For years, data has been stored in file cabinets, basements and employee’s heads in the form of institutional knowledge. This was not necessarily a bad thing; the technology just was not available. Now that the movement to a digital world has begun, the transition has seemed slow at times. Having paper documents around is just the norm in an everyday workflow. But what if the information is not directly in front of you? Moving paper data to electronic databases has saved time and money for private and public entities across the world.
Databases used in Geographic Information System (GIS) are the single most important entity of the system. GIS databases use a technology to relate to each other enabling the system to complete complex analysis and queries. In order to keep up with the demand of data, maintenance needs to be completed on these databases on a regular basis.
GIS uses data in the form of tables. These tables are then linked physical geographic locations which come in points, lines, or polygons. For example, a point on a map might look just like a point on a map to the non-GIS person. But behind that point on the map might lie address, parcel, or ownership data which is linked to that specific point. These data tables are the backbone of GIS.
As long as the data is quality, meaning that it is properly created from a reputable source, it is useable. The data is only as good as the person who creates it. Taking time to make sure all fields are filled in and that no data is lost in translation is necessary. GIS allows data to be located in one centralized location and dispersed throughout the organization.
Paper data and maps are becoming a thing of the past. Movement to a digital world has begun and will save time and money in the long run. Web-based applications and maps have begun to shape our world in ways that have not yet been documented. This is a new phenomenon that relies heavily on the data behind the application.
Without reliable data, GIS would not be able to achieve what it has in the short amount of time it has been around.
Capital improvement projects are essential for a local municipality to maintain a good quality of life for its residents. Resurfacing roads and replacing aging utility mains provide a more reliable infrastructure for the community and ensure that residents do not experience things such as uneven roads and interruptions in utility services. Recently, the Village of Winnetka used Geographic Information System (GIS) to help with the coordinating and planning of future capital projects between various village departments to reduce project duplication and maximize project overlap.
The first step in coordinating capital project work between departments is to get the planned project information into the GIS system. Traditionally, the information for each project was stored in a “flat” excel worksheet format that provided a lot of information regarding the projects, but did very little to show their distribution across the village. To assist with spatially displaying this data, the GIS department was provided with the Public Works Department’s capital projects file, which was converted to a GIS compatible format. This consisted primarily of spatially locating the project area within a GIS map and creating a line segment feature to represent the proposed extent of the project work. Once the line segment features were created, each project could be mapped and visually analyzed against projected capital improvements planned by other village departments.
The primary department coordinating with Public Works was the Water and Electric Department. As the village water mains age, numerous breaks occur along the older lines that cause interruptions in service for residents and costly repairs for the village. To help mitigate this issue, the Water and Electric department wanted to replace the mains that had experienced the most breaks over the last decade. To avoid tearing up roads after they have been resurfaced as part of the Public Works capital improvement project plan, Water and Electric asked the GIS department to compare the existing water main break data in GIS with the recently developed capital project data layer to see where high break mains corresponded to planned road repair project areas. The resulting analysis revealed that 5 high break mains existed along proposed capital improvement roads. A map was then created that showed these main locations and included the year that the road improvement projects are planned. With this information spatially displayed together, the departments now have a tool to coordinate planning and budgeting efforts to ensure that project overlap occurs in a given year.
Using GIS to assist with the village capital improvements planning process has allowed for inter-departmental project coordination that will help reduce unnecessary and costly project duplication over the next several years. By viewing the information spatially, each department is able to see where they have overlapping project work, which, by planning the projects collectively, ultimately will save the village money on construction costs into the foreseeable future.
Addresses play an important role in the daily activities of Village of Riverside staff whether it is for water billing information, permits, or locating a resident in case of an emergency. In addition, a physical address can serve as a link for answering such questions as what school district do I belong to or what zoning district am I in? However, obtaining this information for a specific address often requires searching through multiple spreadsheets, databases, and paper documents.
