These are just a few of the creative ways GIS is being used, but how can this system manage the planning of future infrastructure and development projects. For Julie Luther, AICP, a planner at Crafton Tull, GIS has numerous applications to aid in analyzing data and decision making. “We utilize GIS at some level during every planning project we perform. Different projects require different data.” Julie told us. “For example, density scenarios and population projections are often utilized during municipal land use planning projects using parcel data and county tax information. We also utilize this information to identify ownership patterns, vacancy rates, and property values in redevelopment planning, as we recently did along the 12th Street corridor in Little Rock.”
Parks and Recreation System use
GIS is also a useful tool in parks and recreation planning. Julie also explains, “We often use GIS to inventory and assess natural, cultural, and historic resources.” These features are compared to settlement patterns over time to identify regionally significant sites. “At a local level, we use GIS to identify service gaps in parks and recreation systems based on population distribution and land use, in conjunction with the needs specified by the community.”
By identifying the service gaps, the planning solutions can best meet the needs of the community by providing amenities in areas that are underserved. GIS is a valuable tool that provides pertinent facts and spatial data to help planners see the ‘big picture.’ Once analyzed, the information helps direct planning decisions and gives defensible data to back up the proposed solutions.
Another group using GIS to manage projects from planning to construction and on into operations is the natural gas exploration companies. They have used it for identifying where to develop wells in shale plays throughout the US. With the world’s growing energy needs, the development of new wells is crucial to meeting the current and future clean energy demands of our infrastructures. The gas companies drilling in these fields use GIS software to regulate, control, and plan for existing and proposed roads, pipelines, boundaries, and wells. GIS Specialist and PLS Tom Webb coordinates the surveying and GIS data that Crafton Tull collects and provides to the gas companies. “We share data and deliverables with our clients in a GIS environment that easily captures, collates, and archives large diverse set of geo-information.” says Tom. To deliver the GIS requirements of the gas company’s, Information Systems Specialists like Clint Hopper with Crafton Tull has worked to keep his company’s GIS capabilities up-to-speed with new technologies in the field. Crafton Tull has set up a Real Time Network which has increased their in house production by 20% over conventional systems while delivering their clients improved accuracy, mobility, and cost savings. According to Clint, “Once we understood the system and how it would benefit our clients and our bottom lines; it was an easy decision. We had the right vision, people, and technology that were all committed to providing this industry with a higher quality of service. I believe we have done that.”
So you can see that GIS is more than mapping software, it is a technology designed to support projects throughout their lifecycle. It becomes your centralized data source from which to work and grow, and the data added to your mapping software can be shared and updated continuously across your organization. Since the software provides a high level visualization for your mapped data, it aids you in presentations to business partners, government officials, and local communities. The next time you are planning, collecting data, designing, constructing, or providing operations and maintenance on a project you may want to take a hard look at mapping your data with a GIS.