3d modeling in local government

​One might ask what benefits a local government would get by modeling
their community in a 3-D environment and the answer is simple, a great
deal. The idea of modeling the real world on a computer was once a
difficult task and usually only existed in video games. However, with
technology advancing at an alarming rate this once difficult task has
now become more of a normal occurrence.

Community and Economic Development Departments at the local
government level have consistently searched for ways to evaluate the
structure of their town in order to see what implementations may be
working and what areas might need improvement. Usually these types of
reviews are done by outsourcing the project to an external consultant in
return for a 3-D representation of the study area. Although this
method is quite efficient, it often costs a community extra money. For
the City of Park Ridge it was decided that to keep this type of work
in-house and use the resources of the Geographic Information System
(GIS) to review the “Higgins Road Corridor” project in a 3-D environment
would be beneficial.

By using the data that the city collects annually the GIS Department
was able to create a 3-D model that included buildings, driveways,
sidewalks, roads and parks for the “Higgins Road Corridor.” The basics
of creating this model entailed using GIS tools to extrude each feature
listed above to its true elevation height above mean ground level.
While this data is extruded it is also converted to a specific file type
that can be imported into Google’s SketchupTM application.

Once the data was exported to a useable Sketchup file it was then
imported into the Google SketchupTM application allowing it to be
displayed properly by applying specific colors and textures to all
features in order to make them more realistic to the real world. In
addition, text labels were added to call out all of the major roads and
parks within the study area making the 3-D model ready for production.
One of the benefits of using the Google SketchupTM application is that
it allows for easy layout creation and final conversion to a PDF product
for printing. Once in a PDF format these products can be printed and
mounted for display purposes at city board meetings, this being the
method that City of Park Ridge practiced for this particular project.

In conclusion, it is easy to visualize how the functionality of GIS
along with other applications allowed the Community and Preservation
Department of Park Ridge the ability to stay in-house with this
particular project and administer more control during production time.
Furthermore, representing a portion of the real world in a 3-D
environment allowed city board members to conceptualize what impacts
might be endured by redeveloping the “Higgins Road Corridor”, such
impacts that are not always seen in a 2-D environment.

Using free GIS technology to aide local government staff


Information captured in a Geographic Information System (GIS) can be
distributed in many different ways including, but not limited to, hard
copy map prints, electronic image files, Google EarthTM and as an
ArcReaderTM (PMF) project. Of these methods of distribution, ArcReaderTM
has been found to work quite well in Elk Grove Village.

ArcReader is a free data viewing application provided by ESRI, the
leading GIS software development and services provider. This software
allows for the development of customized interactive maps by the
community’s GIS Department that provide for map viewing, printing and
querying of GIS data. ArcReaderTM can be downloaded from the ESRI
website at http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcreader/download.html.

So far, ArcReader Projects have been created for the 2009 Alexian
Brothers Bike Race, the Public Works Department, the Clerks Office and
most recently the Fire Department. Each ArcReader project contains basic
community information like addresses, street names, parcels, water
features and roadways as well as more specific information pertaining to
the specific event or department. Some examples of how ArcReader
projects have been used within Elk Grove Village are as follows:

  • The Bike Race ArcReader project provides a shared resource of
    information for all geographical locations pertaining to the race event
    and will continue to evolve as more information is mapped.
  • The Public Works ArcReaderTM project provides information for
    utilities throughout the village as well as department specific
    information that has been mapped such as snow plow routes and tree
    trimming areas.
  • The Clerks ArcReaderTM project includes the zoning, subdivision and annexation layers.
  • The Fire Department ArcReader project incorporates fire districts,
    automatic aide areas, response analysis layers, geographical information
    for the trails, groves, and water depths and hydrant flow information.

Deploying geographic information in this way has provided for a
common location for related information and the ability to view where
these events, infrastructure, services and regulations exist throughout
the community. Once the data is mapped in the GIS it can continue to
expand in accuracy of geographic representation and by capturing
additional attribute information. Often, analysis is requested after
realizing the relationships that exists between all of this information
and the results can bring a significant benefit to a staff, department
or the entire community.

