Village in the Forest Leverages the Value of Mobile GIS

The Village of Riverside, IL is also known as the "Village in the Forest" because of its over 10,000 mature trees and its designation as Tree City USA by the US Forestry Service.  Tracking the maintenance and replacement of village trees can be a sizable task for the limited staff that is available.  By leveraging the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), GPS technology, mobile GIS editing applications, and smart tablet technology, maintaining the village’s tree information has become a much easier task for staff, resulting in a more accurate and reliable tree asset inventory.    

The mobile GIS editing application used by the village is available for use on Apple or Android tablets, one of which the village already owned. The software licensing for this mobile application is included as part of the yearly GIS software maintenance the village already budgets for, resulting in the village being able to leverage this technology at no additional cost.  The mobile GIS editing application allows the village forester to assess tree condition, location, and size and make changes to individual tree asset information stored in GIS while in the field. This helps keep the inventory as current as possible and provide all village staff with a reliable asset inventory to reference when answering questions from residents or contractors. This asset update process also helps staff with budgeting and decision making as they are able to create reports using reliable and current information. 

Residential Impervious Surface Analysis

The Village of Morton Grove, IL has a regulation in place that allows the Village to govern impervious surfaces, which accounts for everything that is not grass, for residential rear yards, with only 50% coverage being the regulated limitation.  The village Zoning Administrator requested that the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department assist them with understanding the existing total impervious surface coverage for all parcels in the residential zoning districts.  The Department of Community and Economic Development would like to use this information to better understand the amount of residential impervious surfaces village wide and to use this information to craft regulations, public notices, and gain a better understanding of land use in the community.

Currently, the village does not require residents to record the type and amount of impervious surface in the rear yard of a property. To help determine what type and how much impervious surface exists, the GIS staff leveraged the existing buildings, driveway, and sidewalk data layers that exist for the village to determine what was present on each residential parcel. This provided a good base for an average impervious surface percentage to be calculated. The total area of buildings, driveways, and sidewalks per residential parcel was calculated and divided by the total area of the residential parcels to yield the percentage of impervious surface.

By leveraging existing GIS data to calculate this information, the village Zoning Administrator was able to get an approximate percentage of impervious surface per parcel in all residential zoning districts.  Without GIS, this type of analysis would have been very time consuming and most likely would have involved paying for a costly survey of the village.

Tree Asset Ownership Analysis

Throughout the course of the year the Village of Oak Brook, IL receives questions from residents concerning private tree ownership, typically to determine responsibility for maintenance.  Often times these questions can be resolved by a trip to the field by village staff, by referencing building surveys which include tree planting plans, or by utilizing aerial imagery with property lines to see which property the stem of the tree is located on.  If these options don’t yield an acceptable answer to the question, a surveyor needs to be called in to mark property boundaries to determine which property a tree is located.  In an effort to avoid calling in a surveyor for a dead tree removal dispute involving four village properties, village engineers requested that Geographic Information System (GIS) staff use available Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data to determine the location of a tree centroid to help pinpoint exactly who owns the tree.

GIS staff first determined the general location of the tree, under the direction of the village engineer, using aerial imagery.  After the location within the village was determined, LiDAR bare earth elevation points for that area, which represent solid ground around vegetation, buildings, water, etc, were loaded into the GIS software.  Once the bare earth points were loaded for the area in dispute a location in middle of the bare earth point cluster with no data was discovered, representing the canopy of the tree in dispute.  As shown in the associated image, a centroid was then placed in the middle of the approximate tree canopy indicated by the LiDAR point cloud, representing the trunk location, which allowed village engineers to see which property the trunk of tree landed on.  Without GIS, the resolution to this issue would have involved contacting a surveyor to come out, measure each property, and determine ownership.  This process would have taken longer and cost significantly more than the process that was used, which involved leveraging the existing GIS information.

GIS Assists in Reporting Street Light Outages

Street light outages are among the most common calls made to the Village of Norridge by residents.  Many times these calls, which can occur up to 20 times in one day, are repeats from different residents reporting the same street light outage.  The village decided that it needed a better system of tracking and responding back to resident calls in order to reduce this redundancy in outage tracking and free up village staff time spent documenting and responding to each call. To accomplish this goal, the village Administration asked the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department to develop a method for tracking and displaying these outages spatially on the village website. 

