NYCDOT tames its paper
New York City is a complex web of roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems moving millions of people every day. Obviously, with so many people depending on these structures, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) must maintain accessibility and safety.
NYCDOT is responsible for a wide range of transportation issues and services, including managing traffic flow with signals and enforcement, maintaining streets and bridges, operating the municipal parking system and running the Staten Island Ferry. But to keep the city’s vast transportation infrastructure operating smoothly, the agency must also run efficiently.
For that reason, NYCDOT set out to improve internal communications by integrating the department’s various computing platforms and providing managers with easy desktop access to information. The agency undertook a project to link the data resources of NYCDOT’s Bureau of Highways and Geo-Support — managed by the Department of City Planning — with DOTNET, the Department of Transportation’s telecommunications and client/server environment.
Additionally, during the reengineering process, an opportunity was discovered in the Litigation Support Unit to introduce imaging technology. Following extensive evaluation, Wang, Lowell, Mass., was selected to oversee the project.
NYCDOT’s Litigation Support Unit is responsible for locating and reproducing documents and other evidence used for defending the city in court actions. This evidence often includes maps of alleged defects submitted by the Big Apple Pothole and Sidewalk Protection Corporation (BAPASPC).
In June 1993 a pilot image-based system was implemented in the Litigation Support Unit for on-line storage and retrieval of the BAPASPC-submitted maps. The pilot was designed to study labor impact and identify legal issues associated with automating the manual process of retrieving and photocopying maps as court documents.
Prior to the pilot, receiving, filing and retrieving maps required 21 separate actions. Employees had to search an index for map numbers, locate maps in file cabinets and then photocopy the maps in sections — taping the sections together.
Despite the best efforts of searchers, the resulting product was, at best, marginally acceptable by the courts. Further complications arose from tape, paper and toner shortages, all compounded by copier breakdowns.
Also, since the original maps were repeatedly handled by multiple persons over a period of years, map quality had deteriorated, and filing errors multiplied. If a map was in use by one searcher while another also needed it, either the map was “not found” for the second search or additional time was spent for the two staff people to coordinate their activities.
All these issues added unproductive overhead — direct dollar costs, unnecessary delays and inadmissible evidence — to an already lengthy and costly process. Now the electronic images are readily available, and the excessive overhead from manual processing is avoided.
With imaging, the same process previously requiring 21 steps now requires only seven, and a full-scale imaging system is projected to require just four steps for the same tasks. The labor savings from substituting a data file look-up, plotting for manual file searching and photocopying have significantly reduced the unit’s workload. Maps on the server can also be viewed by multiple individuals and supervisors without additional labor or staff interruptions.
Based on the success of the pilot, the agency is planning to reengineer the entire workflow of the Litigation Support Unit, addressing not only the maps but the 20 — 40 other documents required to complete a search request.
DOTNET now provides the communications tools for managers to access information from all agency and city resources right from their desktops. In addition, the ability to transmit data with electronic mail and access data from shared files develops an open and cost-effective environment.
Moreover, databases of operational information are required to locate and track the progress of time and location-specific data, documents and scanned images, initiate transfers to a workflow application, process inquiries through the appropriate multicomputing environments and return responses to the appropriate sources.
Alleviating traditional paper-intensive process with workflow, imaging and data management tools while offering more timely response to public and litigation requests are benefits offered by the new system.
This article was written by Theresa Stahling, assistant management information services commissioner, NYCDOT.