Displaying local parking information in Google


The City of Highland Park Manager’s office has recently required the
need to visually display each city owned parking lot in a map format and
publish these maps to the city’s website. Although their original
methodology of publishing PDF maps of these parking lots would initially
work, the city believed that the organization of these maps could
become confusing when combined with all of the other content on the
city’s webpage. After multiple meetings with the Geographic Information
System (GIS) Department the city decided the best way to organize the
information was to create a Google Map containing a point location for
each city owned parking lot. From there, the parking lot data points
would then contain all of the necessary space designation counts for
each parking lot as well as a link to a corresponding PDF maps. The
benefit of doing it this way was to keep all parking lot information
centrally located and easy to find.

The first phase of the project involved the creation of PDF maps for
each parking lot using existing parking data that was created within the
GIS. The maps were then field checked and marked for errors by the
local city staff. Once all of field checks were completed the data
within the GIS was then edited to reflect what was current in the field
and PDF maps of each parking lot were created.

After the PDF maps were finalized, the next step was to create a KML
(Key Markup Language) file that could be used to integrate with Google
Maps or Google Earth products. The creation of this KML file involved
building a model in ESRI’s Arc Catalog application which took existing
GIS data and converted it to a usable KML file format. The most
important function of this conversion was to ensure that the labels that
were used to display the parking lot information in Google Maps were
readable in a clear and concise manner.

The first KML point file that was created was tested for
functionality within the Google Earth application. Users of this product
could click on a desired point and gather information about the total
amount of parking spaces in a selected parking lot and what designation
was assigned for each parking space. In addition, the Google Earth
application allowed for an accessible link to a PDF map for the specific
parking lot that was selected as well as the ability to print these
PDFs for individual purposes or meeting presentations.

Because Google Earth required each city employee to download an
application to their computer it was decided that Google Maps was a
better alternative since it worked from any internet browser and allowed
the same functionality. The last step was then performed that entailed
placing the Google Map link for the parking lots on the city’s web
server in order to make it easily accessible to all city employees and

In conclusion, the end result of this project created a more
centralized approach to representing the city’s parking structure on the
internet allowing it to be an important decision making tool for the
Intra-City Parking Commission and the residents of the City of Highland
Park. It can also be noted that interdepartmental collaboration between
city departments and GIS allowed this project to be a success.

Link: Highland Park Public Parking Map

Importance of community zoning and street maps


One of the latest Geographic Information System (GIS) developments in
Elk Grove Village has been the creation of a community Zoning Map and
Street Map. It was requested that the village be provided with a color
map depicting the zoning boundaries as well as the proper zoning
classification. While the zonig map is driven by the local community the
street map is more of a GIS Consortium (GISC) standard map product that
is suggested as soon as a community joins the consortium. The street
map provides a good basis for future mapping products in that much of
the fundamental community information is present. These maps have been
completed by incorporating many layers of information that have been
formulated since the inception of the program.

As mentioned previously, the zoning map requires the creation of
zoning boundaries with their respective zoning types listed usually done
by displaying these districts in the form of a proper color scheme. The
former black and white zoning map was referenced to be sure that all of
the previous map elements were incorporated such as the street name
index, revision list, legend and effective date. The street map
incorporates important places, recreation areas and trails throughout
the community. Not to be overlooked, the street name index can be very
useful for an individual who is not familiar with the village.
Considering this, the index has been expanded to include the grid number
of the important places and recreation areas providing map users with a
reference for quickly looking a specific place of interest.

Other than the layout of the map itself, the data used in both maps
helps to give them a consistant look and includes the street names,
roadways, neighboring communities and grid. Rather than having these
maps made at separate times during the fiscal year these two maps are
created at the same time making it easier to consider what message each
map communicates as well as the similarities that would persist between
the maps.

There have been a number of map reviews resulting in the final
products. These maps are currently being distributed throughout the
village and can be provided as either a hard copy that is printed at
almost any size desired or electronically in an image format such as a
PDF that is viewable with Adobe Reader. All data layers within the map
have been stored in geographic databases that allow for continued use,
modification and additions. The map layout has also saved so that it is
available for future map production which allows for the underlying data
features within the existing map to be updated while the layout of the
existing map remains the same.