By leveraging the power and simplicity of user friendly templates in ESRI’s ArcMap and the village’s browser based mapping application, MapOffice™, the village is now able to track street light outage locations spatially and relay that information to residents on a daily basis. The street light outage information is also available to all staff in the village, which allows for resident inquires to be answered quickly no matter who receives the call.  Having reported street light outage locations available to all staff is important because it prevents multiple work orders from being generated for the same location, thereby eliminating duplication of work and a creating a more efficient allocation of field crew resources.

Intelligent Utility System Asset Labeling

In the field, Public Works staff benefit from being able to locate utilities quickly and efficiently. Arbitrary utility asset labels on map, such as sequential east-to-west methods, may work well on paper, but are ineffective when it comes to identifying the actual location of a utility element in the field, such as a manhole or catch basin.  Leveraging the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the Village of Morton Grove, IL began labeling manholes on their utility system maps based on type, address range, and distance from major roads. Unlike traditional labeling methods, GIS can create a labeling system that delivers accurate location information within the asset ID itself that makes sense to those using those IDs in the field.

An example of this type of label is S8860-46-204.  Using this number, the user immediately understands that S stands for Sewer, 88 and 60 are the 8800 and 6600 address blocks for the surrounding streets, and 46-204 indicates that the manhole cover is located 46 feet from one street, and 204 feet from another.  This formula may be refined or altered to suit the needs of specific departments and may apply to most single location assets.  

Even without the complexity of the distance measures, this method is an excellent way to generate procedural numbers throughout a village or segmented by a grid.  Not only does this method eliminate the need to manually number each asset, it also means that new additions to the network can be added seamlessly.   Beyond utilities, this methodology can be useful for other village inventories with numerous features such as trees, street lights, fire hydrants and much more

Snow Plow Route Efficiency Analysis

During the record setting winter of 2013-2014, the Village of Glenview, IL snow plows were kept busy with 80 inches of snow falling in the area. Combined with very low temperatures causing icy roads, there were very real concerns about driver fatigue, salt reserves, and snow removal budgetary issues. 

Working together with Public Works, the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was able to simulate the best routes available in the village for use with two scenarios, one with involved 10 snow plows and one that involved 12 snow plows. By modeling the best way to remove snow in the least amount of time through GIS, the Public Works department was able to identify inefficiencies in the existing routes. This tool was also able to provide turn by turn directions to the drivers, ensuring that these new routes would be easy to implement through staff training.

While the increase in route efficiency was one of the desired goals, this project provided results in two other ways. The cost savings associated with a quicker and more efficient snow plow route provides more monetary resources for the Public Works department to provide other quality services to the residents of Glenview.  Safety is also a major consideration, and the less time a snow plow driver is on the road, the safer the roads are for snow plow drivers, pedestrians, and other vehicles.

With the aid of GIS, the village developed a powerful cost saving tools that allow for greater flexibility in winter operations, and better service to village residents.

Selling Unincorported Utility System Assets

​The Village of Glenview, IL has historically provided sewer and water service to the unincorporated North Maine Township, located south of the village limits.  Providing these utility services to the unincorporated area caused a conflict with the village’s overall mission to provide the best service to the residents of Glenview, as managing this system took away from staff’s ability to directly service village residents.    A solution to this conflict appeared when an opportunity to sell these utilities to a larger local utility network was offered. The village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department was asked to assist with the transition and eventual sale of the utilities and easements in the North Maine area through the production of both map products and utility statistics for the area in question.

By working together with the Community Development and Public Work departments, the GIS department was able take current land use data (such as residential zoned, commercial zoned, recreation zoned, etc.) and determine the utility easements that pass through a given land use classification.  By determining the area taken up by the easements, the village appraiser was able to determine a fair price for the sale of these utilities based on the land use classification and land value.

