GIS Creates Planting Routes for Seasonal Tree Plantings

Each year, hundreds of local community parkway trees need to be removed for various reasons. The City of Park Ridge, IL does its best in keeping up with these removals, as the budget allows, by planting trees to replace the ones that are removed.  Twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, the city contracts with multiple nurseries to plant anywhere from 150-300 trees depending on a variety of factors.  Each nursery has a list of addresses of planting sites that they are responsible for so, to assist with developing the best routes for planting at each property, the city’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was contacted to assist the nurseries in their planting endeavors.

In previous years, a static map with planting locations was provided to each nursery to assist in their tree planting efforts. Instead of producing the same basic planting location map as had been done previously, vehicle routing information was added to the map to better assist the nursery in determining not only where the planting locations were located, but the quickest and most efficient route to plant each tree.  These maps also have a copy of the planting address list, which illustrates what type of tree will be planted and the actual parkway location in which each tree will be planted at. Turn by turn directions, that include distances between each, were also  provided as a supplemental resource to the routing maps.

Having these maps and supplemental lists in the driver’s hands allows less time to be lost during the planting process due to lack of knowledge of the community, wrong turns, or bad directions.  With the new additions of the routing information and the turn by turn directions to the already existing planting location maps, the tree planting process now takes less time and is more efficient than in past years for all nurseries involved.

GIS Assists in Locating Permissible Areas for Medical Marijuana Facilities


The state of Illinois recently enacted a law that legalizes medical marijuana. This highly controversial law has forced communities around the state to scramble to determine where potential areas are located where it’s permissible for an individual to open a dispensary or a cultivation center. State law requires that a cultivation center cannot be located within 2500 feet of a school, daycare center, or any residential zoned property. A dispensary cannot be located within 1000 feet of a school or a daycare center, or within a residential zoned property. In order to determine these locations, the City of Park Ridge utilized its Geographic Information System (GIS) to determine where permissible areas for these locations might be allowed in the city under the new law.

Using a number of tools available in the GIS software, four maps were created for this project. The first map displayed locations for potential cultivation centers. Due to the 2500 foot restrictions described above, every inch of Park Ridge is considered "off limits" to a new cultivation center being built. The second map showed locations for a potential dispensary. Since the restrictions for opening a dispensary are not as restrictive as a cultivation center, a number of potential locations were identified. The city then wanted to narrow down the possible zoning districts where a dispensary would be allowed into the B2 and B3 districts. Maps were created to show the potential locations that fell within these two zoning areas. Using this information, the City of Park Ridge can now determine any potential areas for a dispensary and plan accordingly.

GIS Assists in Locating Possible Electronic Message Board Sites


Electronic message boards seem to be a common site these days when
traveling down a busy street through a commercial area. These electronic
message boards can convey advertising information pertaining to a
particular business, notifications of a scheduled event on the calendar,
and even public service announcements from the community as a whole.
Currently, the City of Park Ridge contains no electronic message boards
within its borders, but it is looking into the possibility of changing
that. In order to do that, however, some guidelines needed to be
specified in order to limit the possible locations that an electronic
message board could be placed. These guidelines included that a parcel
must be greater than two acres in size, must be located on an arterial
street, and only certain commercial and special use zoning types be

Armed with all this information, it was up to GIS to determine the
possible locations for the electronic message boards. Using the criteria
stated above, a model was created to determine any parcel that matched
all three of the previously stated criteria. Once those parcels were
determined, a map was created to present this information at future city
council meetings where the ultimate decision on whether or not to allow
these electronic message boards will be made. Without GIS, a city
employee would be charged with the unenviable task of manually searching
for parcels that fit all of the stated criteria by hand, adding hours
of time to complete this project.​​​

Assessing historical variance information using GIS

Blog_AssessinghistoricalvarianceinformationusingGIS.png​Zoning variances are a frequent request by a community’s residents, so it is important to be able to access historical variances to verify whether or not the request was submitted in a previous year. Since none of the variance information was available digitally, staff in the Community Preservation and Development department would have to browse through an old file cabinet looking at typed-up index cards describing the variance. Searching for these records would add to the time that a resident would spend waiting to go through the zoning variance application process. GIS was chosen to improve the ability of accessing these historical records.

