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The value of data, a tale of Birmingham parking tickets.


Through the Help Me Investigate site , I came across an investigation regarding parking tickets, with the aim to find the most ticketed street in Birmingham in FY09.  It sounded interesting, and I was delighted to see a FOI request from Heather Brooke (here it is on What Do They Know)

Data, it’s a rather ambiguous term.  Anything can be seen as being a form of data, if you can ‘track’ it and put it in a spreadsheet then it sounds like data to me.  The issue with data is that it can be rather hard to infer anything meaningful, especially if you are provided with a lot of data.

This is what happened with the data we were provided, it was in 3 separate excel files due the volume of tickets issued – a staggering 135,656 in a single year.  To make it more manageable for everyone I consolidated the data into one single text file.  So that the data could be ‘mined’ using a database, or in my case visualised.  If you are interested the data is freely available.

The joy of data visualisation, is that you an instantly see and drill down into patterns, trend and other interesting items that you spot.  This can make it easier and quicker to get some good solid numbers.  You can see some graphs that I produced.

So what do we find?  Of the 135,656 tickets issued between 1st April 
2008 – 31st March 2009, we can see that the most ticketed street in Birmingham was Alum Rock Rd, Washwood Heath (in Liam Byrne’s constituency) with 3,995 tickets.

Most Ticketed Street

That itself is a lot of tickets, but what is more surprising, is that if you take the 5th most ticketed spot (Alcester Road, Moseley) only 1,545 tickets were issued.  Quite a difference.

The other interesting point on location, is that Livery Street Car Park (by Snowhill station) is the second most ticketed spot at 3,439.  Yet this is a carpark, the majority of private sector carparks allow you to pay in full the amount required for your stay.  Unfortunately Livery is a pay in advance, so if you get distracted shopping you are likely to be ticketed for overstaying.

Reasons For Parking Tickets

One might expect that all staff are issuing tickets ‘fairly’ and in accordance with the rules.  Though it’s surprising to see that the warden BM739, issued 5,080 tickets.  The next ‘top’ ticketer issued 3,559.  This shocked me, as that’s a LOT of extra tickets by BM739.

BM739 Details

Enforcement Officer BM739 Top 5 Locations

You can see the tweet I sent:

“Look out for parking enforcer BM739, top ticketer, mainly ladywood and city centre”

1:11 PM Jul 13th

In general, we can see that the amount of tickets being issued over the year increased, month on month.  Which suggests that either Birmingham parking wardens are being told to be more strict, that there are more wardens out and about or everyone is being told to be like BM739!

Parking Tickets Issued Over The Year

So that’s a quick run through what I found.  I will be putting the data out in a form that will allow others to interact with it, and I’m also considering the value of seeing both the historic data held.  As well as some additional fields, such as if the ticket was disputed.  Do the tickets that BM739 issue get disputed the most?.  Is there a particular parking infraction that is successfully appealed 80% of the time etc.

If you have any specific questions, add them as a comment, or email me on neil@rasga.co.uk.  The software used to create the graphs, is available for a 15 day trial at http://www.tableausoftware.com/, the table is from Google Fusion (Birmingham Tickets Table), why not give it a go yourself?

9 Responses to “The value of data, a tale of Birmingham parking tickets.”

  1. […] Birmingham: It's Not Shit loves Birmingham and has loads of news and features. If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed.Neil Houston has analysed every parking ticket issued in Brum from March 2008 to April 2009 and the Council-run pay-and-display by Snow Hill is a nice little earner in more ways than one. A scandal? Perhaps. [link] […]

  2. Praguetory says:

    Interesting. I’d guess that Waterloo Street is the most ticketed per parking space.

  3. Neil Houston says:

    A quick look, BM777 and BM623 make up the bulk of the tickets issued. The most tickets that have been issued on that street in a day has been 12.

    I’ve got the data in a Google Fusion table, if anyone wants access email me neil@rasga.co.uk

  4. Nice work! Heather sent me those data files for use in a MySQL class at the just-finished CIJ Summer School, and we had a blast with them. Warden BM739 was a real stunner for us too. Think about that number: If there’s something like 260 work days in a year (not including holidays or vacation), this person had to issue something like 20 per day, every day.


    We didn’t get into it too deep, but the distribution is sort of odd. I expected a more even distribution of tickets among wardens, but just eyeballing it, it looked like a few at the top were responsible for a significant portion of the tickets issued. Is there some kind of bonus system in place? Is there a seniority system, or some sort of reward? I just cannot imagine what would compel someone (even a very motivated someone) to write that many tickets.

    One additional thing we found that might be of interest: Look at the distribution of tickets by hour of the day. It peaks around the lunch hour. If you look at the distribution of our friend BM739, you’ll see there are actually two peaks — lunch hour, and between the hours (if I recall correctly) of 7 and 10 pm? Something like that. Again, if I remember correctly, BM739 is responsible for something like 14 percent of all tickets issued between those hours over the past year — again, a fairly amazing statistic.

    Anyway, as with all datasets, this one just raises more and better questions. I hope someone follows up on it. Can’t wait to see what they find.

  5. Alex Hughes says:

    Sorry, am I missing something here? Cars parked illegally are rightly ticketed. In a city centre that is frequently (and increasingly often) grid-locked, in part due to inconsiderate or just plain ignorant parking, surely we should be applauding these wardens. 20 tickets in a day doesn’t sound like that many to me – I see that many wrongly parked cars around the streets of Birmingham on a daily basis, and I’m not even looking for them.

    Anything that discourages unnecessary car use in our cities must be encouraged. As for being a money-making enterprise, well, good. Better still if this money is going into the public transport coffers, but I suspect not.

  6. The problem is (as far as I can see) is that rather than being an enforcement exercise, it’s just a money-making exercise. Officers are being actively encouraged to ticket as many cars as possible to maximise revenue, rather than use their judgement and maybe be a tad lenient from time to time. I’ve got no time for people who park thoughtlessly, but sometimes a little common sense should come into play…

  7. Jan says:

    The answer is to park in the Brunel Street carpark, which is a Council owned pay on exit car park.

    • Neil Houston says:

      Interesting Jan,
      Wasn’t aware of that – does make you wonder why Livery is potentially being used as a big fat revenue generator!

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