Joining the Bandwagon!

Apollo Teng, DIST

(This article appears in GIS News, Vol. 2 No. 4, July 1996)


The fundamental premise of a common GIS database development is that numerous agencies will make use of it. The more applications that can be supported by the common database, the greater benefit that will be derived from the investment on building the database. In addition, making those applications appropriate for either the 1"=2,000’ or the 1"=200’ base maps enhance the communication between the different County service agencies. This article describes the projects among the departments in the Executive Branch that will make use of the common database. This brief review will serve as a foundation for a more quantitative analysis of the costs (of common database development) and benefits (of sharing the databases and the improvement of efficiency in delivering to the citizens the County services.)

The Common Databases

There are two series of GIS databases maintained or being created in the County. The Department of Information Systems and Telecommunications (DIST) created during the mid-1970 the County-wide street centerline geographic base file (GBF) using the Census Bureau Dual Independent Map Encoding (DIME) technology. The file has been maintained by DIST througout the years. During November 1994 thru March 1995, a major enhancement to the file was implemented. We used the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) 1"=2,000’ (or 1:24,000) roadway (centerline) database to enhance the coordinate data of the GBF/DIME. Prior to this effort, the mapping scale was in the neighborhood of 1:100,000. As part of the enhancement, a system of annotations based on the feature classes was also implemented. More recently, highway symbols (for Interstate, US, and Maryland routes) were developed to enhance the cartographic quality of the plots.

The other series of the common database consists of planimetric/topographic and property coverages being digitized by mapping consultants for the Montgomery County Park and Planning Department. DIST also cooperates in the effort by administering the ground control and aerial photography projects as well as participating in the property database automation project. The mapping scale was 1"=200’ (or 1:2,400). The database was organized using the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) map grid system. The County territory spreads across 650 map sheets. As of this writing, about 70% of the map sheets have been automated.

Joining the Bandwagon

DEP - Water Resouces Management. The WRM Division is the first unit outside the DIST to acquire a GIS workstation. DIST helped with the procurement and installation of the system. DIST also helped with the contracting with a consulting firm for the conversion of the County storm drain facilities data. The storm drain facilities inventory mapping is one of the requirements from the State Department of Environment for the County to obtain permits for discharging into the State and Federal waters (National Pollutant Discharge Ellimination System act, NPDES). Specifically, the Water Resource Planning Section of the Division is the main user of this system. In addition to using the system for quality control of the vendor converted data, WRP also uses the system for generating maps to support their various water quality monitoring programs.

The Water and Waste Water Planning Section has also started using the GIS to support its short- and long-term water and waste water service planning effort. Similarly, the Environmental Policy and Compliance section is also actively looking into using GIS to support their functions.

DPW&T Highway Services - This Division of the Department of Public Works and Transportation is looking into automating the snow plow and/or salt routes. DIST GIS Team will first develop a pilot project using the up-county as a test area. Depot locations along with the five service district boundaries will be digitized using GBF/DIME as the base. Information on public/private roadways, emergency routes will be input to GIS. GIS generated routes can be reviewed and edited or fine-tuned by an operator. The goal is to implement the system County-wide.

DPW&T Facilities & Services - This Division has procured a Sun Ultra SPARC workstation. DIST is performing the installation. Its planned applications include project site maps using layers such as planimetric, topographic, property and digital ortho. (Currently DIST provides the various map composition services to DFS.) Site selection is another application. The integration with scanned drawing images is also high in the list. ArcCAD will also be procured to take advantage of the vast collection of AutoCAD databases that the Division has accumulated

DPW&T Traffic & Parking Services - The Parking Services Section has started an application project with the help of DIST. DIST has constructed the Parking Lot Districts (PLD’s) coverage. Next we will construct the Sectors. Overall PLD maps have been generated. With the aid of the Oracle Property Database (OPD), publicly owned land parcels, parcels exempted from PLD taxes will be identified and maps generated. Attributes (owner, parking spaces, rates, etc.) for parking garages and parking lots will be created in files that can be related to the graphics. Additional applications such as revenue analysis, parking fee tracking, capacity analysis, development imapcts, etc. will be incrementally added.