The Community, Preservation, and Development department provided to GIS a newly created Excel spreadsheet that contains all variances dating back to 1980. Within this sheet, all the necessary information that was found on the old index cards was copied over. This spreadsheet was then connected to the city’s GIS MapOffice Advanced program. Now, all the user has to do is search by an address and any historical variances at that property or in the neighborhood surrounding it will be viewable with all pertinent information available. There is also a time option available when making the query, so any given time period, whether it is a month or a particular year, can be viewed at the click of a mouse. By having this new data connection available through GIS, it reduces the amount of time the community staff spends looking up historical information, expediting the zoning variance application process.

GIS Assists in Special Event Planning


Special event mapping is often an overlooked capability of a local
government’s Geographic Information System (GIS). Most communities plan
yearly events that take a lot of preparation and time to come to
fruition. The City of Park Ridge, IL is no stranger to hosting community
events throughout the year.

The first Tuesday of August is an annual event known as National
Night Out that the Police department puts on outside of City Hall. The
purpose of the event is to raise awareness of the role that the Police
department plays within the community, as well as foster a more informal
relationship between officers and residents. This event also features a
variety of local vendors and activities that increases resident
interest in attending. To help organize this annual event, GIS was used
to produce maps of Hodges Park, and the surrounding area outside City
Hall, to distribute to participating vendors and organizers in the use
of setting up their booths and to law enforcement for security and
planning purposes. The resulting map that was created is simple in
nature. The map shows the location of where each vendor and activity is
located using a numbering system and legend. This allows all parties
involved to set up in the correct location without any confusion and in
an orderly manner.

Without the use of GIS, the National Night Out event would put more
responsibility on the Police department to produce the plans and layout
of the event, thereby taking away valuable man hours from the department
staff that help make this night a fun-filled event.

GIS Assists in Locating Flood Damaged Properties


The April 18th flood of this year wreaked havoc all around the
Midwest. Park Ridge residences were among those whose basements and
properties took a beating from the floodwaters. Residents were asked to
fill out an online survey to assess their individual flood damage. The
results of these surveys would be then passed on to the city and to
FEMA. The Department of Public Works is very interested in seeing if
there are any patterns of flooding from this ​current flood or a 2011
flood that also had an online survey available for residents to fill
out. GIS was chosen as the best method to quickly visualize any
potential patterns that may exist.

Address lists were provided to GIS from the surveys of both flooding
events. Each year was initially mapped individually and then compared
against each other. A map was subsequently created showing the locations
of properties damaged in both 2011 and 2013. Areas that have been
damaged by both flooding events will be studied more closely to see if
there are any improvements the city could make that would alleviate
future flooding. Without GIS, the thousands of addresses damaged by the
two floods would have to be manually located and drawn in on a map which
would take countless man hours as well as increase the probability of
error in the address locations.

Identifying dangerous intersections using GIS


Every community, whether large or small, has the problem of traffic
accidents occurring on a daily basis. Most of these accidents take place
in and around road intersections. The Park Ridge Police Department is
constantly looking for ways to improve the safety at high risk
intersections and decrease the amount of accidents that take place
there. GIS was chosen as the best method to calculate the number of
accidents that occur at a particular intersection within a particular
time frame as well as illustrate how certain intersections had a
decrease in accidents after certain safety measures were instituted.

