Minimizing traffic disruption
Santa Monica, Calif., has launched an online geographic information system (GIS) application that collects information about city construction projects in the public right-of-way and at public facilities. The application, which is accessible to employees on the city’s intranet, has improved communication between departments and reduced noise, congestion and other types of environmental disruption in the city.
Before Santa Monica launched the construction application, known as the Enterprise Management Intranet GIS Application (EMIGA), communication between departments about construction activities was limited. “Sometimes they would tell each other what’s going on, and other times they wouldn’t,” says Michael Carson, GIS coordinator.
The poor communication sometimes disrupted traffic for extended periods of time in parts of the city where multiple construction projects were located. “The public was going crazy because all of this construction was going on and blocking the streets,” Carson says.
In the late 1990s, city leaders asked the GIS Department to create a specialized computer application that would display the locations of construction projects on maps and collect information about the projects in one place. The department created an application using ArcView GIS software by Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, but many employees who were not skilled GIS users found the application difficult to maintain. The department simplified the application, but users still failed to maintain the project information.
Then in 2002, the GIS department made a third attempt at simplifying the application and turned to ESRI’s ArcIMS software to help. “The third attempt was a charm,” Carson says. “This one made more sense in that we’re using a Web browser, and pretty much everybody knows how to use a Web browser.”
GIS staff worked with several city departments — including the Civil Engineering Division, Building and Safety Division, Transportation Management Division and the City Manager’s Office — to create a Web-based tool for tracking construction projects. The result, EMIGA, allows users to see all the projects in the city, to find the status and schedules for each project and to view any documents published by project managers, such as before and after photographs, contractor names and contact information. Users can find projects by browsing city maps or by searching for specific addresses or dates. “At a glance, it lets you see every type of project going on, whether it’s alley renovation or fiber optics [installation] or transportation/pedestrian improvements,” says Tina Tam, GIS analyst.
EMIGA launched last summer and resides on the city’s intranet. Any city employee can access the application through a Web browser to view when and where construction is occurring. A Civil Engineering Division staff member updates the maps for the application when needed, and each project manager is responsible for maintaining the information about his or her project.
The application has reduced the amount of time city engineers have spent in meetings giving updates about their projects and has improved project coordination between departments, saving money. “We’re not repaving a road and then digging it up the next week to put in a water line,” Carson says. “The different departments involved with those projects are talking with each other and coordinating so that we put in the pipe first and then repave.”
This year, Santa Monica won a Technology Solutions Award from Washington, D.C.-based Public Technology Inc. for EMIGA. The annual awards recognize local governments that use technology to increase revenues, improve services, save money or improve management.