Mobile GIS Makes its Debut in Riverside

The Village of Riverside, IL has over 1,700 street signs within its 2 square mile municipal boundary, which equates to one street sign every 10 feet.  Combine the number of signs in town with a small, full-time public works staff, and the result is the management and maintenance of the street sign inventory being a cumbersome undertaking.  To assist with managing this inventory, the Public Works staff asked the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to create a process that would allow the department to store and update the inventory in a digital environment. 

Recently, a mobile GIS data viewing and editing application, called Collector, was released by a GIS software company called Esri.  The Collector application is available for use on the Apple or Android tablets already owned by the village, so no additional hardware costs were needed.   The licensing for this application is included in a bundle with the GIS desktop software licensing the village already pays for, which adds further value to the program without the need to spend additional funds.   The Collector application allows Riverside’s Public Works staff to update a sign’s location, maintenance, and condition information in the field as part of their everyday workflow.  More importantly when the staff member updates the sign information, the changes are seen instantly on the device and are available to staff throughout the village within 48 hours as a layer in the village’s web-based mapping application, MapOffice™.  Having the ability to make changes to the inventory digitally removes the need of owning and operating large format printers that are typically used for printing paper maps for use in the field and reduces the turnaround time for making the most up-to-date information available to all village staff.

Water Main and Bike Path Improvement Support

A small portion of the Village of Glenview’s 2014 capital improvements budget was allocated to pave a dirt bike path located in a public right of way between the backyards of two neighborhoods.  Once the village engineers began planning the paving project, they realized it would be advantageous to also replace an aging water main that runs adjacent to the bike path in an effort to minimize construction costs and the frequency of construction in the area.  Since this was somewhat of a last minute project, engineers decided to do all planning and construction internally, rather than using an outside contractor.  Engineers were able to field check a quick plan that seemed to fit in the small area, but in order to verify the plan would work prior to surveying the area, they asked the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to create a map displaying accurate measurements to verify that their field checks align spatially with the surrounding infrastructure, fences, and private property.

To ensure the mapping for this project was accurate, GIS staff located and digitized existing water infrastructure, fence lines, private property, and the existing bike path using multiple sets of aerial imagery from various years.  Once these fixed points were identified, the GIS staff used the field measurements provided by engineering staff to create a map displaying the proposed new water main in the exact location it would be at when installed in the field.  Without GIS, village engineers would not have been able to mock up the project beforehand and would have needed to survey the project right away, without the guarantee that their plan would work.   This would cost a considerable amount of money, both in initial costs and in potential redesign costs if the project did not work as planned.  GIS was able to quickly turn around a map that was used as both a planning tool by village staff and a tool to inform residents where work would be done near their homes.

Visualization of the Medical Marijuana State Law on a Local Community

On January 1, 2014, the state of Illinois legalized the use and sale of medical marijuana.  Numerous area based regulations were included as part of the law, forcing local governments that are considering medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation centers within their community to look at each case within a spatial context.  To assist with this type of analysis, the Village of Schiller Park, IL Community Development and Administration departments called upon the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department to help visualize how these different regulations looked within the community and, as a result, where potential dispensaries and cultivation centers where legally allowed to locate. 

The restrictions dictated by the law are as follows, a cultivation center may not be within 2,500 feet of the property line of a public or private school, day care center, or an area zoned for residential use.  A dispensary may not be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public or private, day care center and may not be located in a house, apartment, condominium, or an area zoned for residential use.  Schiller Park was interested in seeing what areas in its village fall within and outside of these 1,000 and 2,500 foot restriction areas. Combining local knowledge from the Village staff, the regulations stated in the law, and existing GIS data, map products were generated showing the two types of restrictions as they applied to the village.  This was done by mapping the facility locations and property lines, then creating two separate buffers that correspond to the two types of regulations for each facility type.   Any area that fell within the buffers is restricted and any area that fell outside the buffers is open for consideration.