In conclusion, it is important to note that knowing where you are in
town or what zoning district a property falls under are questions that
are asked everyday. Moreover, by having the essential tools such as
accurate maps to answer these questions the efficiency of the village
staff’s daily workflow can be enhanced greatly.

Information kiosk for development building and zoning questions

The Village of Glenview has recently installed a kiosk in the
Development Department to answer questions by contractors, residents and
realtors. The kiosk gives individuals the ability to quickly find out
information about Village property from a single source. Questions such
as what school district is a property in? What residential services are
available? What day is garbage pickup? What is the approximate age
square footage of my home? What is the Village zoning classification?
All these questions can be answered using the kiosk.

Prior to using GIS as the central repository for Village data,
finding and navigating the maze of data sources was difficult and time
consuming. A Geographic Information System (GIS) fits this very need. It
captures, stores, analyzes, manages and presents data that is linked to
a geographic location (in most cases a street address). Prior to using
GIS the school data would need to be retrieved from the school district,
property information such as assessed value or square footage would
need to be taken from the Cook County Assessor and zoning data would
have to be requested from the Village. This process was far from instant
and certainly without the ease of using a graphic interface to make it
intuitive. Today using a single graphical interface, a realtor for
example can get all this data in under a minute.

The efficiency of GIS makes it a powerful marketing tool for village
property. It allows a user to retrieve available residential services,
improves data accuracy and increases the amount of data a contractor,
resident or a realtor has access to. With all the data in one central
location the ability to make changes and updates is easier than ever
before. The GIS is a dynamic system that continues to grow as the
Village moves forward with its Strategic Technology Plan and we
encourage you to come and try it out.

Village street map approval process

Each year the Village of Deerfield creates an official Street Guide
of the village. This product is developed and consumed by both village
staff and the general pubic. Each year the GIS Department and other
village departments go through a two month review and update cycle of
this product. During the 2009 review and update cycle it was determined
that the village would move this historically black and white product
into a color format. In addition to the color format it was also
decided that a black and white version of the map would still be
maintained for map reproduction using outside sources.

This annual project cycle can be broken down in four phases which
include: Phase 1: Review Phase Phase 2: Pre-Final Review Phase
Phase 3: Final Review Phase 4: Map production and reproduction

Phase 1: The review phase starts with the updating the previous years
map with all known changes collected throughout the year. Secondly, a
memorandum is delivered via e-mail or manually to all of proper village
recipients along a map for review purposes and checklist as what to look
for when conducting the review process. Community staff members that
are typically involved with the map update process include department
heads or managers, GIS Coordinators and GIS ​Consortium board members.
During this phase the village staff will review and provide comments to
the GIS office by a date that is outlined in the title of the

Phase 2: Pre-Final review phase begins after the GIS Department makes
the appropriate changes to the street guide map from the initial review
process and then redistributes new packets with an updated memorandum.
These packets are then sent out a second time to the same village
recipients with comments form previous responses. This is done so that
all village staff employees are able to confirm the changes that were
updated in the initial review. Any additional comments are again
provided to the GIS office by a date that was included in the second
delivered memorandum.

Phase 3: The final review phase is completed when all updates have
been completed and all comments from the village staff have been
addressed. The GIS Department then reviews the map product one final
time for overall map layout clarity and data content accuracy. At this
time, a PDF versions or printed maps are provided to the selected
village staff employees for one final review and authorization. If
there are no further comments at that time the map product becomes
official and moves into the final phase of production.

Phase 4: The map production and reproduction phase begins immediately
after approval is received in Phase 3. The first sets of maps are
printed in-house using the village plotter and distributed to the
village’s staff. After initial distribution, additional maps are
printed and delivered to the Community Development Department and
Village Hall staff for distribution to the public. The final
distribution cycle is then delivered to an outside vendor for product
reproduction and map folding. These maps are then made available to the
public through multiple outlets.

Overall the annual review process ensures the street guide product is
reviewed and updated to reflect the community at the time of
publication. The product involves multiple village departments and
staff members to ensure the end result meets the needs of those who will
eventually be using it. Moreover, community collaboration between the
village employees and the GIS Department help to make a successful end
product good for internal use as well as public distribution.