, the Retrofit Chicago initiative released the Chicago Energy Data Map to help residents better understand their energy usage. The Energy Data Map is an online tool that allows Chicagoans to visualize their neighborhood and block’s energy use in comparison to other communities across the city.

The initial website page shows a 3-D map of Chicago’s neighborhoods, displaying the most natural-gas-efficient neighborhoods as lighter in color ( in range from white to black)  and more electric-energy-efficient neighborhoods as higher in height on the birds-eye-view visualization of energy consumption in the city.




By going to, Chicagoans can type in their address and see their block’s natural gas and electric energy use in 2010 and then compare energy consumption to neighbors and Chicagoans on a block-by-block and neighborhood basis.


By providing residents with a side-by-side contrast of energy use in the context of what other community members are using consuming, the hope is that Chicagoans will feel more empowered to make energy efficient, sustainable decisions.

The website also offers sustainable tips on what residents can do to improve home energy efficiency. By pledging to implement one of the tips, users can see how much they can save annually. In addition, Chicagoans can track the map’s leaderboard to see which communities are saving the most money through energy efficienc

energy3The Chicago Energy Data Map was created in collaboration with several partners including ComEd, Peoples Gas, Accenture, Elevate Energy, Citizens’ Utility Board, and Civic Consulting Alliance- as residential buildings consume almost half of the City’s total energy. The Energy Map tool was created through the City’s partnership with data science firm Datascope Analytics and design and innovation consulting firm IDEO.  For more information visit:

Introducing Chicago Public Library’s new and improved website, accessible on your phone or tablet so you can take the library with you on the go! The website features an improved library catalog and search features and greater accessibility so that library resources are always right at your fingertips.


CPL has partnered with software company BiblioCommons to re-envision the library’s online experience which included the site’s development, research, design, and ongoing enhancements that will be rolled out over the next three years. The new online experience integrates with the library’s catalog, showcasing the Library’s diverse range of collections, events, and services. CPL is the first library system to date to launch this innovative online platform. The new website, catalog, and mobile apps are all “software as a service” providing the foundation for continuous innovation while reducing the need for costly in-house infrastructure and staff technical expertise.

You’ll immediately notice the more customer-friendly features, including the ability to create a unique user name and PIN, keep a history of what you have checked out and a wish list of what you want to borrow in the future. You can also rate titles, as well as write and read reviews of books, movies and music – visible not only to other CPL patrons, but also to the community of the 200 libraries around the world currently using BiblioCommons’ catalog platform.

And of course, the new website also adapts to any screen size, like smart phones and tablets; the responsive design ensures users have the same experience–no matter the mobile device. Free apps will also be available for iPhone/iPod Touch and Android.