With the assistance of GIS, Community Development and Administration staff now have an easy to understand, visual tool to assist them with answering questions from residents and other interested parties that may come up in light of this fairly new law.

GIS Assists with Sidewalk Condition Survey

The Village of Riverside, IL recently conducted a condition survey of all the sidewalks in the village as part of a larger sidewalk management plan, aimed at keeping the village’s sidewalks in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The survey was conducted by a third party sidewalk survey contactor and the data was collected using mobile mapping software and mobile smart devices. The final survey was delivered to the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff as a formatted Excel table with latitude and longitude coordinate readings captured from the mobile smart devices for each sidewalk square that was surveyed.  Using these coordinates, the GIS staff was able to easily map the survey locations and create products that can be used by local village Public Works staff when spot checking the sidewalk survey results.  The map products were also very helpful in providing information to crews that were hired to repair sidewalk that was in poor condition, displaying exactly where and what type of work needed to be done throughout the village.

Adopt-A-Roadway Management

​The Village of Mundelein is the process of implementing an Adopt-A-Road program.  These programs provide opportunities for groups to adopt a section of roadway and get involved in helping to maintain it by picking up litter and trash.  This program is part of a bigger effort to make the Village look more attractive to both residents and visitors alike and a critical component of the program is tracking which sections of road are available and which sections are already adopted by groups.

To assist with tracking this information in a way that is easily consumable by those answering questions about the program, the Assistant Director of Public Works asked the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) office to create a map to hang on the wall in Public Works showing all potential Adopt-A-Roadway sections in the Village.  The sections were color coded red to show sections that were adopted and green for available sections.  This map provides a quick view for staff of which segments are available so they can contact organizations near those areas to determine if any of them are interested in adopting the roadway. 

A future is step in the project is creating a custom layer showing potential roadway sections for display in the village’s interactive web-based mapping application, MapOffice™, which is accessible by anyone from the village website.  Exposing this information on the village website will allow interested organizations to find their own available road segments and place a request to adopt them by referencing a hyperlink to the road adoption form that will be associated with each road segment in the map.  By using GIS the village is leveraging a powerful tool to better manage and promote the Adopt a Roadway program and ensure that future programs like it have a model of success to follow.    

Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

In compliance with the Illinois Medical Cannabis Act (MCA) that was passed in August 2013, the Village of Mundelein wanted to identify areas where marijuana dispensaries might be allowed by law.  The village Chief of Police contacted the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Office about creating visual aids that could be used in a series of PowerPoint slides to show the restricted areas in the village defined by the law.

The first aid that was created was related to restrictions around residential areas, which showed that only 25 percent of the Village met the requirements for a possible dispensary location.  The next aid that was created related to schools, places of worship, and day care centers, all with a 1,000 foot buffer area displayed around them representing areas where dispensary locations are restricted under the law.  After combining these two types of regulations together, the only remaining areas where a dispensary could be opened were in the northwest and southeast corners of the Village.  This was the expected result, as these parts of the community contain large industrial and retail lots.

By creating these PowerPoint slides, the Police Department now has a tool to show residents, and others inquiring about that law, that there are not many areas where dispensaries are allowed.  The village Planning department also has a tool for identifying zoning districts where they might make changes to the ordnances to further limit where dispensaries can be built.  By using GIS to assist with this analysis,  the Police and Planning departments have a tool for combining complex information into a spatial environment for mapping, making it easier to identify all areas where dispensaries can and cannot be built.

Tree Asset Management Support

The Village of Morton Grove, IL recently undertook the challenge of creating a database of tree assets in their village, locating them and attributing these locations with size and species. Doing this allows for the village to conduct better asset management, including predicting more accurate maintenance times and creating a budget for tree operations. For this project, the Morton Grove Public Works staff recognized the value in collecting this data in a form that could easily be consumed by the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for display and analysis in a spatial environment.