In order to create a centralized location for the address information in Riverside a master address database was created in the Geographic Information System (GIS). This database was generated from several sources including water billing, permits, fire inspections, and business licenses. It was necessary to utilize all address resources to ensure the existing databases and spreadsheets could relate to this new address resource. Because these independent sources were each developed with a specific focus, which limited them from including all addresses within the community, it is also important to obtain all address records from these independents sources. For example, one address database may have only included business addresses, another contained residential addresses, and a third identified suite and apartment information.
Each address in the master database follows the United States Postal standard with a prefix direction, address number, street, street type (such as boulevard or avenue) and a suffix direction. This information is captured in separate fields that allows for combining all of those values or just a select few. An example is 1190 Arlington Heights or 1190 S Arlington Heights Rd.
The GIS allows for all of the addresses in the database to be represented by a point feature referencing an x and y coordinate that places it in a known location on the earth. This point is linked to a table containing additional information about that particular address including a Property Identification Number or PIN number and assessor information. The address point is typically placed in the center of the corresponding parcel, but can be placed at a more descriptive location such as the main entrance by using aerial imagery and building footprint information. Moreover, this address is stored as a primary address point. Often times additional buildings and parking lots that have the same address as the main building are located on another parcel. These structures are given a secondary address point to differentiate them from the primary address location.
By design, the GIS allows for quick and simple retrieval of data at a particular location. An address point can be identified and overlaid with additional data layers including utilities, subdivisions, school districts, and a road network to quickly determine the location of the nearest fire hydrant to a property or the number of homes within a particular school district. This eliminates the need for village staff to check multiple sources of information which can save time, money, and in the case of emergency services, lives. Overall, it is safe to say that the enhancements a village receives by having an accurate address database will become known as the GIS programs continue to evolve
The Village of Lincolnshire like many municipalities relies on zoning ordinances to help shape and control the growth of the Village. Along with zoning requirements, the Village also regulates development of residential zones by deploying setback regulations. These regulations help control the size and placement of structures on the lot to ensure adequate spacing within structures within each district or block. This ensures that any given subdivision, street, or block is appealing and avoids any possible situation of residential structures being built too large for the lot it is on.
The Community Development Department approached the GIS Department to determine the feasibility of visually displaying and mapping the setback regulations throughout the village. It was determined that the data provided gave the required information to place the regulations into a GIS layer viewable in map or GIS applications. The GIS Department began to organize and develop a draft map that displayed each setback regulation, along with the property on each block that established the setback, and labels that displayed the extents of the setbacks. The data was designed to display colored lines with labeled values for each setback and highlighted the property that established the Setback. The goal of this map was to vividly show the setbacks so they can be observed on a wall-mounted map in the Community Development Department. During the review process, the map took on a few different forms and finally it was decided to break the village into quadrants to achieve a better visible scale. A snapshot of the map is displayed to the right.
The outcome of this map is still under development, but the value of the map will be realized when completed and the village staff will be able to see all setbacks in visual form for the entire village and compare how areas are being developed. The map will also serve as a historical and archiving tool storing this information in visual form outside the normal text environment. Without GIS, this task would be a challenge to complete.
The Taste of Oak Brook is held annually during the Fourth of July weekend in the Village of Oak Brook. It is sponsored by McDonald’s and features cuisine from area restaurants such as Maggiano’s and Ditka’s. For The Taste of Oak Brook event, attendees are given a pamphlet listing each restaurant and the food that they will be serving. This pamphlet does not provide information on the location of the restaurants at The Taste of Oak Brook or parking information. In order to address this issue, the village enlisted the help of the GIS department.
Using vendor location overlaid on an aerial imagery background, a map was created showing the location of each restaurant at The Taste of Oak Brook as well as locations of restrooms/hand washing stations and ticket booths. A second map was also created to assist police and attendees in identifying handicapped parking and primary parking lots. This map also provided information in the location of the barricades and entrances to the various parking lots.
The village published these maps to the village website along with admission information and the menu for each restaurant at the Taste. With this information, attendees can easily navigate through The Taste of Oak Brook and park in the correct location. This allows police to direct traffic more efficiently.
