Sharing geographic data
The San José, Calif., Public Works Department has simplified its geographic information system (GIS) data management process with a single database that works with software from a variety of vendors. The change is saving time and improving productivity for the department’s 400 staff members.
As the Public Works Department’s GIS grew to include more information about parcels, sanitary sewers, storm drains and street lights, the department acquired several software formats to manage the large amount of data. However, the variety of software required staff to enter the same information more than once into different systems. In 2000, department managers decided to streamline efforts and simplify departmental processes. They wanted a system that would allow public works staff to update, access, analyze and publish geographic data so other departments could view GIS data as soon as it became available.
According to Kevin Briggs, public works GIS section manager, staff were reluctant to give up their software tools, so the department created a new, single database that a variety of software could access. The department purchased GeoMedia software from Madison, Ala.-based Intergraph and database software from Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle to create, maintain and publish the geographic information. The new database integrates directly with other business systems, including San José Online Permits, Public Safety/E911, Capital Project Management and the city’s Infrastructure Management system.
Information is stored in the database, which anyone working for the city can access, and each department connects to it using software from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, Troy, N.Y.-based MapInfo or Exton, Pa.-based Bentley. The repository includes digital ortho photos of San José’s 177 square miles and a regional base map accurate within plus or minus one to two feet. In addition, San José shares its map data with Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Public works employees determined what information needed to be included in the database and what kind of data fields had to be populated. Now, when a data field must be changed or updated, the Public Works Department only has to make the change in one place. “Staff has been able to input data 25 percent to 30 percent quicker than before with fewer mistakes,” says Harsh Gautam, technology architect.
To meet the ever-increasing data demand, San José is moving toward a two-server architecture approach. Staff members who update GIS data daily connect to a production server, which then pushes the updates over to the publication server where other city staff members only can view the information. The department also plans to integrate GIS into all of the city’s 12 infrastructure management systems and to wirelessly push out GIS to maintenance crews and engineers in the field. Briggs says that will improve project turnaround time, allow greater field verification of data, increase spatial accuracy and, ultimately, eliminate paper reports.
— Nikki Swartz is a Kansas City, Mo.-based freelance writer.