This post, by guest blogger Matt Baker, is the thirteenth in a month-long series on the impressive diversity of participatory decision-making tools that communities can use for land use plans, transportation plans, sustainability plans, or any other type of community plan. Our guest bloggers are covering the gamut, from low-tech to high-tech, web-based to tactile, art-based to those based on scenario planning tools, and more. We welcome your feedback and would love to hear about the participatory design strategies that you’ve found to be the most useful.
Combining GIS and design presents an opportunity to merge art and precision, geography and graphics, the human mind and creativity. The software that has resulted continues to redefine how we work with a GIS—not just cartographically, but how we capture the many processes and workflows any designer might undertake.
When building a new plan for a community, there will likely be multiple stakeholders, each with their own vision and ideas. These plans all have their own importance, and each needs to be captured, analyzed, compared, and evaluated.
The new Community Planning web application from Esri (the documentation is also online) demonstrates how GIS and the web can provide a collaborative design tool that can be used to capture the visual qualities of a design, capture multiple scenarios, and save them to a central location. From there, the design lives as data, and with that comes the full ability to perform the spatial analysis and evaluation available in a GIS.
This application uses a combination of ArcGIS Server and Adobe Flex. With the release of ArcGIS 10 came the feature service—essentially a map tied to a database published to the web. Once a service has been published, The ArcGIS API for Flex allows for the creation of an interactive rich internet application consuming an ArcGIS Server feature service. Web collaboration is born!
Creating a Plan
Begin by clicking the “Create My Plan” button (as seen on the photo above). This reveals a panel of features that can be drawn on the map, as well as a field to enter a Plan Name and your email address—which will serve as your identifier in the design collaboration process.
When you click “Submit My Plan”, you are creating a space on a GIS server that stores the features and attributes you draw on the map.
Sketching and Modifying Features
From the Create My Plan palette, click a type of land use to enable it for sketching, and click the map to add the shape of the polygon. As you click, you can see the feature being added to the map. Double-click to finish the sketch. If you want to change its shape, click the feature to select it, which reveals handles at each node you added. Drag a node to move it, and hover over an edge to reveal a ‘new’ node you can add to the shape.
Drawing Data and Measuring Impact
What makes this application powerful is the ability to draw data. As features are added to the plan, the area, length, and location are already known by the GIS.
When you click a feature you just drew, a pop-up displays the total values of several indicators.
Planners know from researching existing plans that certain indicators – environmental, economic, and social – can be measured based on the area of a particular feature. With the use of Flex and a simple expression, a value for an indicator can immediately be calculated as a function of the area of the feature it represents on the map. For example, if I assume that an acre of Commercial can generate 150 jobs, 4.5 acres will generate around 675 jobs.
Clicking the “Community Impact” button along the top menu reveals a charting widget, giving the option to compare the areas of all the land use types, and each indicator, giving a visual measure of proportion to the land use plan.
The indicators chosen for this application were pulled from various planning manuals and guidelines, such as the APA’s “Planning and Urban Design Standards,” and “The Smart Growth Manual.”
Submitting your plan
Clicking the “Review My Plan” button reveals a widget that will reveal all plans you have already submitted that are tied to your email address. Clicking each plan retrieves the plan from the server, allowing you to re-evaluate, and even edit features, then re-save the plan to the server.
Sharing your plan
This application also gives the ability for you to share your unique plan with the rest of the world. Clicking the “Share My Plan” reveals a widget with options to share a link to your plan via Twitter, Facebook, or E-mail.
When the user on the other end clicks the link, they’ll be taken to the application and a map showing your plan.
What’s it all mean?
As citizens expect up-to-the-minute news about their community, so will they expect updates on plans for future development. Today’s web technology gives us instant communication through so many channels and data types. ArcGIS server gives our maps and GIS data the chance to participate in this exchange, giving planners and designers the ability to instantly post a design, share an idea, and receive feedback from other stakeholders and community members as instantly as we receive tweets from friends.
This post was contributed by Matt Baker, a product engineer with Esri.