Although many of the Village of Norridge employees choose to live within the village limits, only the department heads are required to live in Norridge. There was concern about some employees living far outside the village. Therefore, a study was done to determine if a village residency requirement was needed for all village employees. The Public Works Department employees were of special concern as they are required to be on call for both water breaks and snow plowing. If a public works employee lives too far away, they may not be able to respond to an emergency and burden the rest of the department. The village asked the Geographic Information System (GIS) department to create a map showing the distances from Norridge to the surrounding city and suburbs.
A map was created showing The Village of Norridge in relation to the City of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. A set of concentric rings was created starting at the village boundary and radiating outward at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, and 20-mile intervals. The communities that had their center fall within these intervals were then coded and colored based on distance from the boundary of the Village of Norridge. The map that easily showed how far in miles each community was from Norridge. If this map were to be created by hand, a significant amount time would be spent using a ruler, compass, and paper map drawing out the mile intervals.
Although the village decided not to implement a residency requirement, the map was integral in the decision process. The map will allow the village in the future to decide if a prospective employee in the public works department lives too far away to respond to an emergency.
Ensuring proper lighting of streets is a public service that local communities take satisfaction in providing. Without lights, streets would be impossible to drive on, walk on, or even live along. Therefore, the Public Works Department for Village of Morton Grove decided it was crucial to create a street light inventory of lights that they maintained. This inventory would help them provide better service for their residents. Moreover, they also wanted to locate the electrical lines that supplied power to each streetlight in order to be certain that field crews would not accidently come into contact with them when digging for other utilities.
Although many of the field workers were aware of the locations streetlights owned by the village, they were unaware of how the electrical lines in the ground connected them together. In addition to this problem, they did not have an easy way of directing new employees to the location streetlights and electrical lines. This would prove to be a major safety concern for crews out in the field. For these reasons, the Public Works Department decided to enlist the services of the Geographical Information Services (GIS) Department to help them map out the location of electrical utilities.
The first step of this inventory process involved providing the Public Works field crews with an atlas of maps so that they could temporarily mark down the locations of the streetlights and underground electrical lines while working out in the field. Once all the maps were updated with, proper field note corrections they were then submitted to the GIS Department to begin the entry process into the computer. At this point, the GIS Department analyzed the real world features to determine which features were important for the Public Works Department. A model that easily depicted what was happening out on the streets was created based on this analysis.
Once the model was created, the data entry portion then took place by digitizing these features and storing them in a geographical database. Streetlight poles, streetlights, electrical lines, splice boxes and control features were added into the database as well as the proper relationships between these features (i.e. this street light pole has two street lights attached to it and each light is incandescent). By having the data in this fashion, it was easy for the Public Works Department to locate these features on a map but also allow them to answer questions like “How many lights need replacing?” or “What control box turns these lights on and off?”
The final step in this inventory process was for the GIS Department to create a new map atlas that displayed this street light model in its entirety and deliver the printed copies of this atlas to the field crews. The field crews carried these atlases in their vehicles for easy access to assist them with determining if they are digging in an unsafe area or need to know where to turn of the electrical current for a set of streetlights.
This successful process displays how taking real world features from the field and mapping them in GIS allowed the Public Works Department of Morton Grove to continue providing an efficient service of lighting streets as well keeping their employees safe when working in the field.
Over the past decade, communities throughout the mid-west have battled with invasive species. These Invasive species in our rivers and lakes have affected the way we use these natural resources. Likewise, our trees have become a focal point of disease and invasive species including the Emerald Ash Borer and Dutch Elm Disease. Because of this, it has become necessary to manage trees.
Urban forestry has evolved with the use of technology. Nature’s Path, a forestry consulting firm servicing the Village of Lincolnwood, was brought in to create a tree inventory which would be used to manage the Village’s trees. Using Geographic Information System (GIS), Nature’s Path created an inventory encompassing the entire village. All trees were logged on village right –of –ways, medians, and other village owned property while given attributes pertaining to the health, size, and age.