DPW&T Project Development - The Office of Project Development (OPD) has had the Unix GIS workstation for half a year. They have been using ArcView to compose maps using the 1"=200’ base maps. These maps support the various roadway improvement projects that the Department is considering. OPD has also started on a project to develop a point coverage of roadway intersections. The GBF/DIME database was used as the base for the effort. These busier inersections have, over the years, traffic counts collected and stored in a databse. These traffic counts will be downloaded from the database and uploaded into Arc/Info periodically.

DPWT - Solid Waste Services. This Division used to be part of the Department of Environmental Protection. They were among the first ‘customers’ of the GBF/DIME based GIS. DIST staff created and maintained Refuse Collection and Recycling district boundaries and composed various planning and monitoring maps. With the transfer of this particular staff to SWS, SWS is working towards self-reliant in GIS applications. An Unix workstation will soon be procured with FY 97 funds. Additional applications such as collection routes, inspection routes, and complaint tracking will be added as resources permit.

DPS - Well & Septic. In a July, 1996 resolution, the County Council approved the creation of the Department of Permitting Services, consolidating permitting functions that were previously spreading among DEP, DOT, HHS, and DFRS. Well & Septic was a section used to be part of HHS. DIST helped with the configuration, procurement, and installation of a Sun SPARC 20/712 workstation to be doubled up as a server feeding data to a group of eight Pentium PC’s running ArcView for Windows. Planned applications include the scanning of the previously collected plans and drawings, and the use of GPS receivers for the mapping of well and septic tank plans and be used for inspection purposes. Additional applications include ArcView PC’s on the counter for customers’ queries and information retrieval.

Housing & Communicty Development. HCD has outfitted a Pentium PC with PC-NFS and ArcView for Windows. DIST has copied pertinent ArcView datasets onto the HCD Novell server. Housing and Community Development data will be incrementally converted into GIS. Based on both the 2,000 and 200 scale databases, many applications for supporting HCD functions will be developed.

DFRS - Emergency Management. EM has outfitted a high-end PC with PC-NFS and ArcView for Windows. DIST has copied pertinent ArcView datasets including the hazardous material sites onto this PC. Additional datasets will be translated and made available to EM and other ArcView users.

Police. DIST helped with the procurement of two SPARC 20/61 workstations in early 1994. A two-year project for developing a GBF/DIME based Redistricting/Beat Realignment System was awarded to a consultant team consisting of D&E and Digital Engineering Corporation. R/BRS allows for efficient realignment of the Beat boundaries in order to balance the work loads among the beats. It also enables the aggregation of the basic service units (Police Reporting Areas, or PRA’s) into Districts with the input of district ‘centroids.’ PRA’s belonging to a well defined neighborhood (such as a subdivision, or a home owners association) can be grouped into a ‘super PRA’ so that it won’t be split among multiple districts. Physical barriers (Interstate highways, creeks, etc.) can also be introduced into the districting operation.

Crime Analysis. DIST has developed a thematic mapping program (GeoView) that displays various summary statistic data for the various department service areas. Police data aggregated to the Police Reporting Area (PRA), Beats, and Districts can be quickly displayed. Two data items can be represented at the same time. This system has helped the Police crime analysts and the special investigation unit. Police pushes this idea further by implementing a GIS-based crime analysis program County-wide. U.S. Department of Justice grant has been secured to acquire high-end PC’s and ArcView licenses for the five district stations and the headquarters. In turn, these PC’s will be connected into the Unix workstation/server. DOJ consultants will also develop ArcView-based crime analysis application.

In addition to the applications mentioned above, DIST has also been generating various maps (from both the 2000- and 200-scale base maps) to support Site Planning for new or expanded facilities, Deployment Planning (in response to an anticipated large-scale demonstration), and special projects such as mapping of the locations of African American Churches within the County.

Economic Development. The Office of Economic Development is in the process of outfitting its high-end PC’s with ArcView for Windows. Applications contemplated include identifying candidate sites for potential employers and new businesses trying to locate in the County. On the preservation of agriculture, GIS can be used to inventory and monitor agricultural land.

The Good Old Map Composition Applications. DIST continues to provide large amount of custom maps for the using departments. The list includes Board of Supervisors of Elections, Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Police, Facilities and Services, Office of Legislative Oversight, Management and Budget, Public Health, and the Transportation Management Center.