Changing times…

Via Damien Mulley’s fluffy links the other day I found myself perusing the Irish Motor Directory and Motor Annual 1911-1912 late last night. The directory itself can be found here, hosted by Lurgan Ancestry and while we’re at it, a shout out to My Kerry Ancestors who are talking about this link too. Okay, that’s the commercials out of the way.

I decided to see from it who was the first person in the “I come from a small, small” town where I grew up to register a car, and glanced down through the list looking at the addresses.

The first owner registered in the town where I grew up was my great grandfather, and it looks like he registered a motorbike. My mother is stunned, but was pretty certain that it was him, so I went to the 1911 census to check who of the relevant surname was living on the street concerned at the time, and by process of very simple elimination confirmed that yes. the named owner in question was her grandfather. In 1911, he was 27.

So I could write a bit about the family background but this is a data/tech blog and actually I’m going to write about changes in society.

If you have a look at the Lurgan website above, it’s actually interesting in the questions it leaves unanswered.

  • The register classifies vehicles by type – car, charabanc, bicycle, tricar, steam car, steam lorry, dogcart, steam plough. It would be enthralling to know who manufactured these things.
  • The register provides the registration numbers and some address information.
  • The addresses are interestingly diverse – for example, because I grew up in Cork, I was looking at the IF register – but a number of the addresses are in Dublin and the UK, for example.
  • in 1911-1912, there are 239 cars and 146 bikes registered in Cork, but the highest registration number is IF 434 as far as I can see. So I’m interested to see what the gaps are.
  • There are county and borough register authorities – I don’t know enough about local government organisation in Ireland in the early 20th century (but then, who does?)
  • this document was a reference handbook for motorists. So it was openly available.

That last bit is the bit that interests me. Any motorist in Ireland could have had a list of all the car owners in Ireland, known their names and where they lived, sorted by registration number. This doesn’t happen today and I don’t know if it could. I just googled my own car reg and Motorcheck came up with a background check for the car – but it will not give any personal details about the owner of the car or the address at which they live.

The Reference book for 1911-1912 suggests that there are 9169 vehicles listed in it, split slightly in favour of cars. Registrations would have started in 1903 when the registration system was implemented first (citation – Wikipedia but I don’t think there’s much arguing here). The series for Cork, IF, started being used in 1903 and eventually ran out in 1935. The number/index letters were reversed and used again later between 1975 and 1976. So the only conclusion that I can draw about my grandfather’s bike is that it was registered at some stage between 1903 and 1911, and the likelihood, I suspect, closer to 1903 than 1911 based on the numbers.

For comparison,  86,932 new cars were registered in Ireland in 2012. (Summary of Statistical Yearbook of Ireland, 2012). The 1911-1912 Reference Book was compiled by Henry G. Tempest and given the available communications options, it’s fair to say that to compile and print that information for over 9,000 vehicles was an achievement but I couldn’t see him doing it for nearly 90,000 new cars, never mind all the cars still on the road from prior to 2012.

And times have changed. We are more concerned about personal data. For years, people have been applying their right not to be listed in the phone directory, and I’m not sure anyone would want their address details along with details about their car in any easily accessible database for various reasons including, no doubt, not wanting to have their movements identified too easily, or not being easy prey for thieves.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t thinking of ways I could analyse this data in more detail and wondering what other extraneous data sources could be used to enhance it (and not just, for example, the 1911 census).




Property Price register in Ireland…

I’ve started looking at the possibility of doing something with the data released by the Irish government on the subject of property prices in Ireland.

This is something which really only started happening in the last few years, and in fact, it started happening well after the property market in Ireland had started to collapse. The first year for which we have data is 2010.

In general terms, I think it is a good thing that we have this data available but there are ways in which it could be enhanced, I think, which would make it more useful.

As far as I am aware, data for the Irish Property Price register comes from stamp duty returns

Currently, the data headers are as follows:

  • date of sale
  • Address of property
  • postal code
  • County
  • Price in euros
  • Not Full Market value (yes or no – in this case YES means it was not full market value)
  • VAT Exclusive (yes or no)
  • Description (New Dwelling House/Appartment or Secondhand dwelling house/appartment)
  • Property size description (greater than 125 sqm, greater than or equal 38 sqm and less than 125 sqm, less than 38 sqm)

As things stand, there is very little useful information about the properties in the register that allow us to do anything particularly interesting.