Using the tree inventory in GIS has helped Public Works service the village in a more timely fashion. We can now visually see the locations of certain classifications of trees on maps and provide geographic analysis. But this is not all. GIS creates ways to perform advanced queries and provides results in multiple formats – tabular and graphical. For example, if all the ash trees need to be located as a precaution to the Emerald Ash Borer, the locations can be provided within minutes in map or table form.
Knowing the quantity of trees that require servicing as well as the health and size assist in project planning. Since the ash borer and elm disease are regional issues, it is imperative that communities have easy access to tree data in order to better plan, manage, and share information on a larger scale.
The Village of Glencoe wanted to link their hydrant database to hydrant locations in their GIS to create a series of hydrant maps. The Geographic Information System (GIS) Department along with the Glencoe Department of Public Safety coordinated a project plan to synchronize highly critical hydrant operational data from a database to the hydrant features within the GIS. The Public Safety Department is using a ProHydrant Program to systematically test all hydrants throughout the village. It was determined the data collected in the field could be used more efficiently if it was transferred to the GIS. A primary goal was creating a product to facilitate analysis, mapping, and other functions.
The project involved three parties, including the Public Safety Department, ProHydrant software vendor, and the GIS Department. Communication occurred mostly between the Public Safety Department and the vendor. The only item requested from the GIS Department was to add the FeatureID to the database. This a unique identifier field used in the GIS system to track hydrant features. With this unique id, the GIS system is able to associate data from the vendor database back into the GIS system.
This vendor field information is extremely useful because it enhances the GIS database by making it a more informative product. Some examples of hydrant data collected in the field included addresses, hydrant flow rates, hydrant type and model, color, condition status, and other important information collected while the vendor conducted field-testing.
The collected field data was provided to the GIS Department and then the data was linked into the system using the FeatureID field. This was completed quickly and a related table of field information was linked to the hydrant feature in the GIS system. This is important because it allowed for the mapping and display all the collected field information. In addition, we transferred all the hydrant flow data collected in the field into the GIS database. This is important because it allowed the GIS system to display the water flow rates of hydrants on a map giving the Public Safety Department the ability to spatially and visually inspect the data throughout the Village. In addition, the data now had the ability to be incorporated into other GIS products including the GIS Consortium MapOffice™ Advance, the GIS Consortium Mobile Data View, ESRI ArcReader, and ESRI ArcView.
In conclusion, GIS was a powerful tool that provided a common platform for data reporting and visualization of geographical information. The project showcased in this article is a prime example of how data from outside sources can be shared and used more efficiently through GIS.
The Village of Deerfield relies on accurate utility information to assist the community staff with their daily activities just like any other local government does. The Village of Deerfield Public Works Engineering Department is working with the RJN Group to conduct a Sanitary Sewer Smoke Testing program throughout the village. This program is being used it to help identify and maintain the condition of the sanitary sewers within the village. The idea of taking this data and integrating it with the GIS utility databases was an easy decision for the village since it would improve data efficiency and allow for better accuracy.
This project involved three parties including the Engineering Department, GIS Department, and RJN Group. The scope of the project included providing RJN with GIS data so that their staff could use for creating field data reports and track the program. The data was also used to provide base information that can be reviewed and updated when field reports are returned back into the office. Another important aspect of this project was reviewing and updating a legacy Community ID system used for Sanitary Manholes within the village. These numbers are used by village staff and are included on all reports. It was important to make sure the GIS data included these numbers and was able to be updated when needed.
Once all the parties had the required data, the Sanitary Sewer Smoke Testing Program continued, and field reports were collected and prepared by RJN Field Crews. These reports would then be sent to the GIS Department for updating. Once all reports for the week were in place, the GIS Department then updated any necessary items within the system and uploaded updated back to RJN for immediate use. This process worked well, as the flow of data and updates went smoothly.
In conclusion, the above is a brief example how multiple departments worked together to communicate beneficial information to all parties involved. GIS was able to provide data for RJN Field Crews to assist in their field operations, and at the same time RJN while conducting the Smoke Testing Program was able to provide field updates back to the GIS office for updating the data. This program is currently ongoing and is proving to be a valuable solution for helping to maintain and update this important GIS utility database.
