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San Antonio Trims Inefficiencies From Street-Cut Permitting

The City of San Antonio, Texas, the eighth largest city in the United States with a population of more than 1.1 million, receives an estimated 90,000 applications for street-cutting permits each year. In the first quarter of 2001, the city's Department of Streets (DOS) Office engaged Esri business partner Syncline, Inc., to help it tackle a key challenge it faced with its permitting process. The cumbersome, paper-based process slowed permit approval and made critical permit information inaccessible to city officials. This situation resulted in backlogs, infrastructure project conflicts and delays, costs incurred reworking the same sections of the roadway, and sub-optimal compliance revenue.

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The City of San Antonio, Texas, engaged Esri business partner Syncline, Inc., to help streamline processing of the approximately 90,000 applications for street-cutting permits received each year.

In the past, city contractors who needed a permit visited San Antonio's DOS Office and filled out an application. That application was passed to the Right-of-Way Management (ROWM) Office. Each application passed through multiple levels of review in the ROWM Office before being amended, approved, or rejected. City officials estimate that a single permit application required an average of two employee hours to approve.

Once approved, paper permits were stored in files that were not organized by location. Without a central, easily accessible repository of pending and approved permit information, city officials couldn't access all the information needed to effectively manage permits. Often, they didn't know if two projects were scheduled for the same place at the same time and also had difficulty tracking and fining any compliance violations associated with each permit. As a result, infrastructure projects were inadvertently scheduled for the same time and place, roads were unnecessarily recut and resurfaced, traffic barricades and detours were left up too long, and the city's compliance revenue was lower than it could have been.

To address these issues, the city's DOS Office asked Syncline to develop a prototype end-to-end permitting solution. Syncline's Professional Services team worked with city officials to understand the requirements of a new permitting system. The team deployed the MapCiti Permit Module, powered by Esri's ArcIMS software, to manage the entire street-cut permitting process.

Unlike other permitting systems, the MapCiti Permit Module provides comprehensive, Web-enabled permitting functionality and is seamlessly integrated with the city's GIS. With the MapCiti Permit Module implemented, DOS officials and contractors need only a standard Web browser to access and view all street, zoning, and permit activity online using maps created through the Permit Module.

Contractors can apply for street-cutting permits and obtain automatically calculated permit fee information at any time. DOS administrators can review and approve permit applications and track permit compliance—all online. With this functionality, contractors and administrators can ensure that projects do not interfere each other, and that companies comply with city guidelines. They can develop insight into trends and patterns in street-cutting activity that may not have been readily apparent with the paper process.

"Syncline has given us an unprecedented ability to manage the thousands of projects going on in the city at a given time and to make sure they're done in an orderly fashion," said Joe Chapa, the City of San Antonio's GIS manager. "[The MapCiti Permit Module] has also allowed us to simplify our invoicing procedure, so that we are more effective at applying and billing compliance fees."

In just the first three months, the city registered more than 7,500 permits using the Permit Module. Now, city officials estimate that 90 percent of all permit applications come in online, and the number of employee hours required to approve a single permit application has decreased by 71 percent from two hours to only 35 minutes.

"By putting this entire function on the Web, we save time and energy, both for ourselves and for the companies that work on the city's infrastructure," said Chapa. For more information on MapCiti Permits, contact Matthew Gentile at

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