The GIS department has been mapping traffic accidents on a monthly,
bi-yearly and yearly basis going back many years in Park Ridge. A top
ten list of intersections with the highest amount of accidents is
calculated every six months from the accident maps and the higher counts
are studied further to see what changes could be made to improve the
safety at those locations. For the 2012 study, three locations were
chosen based off of high 2011 accident counts. Certain safety
improvements were made such as adding a “No Turn on Red” sign, adding an
additional stop side on the opposite side of a street, or simply just
changing the timing of the stoplights. After the 2012 accident totals
showed great improvement at those locations, a map was created
illustrating the sharp decline in accidents from 2011 to 2012 at those
highlighted intersections. Without GIS, the traffic coordinator would
spend an enormous amount of time browsing through accident reports,
counting the accidents by hand and then illustrating his or her findings
without the aid of a map

GIS Assists in Alley Vacation Tracking


There are countless historical documents and records lying around
local government offices these days that contain valuable geographic
information but are difficult and time consuming to locate. Whether it
is an old annexation or de-annexation agreement, road dedication,
variance card, easement location, or vacated alley document, all this
information is important enough to hold onto but their current format
leaves a lot to be desired. The Community Development department has a
binder full of historical vacated alley documents that date back to the
1930s that are only organized by date, leading to massive time consuming
searches being that most inquiries would be based on an address and not
the date. GIS was sought as a viable option to finally organize all
this important data into an easily accessible digital format.

Using these old vacation documents, vacated alleys were drawn in on
the existing alley custom layer in MapOffice Advanced. The ordinance
number was entered in for each location as attribute information. Most
importantly, each historical vacation document was scanned in and linked
to their respective alley. Currently, every alley vacation from 1972 to
the present has been uploaded, but previous years are still being added
on a consistent basis. Now, the user can locate a vacated alley by
querying an address and have the vacation information populate
instantly. Without GIS, the current system of keeping everything in one
giant binder that a user would have to flip through manually searching
for the document in question would still exist. Having these alley
vacations in an easy to use MapOffice custom layer replaces a time
consuming task with a quick, instant result.​

GIS Assists in Whole Foods Site Speed Survey


New businesses will likely attract more people to a given area. Whole
Foods is opening up a new store on Touhy Avenue between Washington
Avenue and Berry Parkway. Residents living in the neighborhood around
the future Whole Foods grocery store site are concerned that increased
customer traffic heading to and from the store will lead to an increase
in the speed of vehicles traveling down their residential streets,
thereby making their quiet neighborhood more dangerous. The police
department conducted speed surveys on all the nearby residential streets
that will be affected when the store opens for business next year. To
display the results from these surveys, GIS was utilized to create a map
of the area with all the pertinent information that the police
department can use for planning purposes.

Unlike previous speed survey maps created by GIS, this one was a
little different. Individual surveys were taken for traffic flowing in
both directions rather than having one survey averaging both directions
together. This map also had more detailed information about the surveys
than previous maps had. This is important for the next step in this
project. Police plan to conduct the same survey on the same streets
approximately six months after the store has opened. The findings from
these surveys will then be analyzed and the appropriate measures will be
taken to combat any problems or concerns that may have developed.
Without GIS, all the data in this map would be locked up in spreadsheets
and without any geographic connection. With these maps in hand, this
data can be more easily understood and analyzed, therefore making the
decision process less time consuming and more efficient.

GIS supports ward redistricting


A ward is a legislative district within a city that has an elected
alderman. Park Ridge is made up of seven of these wards. Every ten
years, district boundaries may need to be redrawn to reflect changes in
the population based on the most recent census. Standard practice
involves keeping all of a city’s wards within 5% of each other
population wise, thus a boundary will only need to be redrawn if the
population numbers have skewed past that 5% threshold. In the case of
Park Ridge, there became a significant gap between the population counts
for Wards 3 and 4, thus causing the need for the boundary to shift. It
became evident that GIS would be the most effective tool to use to
redraw the ward boundaries and calculate the population shift that
occurred since the previous census.

Using census information at the block level from the 2010
Census, numerous maps were created with population counts from each
block for the City Clerk. The City Clerk would then use these maps to
create different scenarios of population shift that would be discussed
with each ward’s alderman. After multiple attempts, the area in question
was agreed upon and maps were produced for use at the City Council
meeting. Without GIS, the City Clerk would be forced to browse through
numerous census data and manually count the areas in question by hand,
which in turn would have been more time consuming, expensive, and less