Almost every day of the week, police officers are called to the scene of a traffic accident to provide assistance. More often than not, these officers report to a street intersection rather than an address along a residential street. But how many times does a police officer report to the same intersection? Moreover, are there trends occurring for high traffic volume intersections? These were the sorts of questions the Traffic Safety Committee of the City of Park Ridge aimed to study. In addition, the committee wanted to analyze how many accidents per month were happening at each intersection. Furthermore, they needed and easy method for displaying these results to the whole committee.
With these ideas in mind, the Traffic Safety Committee requested the services of the Geographic Information System (GIS) Department. By using the tools located within the GIS, each intersection accident that was recorded by the Police Department could easily geocoded to a geographical location. Geocoding is an operation that searches a street or address data file and locates the coordinate where an address falls on a particular street, in this case, the tool located the intersection where the accident occurred.
Once the intersections are located, they are placed on a map in order to analyze where the most accidents occur. The GIS Department recommended representing each the number of accidents at each intersection as a graduated symbol. This made it easier to discern which intersections had the more accidents than other intersections (for example, large circles for a high accident count and small circles for a low accident count). By using this methodology, the final map product was much easier to read and allowed the Traffic Safety Committee to easily target which intersections required the more attention for traffic safety studies.
Since the inception of this project, the analysis has been performed every three months and all maps are immediately submitted to the Traffic Safety Committee. Overall, it is easy to see how by taking data from a simple recording project and using Geographic Information System tools to analyze the data, the city was able to continue providing their residents with the service of traffic safety.
The City of Highland is very responsive to residents concerns of basement flooding and sewer backups during heavy rain events. The major issue is storm water infiltration of the wastewater sewers exceeding the wastewater sewer’s carrying capacity. Damaged or aging wastewater laterals are a major source of this infiltration.
In previous years, the city conducted a program that evaluated the conditions of laterals in targeted neighborhoods and required the property owners to repair or replace damaged laterals. Many property owners complained that it was an expensive repair and requested city assistance with paying the cost of these repairs.
The city decided to investigate the cost of assisting with these repairs by assuming ownership of the laterals within the right-of-way. In this way, the city could possibly reduce the repair costs to property owners, by paying to repair the portion of the lateral within the right-of-way. Before proceeding, the city had to know the expense of maintaining the laterals and thus the feasibility of assuming ownership of these laterals. The approximation of expense required an estimation of the linear feet of laterals within the right-of-way.
Because the city does not maintain utility service layers, the estimation of laterals in the right-of-way is a difficult task. The city decided to use the analytical power of GIS tools to create the estimation figures. The process of creating the estimation involved performing a distance analysis from the primary structure to the nearest right-of-way boundary and the nearest sewer. By subtracting distance to the right-of-from the distance to the sewer, the city established an approximate linear feet in the right-of-way. The process involved manual cleanup of anomalies, such as private roads and structures on corners or near the back of lots.
After the completing the cleanup of the distance values, the linear feet in the right-of-way was combined into a final total. This provided the city with reasonable approximation the linear feet within the right-of–way. Using the cost of maintaining a linear foot of lateral with the approximate linear feet of lateral in the right-of-way provides the city a means of creating a final cost evaluation.
To help respond to a potential community-wide emergency, most local governments have an emergency response plan in place to assist with the organization and execution of community policies and protocols. As technology has improved over the years, the City of Des Plaines started integrating Geographic Information System (GIS) into a tool for assisting with the management of an emergency event response.
In recent years, the city dealt with two major flooding events that required city departments to respond quickly to the needs of its residents. This included responding during the events by implementing preventative measures to mitigate property damage, and after the events to assist with cleanup and damage assessment. Since each event affected several areas of the city, it was difficult to manage and respond to each area efficiently and to see the extent of the damage using traditional methods of data management. By inputting the collected information into the city’s GIS system, each department was able to see the event spatially and get a total perspective of how the flooding was impacting different areas.