  • Data can be downloaded a county level. The county column is otherwise not useful to an end user
  • The postal code field is currently inapplicable for most of the country and for Dublin, it is not always filled in because the postal code has been integrated with the address
  • date of sale is useful
  • price of property is useful
  • full market value or not is useful
  • VAT exclusive is useful
  • property description only informs us whether the property is new or second hand. It does not tell us the type of property
  • property size would be more useful if the bin ranges were more granulated.

Nevertheless I have plans for this data but only within the confines of the possible.

However, one of the things I would consider is how could we make this better for the future?

  • postcodes are coming for the entire country. I have yet to look at the implementation (soon) but this could be very useful in terms of segmenting the market, provided they are entered in the correct field.
  • No estate agent describes a property as a new or second hand dwelling house/apartment. DAFT, for example, drills down house, apartment, duplex, bungalow. Arguably to that we could add detached, semi detached, terrace (or town house or whatever you’re having yourself for houses bounded on both sides). Put simply, for type of property, there isn’t enough information.
  • Additional column for new or secondhand dwelling
  • Accurate surface area measurements. At this point I need to note that from experience, in other countries, surface area is more important in ads and classifiers to the numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms. I would like it if a) it was mandatory to provide surface area measurements in property sale/rent ads and that this information gets included in the property price registry.

There are a few benefits here. Price per square meter is a useful indicator of value across different areas (which might be more definable with valid postcodes). We can also get a picture of which are are bigger houses (I have plans to look into what I can find on the subject of surface area measurements against time at some stage too).

Our property market now is very different to what it was in 2007, but also compared to what it was in 2000, and in 1993. We built a lot of apartments in later years which makes comparing averages very difficult and fraught with danger.

According to the data I have available to me right now, up to 7 October or so, there have been 5943 sales in the Dublin area. In comparison, for the whole of 2012, there were 8808 sales based on a superficial glance at the data.

I will be having a look at this in more detail and will post the outcome in the future and I will also put the code up on github.

In the meantime, it would be nice if we could consider getting past “we have a register” and on to the question “how can we make it even more useful”.


Dublin Bus data – can I have some please?

If you use the RTPI signs, or have either the Dublin or Ireland transport info applications on your phone, here are the questions that gets answered:

  • When is the next bus due?
  • What is the next bus?
  • When is the next train going to leave from here?
  • Where is that train going?

I use Dublin Bus’s RTPI applicaton all the time. I use it more than the all Ireland one because I have my favourite bus stops set up and somehow I haven’t the time to set them up in a second app. I will probably use the all-Ireland one for Irish Rail.

These are useful questions to answer. They take the guess work out of the time table, traffic and delays. Only on one day have the really let me down and to be fair, Dublin Bus had extenuating circumstances as O’Connell Bridge was closed.

But there is another question I’d prefer an answer to and it is this.

  • How packed is my onwards bus connection.

Every morning, I get two buses, one from where I live on Dublin’s northside to the city centre, and one from the city centre to UCD’s Belfield campus. In total, the journey normally takes me about an hour, end to end. It’s not bad, but on occasion, things go wrong and I wind up delayed, and occasionally a bit soaked.

Normally I change buses on D’Olier Street. Most of the cross city buses wind up there when they are running southbound, and both buses I can get into the city centre drop at stops there, and a lot of the buses to UCD pick up there. Sometimes, however, those buses are full, full enough for drivers to decide they are not taking on any more passengers. So I get left behind.

So, some mornings, instead of getting off in D’Olier Street, I stay on my first bus until I get to Kildare Street, and do the change there. This is because I gamble that the UCD bound buses will lose a significant number of passengers on Nassau Street, outside Trinity College.

Because of the way Dublin City Centre is laid out, and how the bus routes cross each other, there are often, multiple common stops between bus routes. So the question that I’d like an answer to some mornings, at 8am is this – can I get out at D’Olier Street (there’s a Spar there, and a little more shelter if it’s raining) or should I wait until Kildare Street before doing my bus route change.

Dublin Bus collects a lot of data that I know about, and probably a whole lot more that I know nothing about. Typically, they will know how many people are getting on buses because they have two ticket readers and a driver. And because of the stage system, for a lot of those passengers, they can make an educated guess where people will be alighting.

It would be nice if the RTPI could indicate the likely busyness of a given bus. If, when you looked at the 41 due to go into town it was highlighted whether it was likely to be full or only half full at a given point on its route. So that when I look at RTPI for the 46A to go to Belfield, I can check how full the bus is as well.

Incidentally, this is worth a read – via ITS International..