The Geospatial Revolution
How can GIS and related geospatial technologies facilitate higher levels of public participation? Let’s approach this question by first watching a six-and-one-half minute excerpt from Episode Two of the Geospatial Revolution series produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting. Early in the video, you’ll hear Jack Dangermond, president of Esri, the GIS software company, state that “geographic information and maps are helping city governments become more democratic and participatory.” Think about that while you watch. Think about which aspect of Portland’s vision of an “interactive city” has the best potential to promote environmental equity.
JACK DANGERMOND, President ESRI: More than half the world's population is now urban. Geographic information and maps are helping city governments become more democratic and participatory.
SAM ADAMS, Mayor Portland OR: Portland has invested in geospatial technologies because it saves us money. It improves our services, our relationship with the people that we're here to serve.
PHILLIP HOLMSTRAND, Portland Corporate GIS Manager: We created Portland Maps to give easy access to citizens for crime data, transportation, property information, where all the pipes are, the utilities, all sorts of information. And we like the fact that the general public can get access to all of the types of data that we see here at the city.
BIBIANA MCHUGH, IT Manager, GIS and Location Based Services, Trimet: Our system is called TransitTracker. We were one of the first in the country to implement computers and GPS on board all of our buses. We've got the centralized database, and all this information and real-time location of the buses is available for everyone through the Internet and our customer service department.
SPEAKER 1: What time were you thinking of?
BIBIANA MCHUGH: Because of that, we're able to build mapping applications that allow better-informed decisions. We can see that the number 15 is due to arrive in nine minutes. We can also turn on 6-inch aerial photography. We also have links to Street View so that people can know what to expect. Let's pull up more detailed information about that stop, for instance, crosswalks, curb cuts, lighting. If someone has a disability, knowing there's a crosswalk or a curb cut there is very important.
Some of the applications provide real-time information out in the street. This application is called PDX Bus. And right now it's using GPS and our services to tell you that the eastbound MAX, it's arriving right now.
SPEAKER 2: Because of CivicApps for Greater Portland--
PHILLIP HOLMSTRAND: Our mayor challenged us to create a way for mobile users to catalog issues around Portland. PDX Reporter is an app that anyone can install on their mobile phone. We have some graffiti. You can take a photo of it and send it in with the GPS coordinates.
SAM ADAMS: Suddenly I had tens of thousands of eyes and ears because of PDX Reporter. And it gives us good feedback in real time that's geographically coded, and therefore useful for us to follow up on.
PHILLIP HOLMSTRAND: As soon as I submit the report, I'm actually able to get back a detailed status of where this incident is at in the city's system.
GARY ODENTHAL, Technical Services Manager: The Bureau of Planning & Sustainability does long-range planning to inform future development or redevelopment. What do we want the city to look like in 25 to 50 years? There's an awful lot of analysis.
You have to address economic development. You have to address housing. And you have to address environmental issues, et cetera. We couldn't do any of this without GIS. For the first time, we have the 3D building model for the whole city. And that's possible because the whole region now has LIDAR data.
KASS GREEN, President, KGA Geospatial: With LIDAR systems, the satellite or aircraft beams down to the Earth. The beam bounces back up. They gather information based on the return of objects on the ground. So you end up with a very good terrain model.
PHILLIP HOLMSTRAND: At laser-point accuracy, literally, we can take our information and actually start to visualize things three dimensionally.
GARY ODENTHAL: Instead of worrying about what if a proposed building threw a shadow all over the park, we did a shadow analysis using the GIS to calculate that it doesn't really impact the park. People went out and measured it, and we were within two feet, I believe.
The city says you can't build anything that's going to block the view of the mountain from up on the hills. With the GIS, we're able to do site-line evaluation to prove that proposed buildings would not block the view of the mountain. And that made people happy.
The city has set a goal that 90% of all Portlanders will live within walking distance of most of the things they need by 2025, and it's really resonated with the public. So we did a statistical analysis of the areas that are not 20-minute neighborhoods. They don't have any sidewalks, or the terrain is too steep, or there's no transit here, or there's no grocery store. So there's all sorts of things that we can answer now because we can overlay all of this data one on top of the other.
SAM ADAMS: I think our investments improve the way that we perform our work as a city government. It just makes good business sense.
In this class, you’re using a software product called ArcGIS to work through a route suitability analysis for an electric transmission line. Some professional planners use a software extension to ArcGIS called CommunityViz to help facilitate public participation in land-use planning and other public policy decisions. Take a look at a couple of brief demos of CommunityViz. While you’re watching, think about how this product extends the capabilities of the ArcGIS software you’re learning to use. Watch closely; you’ll be quizzed about these demos at the end of the lesson.