The way GIS was used during and after these events varied depending on the department. Examples of the map products produced include road closure maps, standing-water location maps, damage-assessment zone maps, and sandbag placement maps. While each map was designed based on a specific department request, they were ultimately used to assist departments with communicating information to each other. Providing the collected data spatially provided a universal language that allowed all city employees to understand the specific event being displayed and where it was impacting the city. However, maps were not the only products that were produced. Another critical function the GIS system served was to provide address lists to building inspectors, public works field crews, and police department officials to convey information regarding damaged and flooded homes and city properties. Collectively, these products provided the city with critical resources to help manage the mitigation and cleanup of each flood event.
In addition, to paper mapping products and address lists, the city also used GIS to perform “on the spot” data review of contours, city structures, roads, and other infrastructure features. This was performed using ESRI’s ArcMap and ArcReader software, which allowed departments to interactively view and analyze GIS data as needed. Being able to view this information electronically, and add information to the system as needed, allowed city users to quickly access vital data that assisted in activities such as flood stage analysis and sandbag placement determination.
Including GIS as part of the city’s emergency management strategy has allowed the city to react quickly to emergency events by improving inter-department communication and the ability to review the impact of the event by spatially analyzing the extent of the damage that occurred. This capability provides the city with a powerful tool for responding to an emergency in a way that maximizes its ability to help its residents.
The village of Wheeling contains numerous restaurants and eating establishments that reflect the diversity of the area. This includes “Restaurant Row”, a string of highly rated restaurants along Milwaukee Ave. The village kept a list of these establishments, but never provided this information to the public. Using the ability of a Geographic Information System (GIS) program to create location points, which are then placed within Google Maps. The GIS Department created a map showing the location of each restaurant within the village as well as address information and a link to the restaurant’s website. This interactive map located on the village website allows the user to find restaurants within the village based on location.
Clicking on the Restaurant Location link takes you to a Google Map showing the Village of Wheeling. A red dot represents each restaurant within the village. Clicking on the restaurant name in the table of contents on the left or on the red dot on the map brings up an information box for that location. Each information box contains the name of the restaurant, address, phone number, and website link if available. The interactive map is easily modified when new restaurants open up or old restaurants close down.
Providing the information in a format that people are familiar with allows the user to access the information without having to learn new software. Providing the location of each restaurant on a map allows residents or other visitors visiting the village to locate a restaurant or eating establishment more easily.
The Village of Skokie trustees recently voted to decrease landscape waste pickup service for the entire village. While not eliminating the service all together, the village decided that residents must call or sign up via the village website to receive brush pickup. In addition, the village would no longer pick up landscape waste. The village is now promoting the mulching of grass since it no longer accepts grass during curbside pick up.
Leading up to this decision, the Village Manager’s Office was in contact with the Geographic Information System (GIS) Specialist who recommended a few different options for producing maps of addresses that will be serviced. During these conversations, it was concluded that creating a route for each service zone would be most beneficial.
First, the village was cut into service zones – areas that offered opportunity for continuous movement and areas where no major street needed to be crossed. The Refuse Superintendent, Paul Brzozowski with help from the GIS Specialist, created the zones. After the zones were completed, it was necessary to determine if the final product would be a map, a spreadsheet with addresses or both. It was concluded that a map for each zone and a document containing each address with its associated zone would be best.
The Village of Skokie GIS Specialist then worked to automate the workflow used in creating final product. This was completed by using a model with parameters (addresses and zones). The GIS Specialist, with the help of Jan Teisinger, GIS Analyst for MGP Inc, was able to create a model that performed over an hour’s worth of manual work in about ten minutes by automating the process. In addition to automating the bulk of the data work, exporting the maps to PDF was automated. A map book was created to export all maps in series, thus eliminating time needed to do this task manually. Both of these automations decreased the time needed for the Brush Routing project by over 50%.
In the end, the Brush Routing process has become easier and faster as time goes by. Over 600 service addresses can now be loaded into the GIS and a final product can be rendered in 30-45 minutes. This process keeps evolving and continues to produce quality products for the end user. Using GIS, the village has kept its Brush Pickup service while eliminating extra driving costs associated with areas that do not require service.