GIS provides the hub technology for planning, deploying, operating, and optimizing transportation systems.
Any large transportation system requires a team of technical professionals and program administrators.
GIS helps coordinate this team across functional areas and geographic divisions by sharing information.
GIS technology is familiar to leading systems integrators and its use has been fueled by an increase in the abundance
and quality of data. This increase is due to cheaper and faster data collection tools and the availability of high-quality
commercial data sets.
GIS: the Backbone of ITS
An Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) utilizes advanced technologies, frequently GIS,
to improve both the efficiency and safety of transportation systems. GIS-based ITS
applications are fed data from GPS units, video cameras, and road monitoring units.
The staff of multijurisdictional or departmental control centers use ITS applications
to mitigate traffic congestion and deal decisively with complex emergency situations.
They manage traffic flows and inform travelers, both commuters and tourists, of road
conditions, alternate routes, and even other available modes of transportation.
ITS applications alleviate traffic congestion by making the best possible use of
the existing transportation network and gathering data to improve decisions for
modifying the network.
"Timely Travel Information Using GIS," describes how
the City of Southampton, England, implemented an award-winning GIS-based traffic
monitoring and analysis system called the Road MANagement System for Europe (ROMANSE).
Not only can GIS integrate disparate data sets and a variety of ITS technologies,
it can help minimize the inherent inefficiencies of intermodal or multimodal
transportation systems. It can coordinate the transfer of passengers from cars
to planes or freight from trucksto trains to minimize delays and maximize loads.
Transportation Departments Use GIS
Transportation departments in both state and local governments have been using GIS
to design and implement ITS strategies, maintain highways, manage facilities, and
plan for capital improvements. Policy makers realize that GIS can make a
dollars-and-cents difference in deploying and operating transportation systems.
An early use of GIS was to simply publish paper maps of projects planned by state
Departments of Transportation and send them to local jurisdictions. Now state and
local governments involved in complex construction and/or maintenance projects
can realize great economies of time, materials, and labor by using GIS to coordinate
GIS is used by transportation planners not only for planning infrastructure 20 years
out but also for deciding the next set of potholes to fill. Many governments have or
are developing enterprisewide GIS so that a decision to change a particular street
can benefit from safety data collected from a local law enforcement agency. Data from
spreadsheets, databases, and other sources that would otherwise be very difficult to
correlate can be referenced in a standard manner through maps.
This ability to get the big picture allows planners to make transportation decisions
in a more holistic manner and more effectively address complex quality of life and
Private Transportation Systems
Quality of life is addressed by another type of GIS-based application. Paratransit
agencies, partially in response to the Americans with Disabilities Act, have been growing.
GIS furnishes these agencies with better routing tools. Using the network topology
features of GIS, more efficient routes better serve customers while improving utilization
of the paratransit fleet.
An article in this issue describes how a very a unique paratransit fleet in
Portland, Maine, meets the mobility needs of senior citizens by using GIS
to coordinate volunteer drivers and promote ride sharing.
Though freight railroads are private entities, they must deal with many of the same
problems as highway agencies. These railroads streamline operations, track and prevent
accidents, manage congestion, and maintain infrastructure using GIS. In addition to
operations-related activities, railroads use GIS to manage their vast landholdings
and extensive leases
Bus authorities, on the other hand, manage relatively little infrastructuretheir
primary concern is tracking and managing very movable fleet-based assets. Their
use of GIS in siting bus stops parallels the use of GIS by retail businesses to
model demand. GIS measures the accessibility of bus stops from schools, stores, and
other common destinations.
Managers of trucking fleets use GIS for route planning and analysis, vehicle tracking,
dynamic dispatch, and asset allocation. ArcLogistics Route, a new Esri software program,
provides managers of small- to medium-sized fleets with a highly automated dispatch
and routing tool that comes with data. Customized solutions using ArcInfo, ArcView GIS,
MapObjects, or NetEngine software have been developed for companies with large fleets
and/or extensive territories.
GIS is an advanced, sustainable, and economically advantageous integrating technology
For more information on using GIS for transportation, contact
Ernie Ott, transportation industry manager, by E-mail or by phone
at 909-793-2853, ext. 1-1984.
Contact Steve Pasquini, fleet and logistics industry manager, by E-mail
or by phone at 909-793-2853, ext. 1-2278, for information on
using GIS for managing transportation fleets and logistics. >