The project started with department staff collecting an inventory of trees currently in the field, marking down information such as closest address, species, and canopy cover diameter, while also keeping these fields consistent with their internal department needs as well as with what was required for integration with a GIS database. This effectively doubled the efficiency of their collection efforts and allowed for a quick turnaround of the data being available in GIS for mapping and other analysis.  Now that they have a complete inventory of trees in a spatially enabled environment, Morton Grove is able to accurately predict and plan out projects involving trees more effectively using the actual location of the tree in the field.

Using the tree location information stored in GIS, staff can now view a tree inventory layer in the village’s web-based mapping application, MapOffice™, represented by species, size, or any other information that was collected in the field.  This saves staff time by preventing unnecessary trips into the field to identify this information, as well as providing information to assist with things like developmental permit reviews and other village processes. By taking a planned data collection process and integrating it early into a GIS environment, the Village of Morton Grove was able to increase the efficiency of their tree management efforts and ultimately gain a complete picture of their tree assets within the village.

GIS Promotes the Village’s Public Art Display

Public art displays are a popular addition to many communities during the summer months. Generally, a particular theme for the overall display is chosen and local artists and businesses craft the artwork that will be publically displayed at select locations throughout the community. For the summer of 2015, the Environmental Commission of the Village of Glen Ellyn, IL presented Bike It!, an outdoor exhibit using bicycles as pieces of art.  To help alert residents of the locations of the bikes, while also showing off the artwork of local residents and businesses, the village’s Geographic Information System (GIS) department created a story map for display on the village website.

A story map is an interactive map that is viewed online and provides the viewer with the ability to interact with the map elements. When viewing the Bike It! story map, a resident can click on the location of the bike, bring up a picture of the display, and also get information about the artist or artists that created the piece. The resident can also zoom in to a particular bike location by clicking on a picture of the corresponding bike on the bottom ribbon of the map, displaying more information on what other features are around that bike. This provides more information visually than could be gleaned from a traditional, static map product.  Moving forward, this type of interactive story map will be a valuable addition for promoting and providing information for other community events.

GIS Assists with Capital Project Public Outreach

​The Village of Deerfield, IL prides itself on operating in an accessible and open manner with full transparency to its residents and those interested in learning more about the village.  In keeping with these values, the village Engineering department approached the Geographic Information System (GIS) staff with a request to help make progress of seasonal construction projects more visible to the public, highlighting how the project develops over the construction season.

In 2015, the village embarked on large scale resurfacing, replacement, and reconstruction projects of seven major roads.  By utilizing GIS, an online map was created for the village website that displays each project area and pictures showing the before condition of the road to be replaced.  By clicking on each picture, more information about the details of each project can be learned, including appropriate contact information for village staff in case any questions or concerns may arise from the work being done. Additional links located in the map allow village residents to subscribe to a given construction project and receive emails at regular intervals providing progress updates for that project.

The future of this online map is to create a before, during, and after display of pictures that shows the gradual progression of each active project.  Eventually, this product will also contain a repository of all documented historical construction projects in the village and provide employees and residents with an easy-to- use tool to search construction history.

3D Modeling Aids Decision Making


3D mapping is a relatively underutilized aspect of GIS in local government.  The Village of Northbrook was recently able to use 3D mapping when considering two options for an intersection improvement.  One option included the construction of new curbs to adjust the traffic pattern.  The other option called for orange road delineators to direct traffic in place of curb construction.  The road delineators would be the less expensive option but there were concerns from Village staff about the appearance of a permanent road delineator installation. 

This is where GIS was contacted and asked if there was a way to model the intersection in 3D to better understand how the intersection would look with permanent road delineators.  We were able to take advantage of the ESRI 3D Analyst extension, a shared resource available through GIS Consortium, which can be used to create and view scenes in 3D.  Using road delineator specifications and accurate GIS data such as roads and buildings, GIS was able to create a 3D model relatively accurate to scale.  GIS was then able to provide engineers and decision makers with multiple views and angles including bird’s eye and profile views of what the intersection would look like.

The 3D intersection model can now be used by decision makers to weigh the costs and benefits of the road delineator option by comparing both the associated construction or maintenance costs and visual appearances.