"The traffic to the site means we stood something up that people care about and can use. So measuring the impact right now, by level of usage and interest, means we are helping keep people informed and safe."
MDOT uses ArcGIS Hub to keep residents informed and safe
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is turning to geographic information system (GIS) technology to help keep nearly 10 million residents and commuters informed and safe against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
MDOT's GIS team is a component of the Data Inventory and Integration Division within the Bureau of Transportation Planning. One facet of the division’s role is to collect, analyze, and report detailed traffic and travel data for 85,500 miles of federally aided roads and highways, in addition to 85,500 miles of local roads.
MDOT has taken swift action in the face of the growing outbreak. The state's newly launched COVID-19 Hub is helping to safeguard Michigan's residents and commuters by providing data and critical information—such as confirmed cases, traffic patterns and trends, and the status of road and highway assets—in an online platform.
The growing spread of COVID-19 required MDOT's GIS team to immediately pivot their focus to Michigan's statewide, multiagency emergency disaster response efforts.
As an existing user of ArcGIS Roads and Highways software, the seven-member team needed to quickly redirect their resources and cumulative experience using ArcGIS to take on the rapidly escalating public safety threat.
After a conversation about the current situation with one of Esri's dedicated DOT solution team members, the GIS team began the process of creating an online hub solution with ArcGIS that could engage and inform at-risk residents and commuters.
"We needed to make sure we were communicating on a state level with the GIS resources we had. At the same time, we needed to partner with others operating in this space, like the health and human services department, the Michigan State Police, and [the] National Guard, as much as we could too," said Cory Johnson, manager of the Data Oversight and Geospatial Management Section at MDOT.
Adding to the challenging situation was Michigan's shelter-in-place guidance, requiring the GIS team to change to a remote workflow. Not working alongside fellow team members and partner departments inherently caused delays due to the unavoidable disconnects in the normal flow of communications across agencies.
As the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread, the MDOT GIS team began adopting Esri's ready-to-use datasets and applications, including interactive smart maps and dashboards, to build out MDOT's own customized hub solution.
In a single day's time, the team built and deployed the Michigan DOT COVID-19 Hub, providing residents and commuters with valuable resources and services ranging from the locations of every rest area and roadside park in the state to the volume of daily traffic and live video feeds of major highways.
The team included the Michigan COVID-19 Dashboard in the hub, which is operated by the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security (EMHS) Division. The new dashboard is providing visualization of near real-time data, capturing a wide array of classifications of COVID-19 cases, broken down into statistics of 83 individual counties. This capability allows residents to quickly and easily view up-to-date numbers of current cases, recoveries, and fatalities, sorted by date, age, gender, and virus severity.
The Facilities and Assets interactive map displays the locations of designated roadside parking lots and rest areas, layered on top of the COVID-19 cases by county.
Additional story maps available in the hub allow residents to view the latest variances in the volume of traffic by region, as measured against the state's annual average daily traffic (AADT) data. Additionally, users can view the daily traffic volume trends via a dashboard that also provides the national averages by date.
MDOT's new COVID-19 Hub is also providing a central location where residents can stay up-to-date by viewing Michigan's official government Twitter feeds. The hub's social media component shares the latest Tweets sent by a wide array of agencies—from the governor's office and Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) to the Michigan State Police EMHS Division.
Additionally, residents can stay informed with the hub's capture of all the latest news and announcements from county and state communications departments and partner agencies. This includes FAQs, videos, news releases, and official emergency orders in addition to live social media and video updates via feeds from the county, statewide agencies, and area schools
MDOT's hub is providing a holistic view of the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, visualizing active case data at county- and statewide scales via interactive smart maps—helping to keep commuters fully informed, aware, and safe.
Launched on March 25, the GIS hub has already registered over 6,000 total views.
"We feel like the results thus far are positive, based on the attention the hub is getting. The traffic to the site means we stood something up that people care about and can use," said Joseph Thick, GIS administrator, MDOT. "People are coming back to the hub every couple of days or so to see what information is out there. So measuring the impact right now, by level of usage and interest, means we are helping keep people informed and safe."
The hub's dashboard is effectively conveying a map-based understanding of the COVID-19 community spread, helping to drive awareness of the risk factors—and how to best protect against them. Sharing active case data in near real time on interactive smart maps—bringing to life the scope, scale, and community spread of this pandemic—is also helping the state's emergency disaster response.
"It's definitely a good feeling to be a part of this from the DOT perspective while contributing to the larger efforts coming out of the emergency operations center and the governor's office," said Johnson. "We're definitely trying to get the right information out there for our citizens. Any way we can help the situation right now is what we're trying to do."
Increased situational awareness and a common operating picture are also enabling stronger collaboration, communication, and coordination between county and state government agencies. This is helping to ensure that vital resources and assets are available to help protect Michigan's residents and commuters.
"This is obviously something that we've never experienced before, and we are all just adapting to the challenges in both work and home," said Johnson. "We are fortunate to have the technology to be able to do our jobs and support the citizens of our state, as needed."