Jersey City garbage truck routes

2015-12-12 2 min read
    • Jersey City garbage trucks

    A couple of months ago I took a stab at plotting the Jersey City parking zones after getting frustrated that the only place to see them was a PDF of streets and addresses. Last week someone left an awesome comment pointing out that Jersey City has a bunch of open data available, including a near-real time feed of garbage truck locations, a general open data portal, as well as the ability to request custom data. As a first project I decided to capture the movement of the garbage trucks every minute and then plot the results on a map. The results are interesting - some trucks remain local to Jersey City while others end up venturing as far as Newark Airport. The final visualized routes are at and the code is up on GitHub.

    The approach I took was straightforward. After going to the real time map I opened the network explorer in order to see the HTTP requests being made to update the map with the latest truck locations. It was a single URL call that was returning a pipe delimited file containing the location of each truck. By writing a simple wget script and setting it as a cronjob I was able to capture the truck locations every minute. After a day’s worth of data I combined the files and removed duplicate lines (for when the trucks stayed in a single location). After that it was simple to use the Google Maps API to draw a route for each individual truck. The neat thing here is that 90% of the work was done through simple shell commands. One command to fetch the data every minute, another to combine them into a single file, and then a few others to sort and dedup the data. By the time I got to coding all I needed to do was convert the data from a pipe delimited file into something that could be consumed by the Google Maps API.