Without the aid of GIS in a study such as this, intensive work on the ground involving multiple staff members would be needed to gain the same information that GIS was able to accomplish in a relatively short time. This investment of manpower and time was easily averted by leveraging the village’s existing GIS services, leading to a significant cost and times savings.

Collecting a Sidewalk Trip Hazard Inventory Using Mobile GIS

Sidewalk replacement and maintenance is a routine aspect of every community’s capital improvement plan. Over time, sidewalk squares deteriorate due to a variety of reasons, and communities face the challenge of tracking all locations that may pose a safety hazard to its residents. In the summer of 2014, the Village of Glen Ellyn, IL tried a new method to locate and track these safety hazards, using mobile Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to accomplish this task.

To begin using this technology, the village needed a tablet, or some other type of mobile device, along with the downloaded mobile GIS application.  This GIS application, commonly known as Collector, was installed onto a village tablet.   Using this application, the village staff member would collect the geographic location of a damaged sidewalk square either using the GPS functionality of the device or manually identifying the location of the damaged square.  Once the location is captured, certain attributes about the damage are noted and stored with the location.   The staff member also has the option to add a picture of the damaged square, which was attached to each location along with the attribute information.   These pictures will be used by staff moving forward to determine the severity of the damage once this initial data collection is over. These pictures are critical as only a certain amount of dollars are allocated annually that can be spent fixing or replacing sidewalks.  These pictures will be used to establish which sidewalk locations get repaired during the current budget year and which ones get pushed off to future years.

Having a mobile method of locating and tracking all the damaged sidewalks squares in the field replaces the former method of going to each known or reported damage location, marking locations on a map by hand, and returning to the office to fill out a spreadsheet that contained the master list of replacement areas. The level of ease and the time saved makes this project a blueprint for the village when conducting future asset inventories.

Deerfield Fine Arts Festival

The Village of Deerfield, IL Fine Arts Festival is an annual event that brings many renowned artists from around the Midwest together to celebrate art, present exhibitions, and display their products. This event has been growing in popularity and attendance from year to year, so for 2014 the village decided to take a multi-departmental approach to planning. To assist with these planning efforts, the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was asked to develop a map product that could be used as a universal communication medium for the event. 

Working with the Public Works, Police, and Community Development departments, map products were created showing the locations of vendor booths and exhibitions, parking areas and what they were to be utilized for, and the location of village equipment such as temporary No Parking signs, Handicap Parking areas, and road closure barriers.  Having this type of information exposed in a spatial environment helped each department better understand what was needed to execute the event and help to communicate between departments what the logistics would be leading up to and during the event.

Another aspect of this process was working closely with police and public works to plan and map traffic pattern changes and road closure implementations. By assigning police resources a certain area of the festival and showing the patrol patterns, as well as showing the road closure signage and equipment, a clear map showing the overall plan was able to be distributed to event attendees, vendors, and staff to assure the festival was well-coordinated and executed without any major communication issues.

Defining School Boundaries Using GIS

One of the most common questions that staff at the Village of Woodridge, IL receive from new residents is "What school will my children attend?"  The majority of the village’s residential areas are within Woodridge School District 68, which includes seven different elementary schools.  Previously, village staff would forward questions like this to the school district offices to get answered or, depending on where the resident lived, to the individual schools themselves.  However, through the capabilities of the village’s Geographic Information System (GIS) department, the locations of each of these school boundaries within the district were mapped out and provided as part of the village’s web-based mapping application, MapOffice™, allowing village staff and residents to find the information they’re looking for in a fraction of the time.

Mapping the attendance boundaries of each of the seven schools required collaboration between the village, the school district, and each of the schools.  Traditionally, school district staff relied on memory and street name lists to determine which school a student would attend.  In order to transfer this knowledge to a map environment, the village GIS staff had multiple conversations with staff at the district and each school and several iterations of a boundary map were created for them to review to determine the existing attendance boundary for each school.  Once these boundaries were determined and finalized with input from the schools, they were exposed as a custom map layer in MapOffice™ for use by the public, school district personnel, and village staff.  Now staff and residents can access this information easily by searching for an address and activating the boundary layer.  This project demonstrates how GIS can be used as a collaborative tool for optimizing a workflow between multiple organizations.