Visualization, Storytelling, and Collaboration Bring City Planning to Life
Planning and Development Services (PDS) of Kenton County delivers services critical to growth and development for the local county government and its 19 cities. Those services include long-range planning, zoning, infrastructure engineering, GIS, building codes administration, and codes enforcement. PDS is the managing partner of LINK-GIS, one of the nation’s pioneering GIS systems, which serves three counties in Northern Kentucky: Kenton, Campbell, and Pendleton. The partnership is made up of the Kenton County Fiscal Court, NKY Water District, Sanitation District #1, and PDS. To make the most of its 30-year investment in planning and Link-GIS, PDS works to share its expertise and promote the benefits of mapping as well as spatial analysis.
Taking a cue from big data, PDS needed to make its 14TB of data easier to analyze, visualize, and share. One current data outreach effort of PDS, Northern Kentucky mapLAB (NKYmapLAB), is intended to keep the public, citizens, and elected officials better informed about long-range planning implementation projects, quality of life issues, and economic development projects. PDS uses NKYmapLAB to test new GIS tools including 3D modeling, the aerial photo swipe app, new story map formats, newly released data sets, and ArcGIS Online basemaps.
“In addition to showcasing GIS as an analytical tool, NKYmapLAB is also a sort of testing ground for making data, maps, apps, and information more interesting visually,” said Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal GIS Data Analyst. “One of the more exciting aspects of NKYmapLAB is that we can experiment with new apps and cartographic techniques too.”
Through ArcGIS Online, NKYmapLAB releases a monthly Esri Story Map and companion large-format display map that addresses a long-range planning topic and shows how GIS can help. Recently, the team tried out the firefly basemap available to ArcGIS Online users. PDS used the basemap and a companion Cascade story map to tell the story of project that aimed to map all registered UAV owners in the area. The map was designed to acclimate people and agencies to local services for UAV owners and to identify the limitations for those flying for commercial purposes.
“The firely basemap makes a strong first impression, and with the right data set is extremely easy for audiences to understand the first time they see it,” said Louis Hill, GISP, Geospatial Data Analyst. “The firefly basemap was the perfect solution. It has a clean and simple implementation, and the intensity of the color draws the viewers’ eyes to the ‘clusters’ of drone owners on the map.”
The story map is a crucial tool to visually document problems and make a case for our project. This effort enabled us to receive $250,000 from the Kentucky state legislature to pursue a study and design of the roadways to improve efficiency.
The outreach work by PDS / LINK-GIS via NKYmapLAB has been a success, primarily by way of better opportunities for collaboration. Other agencies now have a better understanding of the value of LINK-GIS and how GIS could be used to solve their problems. NKYmapLAB has completed 28 projects since it was established in 2015, and the breadth of topics helps demonstrate the prevalence of GIS within the community.
One example of collaboration occurred with the city of Fort Mitchell. One of the city’s busiest intersections experiences frequent congestion and has been identified as one of the Cincinnati metro area’s high-priority transportation projects. The project’s primary deliverable was a story map that served as a single point of reference for city officials, citizens, and business owners. The story map documented traffic congestion conditions, existing land use conditions, future land use plans, and demographics from Esri Tapestry Segmentation. It included interactive maps, a summary of businesses operating in the area from ArcGIS Business Analyst Online, and video interviews detailing the impacts of traffic on the area, especially to businesses.
In another example, the PDS/LINK-GIS team collaborated with a private sector marketing firm and the nonprofit organization Southbank Partners on the Riverfront Commons project. Riverfront Commons is an 11.5-mile uninterrupted walking, running, and biking trail that links Northern Kentucky’s six river cities—Ludlow, Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, and Fort Thomas—to the City of Cincinnati and other local trail systems. The goal was to create a useful tool to promote and sell the ‘Riverfront Commons Experience’ in a consistent manner to the region, and beyond. The trail is the signature project of Southbank Partners, a community and economic development organization that supports these river cities. This project features a strong economic development emphasis, focusing on trail status along with adjacent residential, commercial, and retail developments.
Perhaps the most successful collaboration to date can be found in the latest NKYmapLAB project “Erlanger | Stevenson Road.” This project had a similar approach as the Fort Mitchell story map. However, rather than focusing on congestion at a single intersection, the Erlanger story map explored several major concerns along an entire roadway corridor: the safety of the pedestrians, specifically the school children walking to and from school, and traffic issues related to the poor drainage, frequent flooding, elevation changes, and curvature of Stevenson Road.
The story map was used by the City of Erlanger to demonstrate the need for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) to make immediate improvements to Stevenson Road. Within a matter of weeks, KYTC awarded a total of $1,800,000 for improvements to Stevenson Road.
It is no coincidence that after decades of inaction, they finally decided to fund the design and right-of-way acquisition for this project shortly after the story map was created.