City's system like Google Maps on steroids

The City of Kamloops recently received recognition for its geographic information system, sophisticated mapping of the city’s data that comes courtesy a five-person team at city hall.

Staff use the system to better make decisions and create efficiencies, while a plethora of information is also packaged into user-friendly formats for the public — enough to satisfy curiosity about where to track down public art or provide helpful information to businesses that would have in the past sent city staff digging through binders.

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Maps have been built with data about city heritage properties, memorials and snow-removal priorities. Search by name in one map to find where someone rests in a Kamloops cemetery.

“Cemeteries are open after workers have gone home,” City of Kamloops GIS manager Adam Chadwick told KTW. “You can go to the cemetery and you’re stuck if you don’t know exactly where the person is that you want to see. So now, there’s a map … you can type in that person’s name and it’ll zoom you to that location.”

Starting with an empty database, the possibilities are limited only by imagination at city hall.

The mapping has been the focus of Chadwick’s work for more than two decades, since he came to work for the city in the early 1990s.

“This summer, we just picked up all the paint lines,” he said.

“It was calculating how much paint do we need for next year, what was in the field so it gets replaced, sign off that it has been painted every year. Every paint line in the city, we can calculate now,” Chadwick said.

“If someone says, ‘Oh, I want to repaint this parking lot,’ we add up all the paint lines, multiply it by whatever the factor is to paint however wide the line is — it’s going to be 50 gallons or whatever it might be — then you can calculate time and materials. That’s citywide and it was actually one of the last ones we picked up.”

Finishing 16th in a field of 146 public-sector agencies — from small and large municipalities to school boards and police forces — across the country thanks to the geographic information system is a feather in Chadwick’s cap after all those years of work.

The geospatial maturity index report was published by Public Sector Digest and is the first of its kind in Canada.

Kamloops tied with the Vancouver Police Department and bested the City of Coquitlam and Township of Langley.

Still, Chadwick humbly points to ways in which the city can continue to improve.

map gis city of kamloops
Source: City of Kamloops

“We now have to maintain it all and keep it accurate and up to date,” he said.

In reality, he’s the man behind the curtain of the city’s GIS system and KTW met up with him to learn all about it.

Mostly operating behind the scenes, the GIS department works as a centralized internal service to the city’s other departments.

One of Chadwick’s jobs is to understand the needs of those departments, including how they want to use and look at data, to improve processes and make them as efficient as possible.

Take traffic data, for example. The city tracks intersection traffic and has amassed endless reports over the years. Via GIS, those reports are filed electronically by traffic department staff and then automatically swept weekly via computer code to update a city traffic map.

“This took me about five seconds to find all of them [city reports] for that intersection,” Chadwick said.

The information also helps city staff make better decisions, creating visual depictions that would otherwise be difficult to grasp quickly. Census data layered into a map helps the city identify how many people need to be evacuated during an emergency.

Staff can then deduce what sort of evacuation services will be required. That decision-making transcends city departments. Layering underground piping with roads on a map helps the city’s capital projects department identify which roads to replace, taking into account aging infrastructure beneath the asphalt.

“You’re way more enabled to make decisions,” Chadwick said.

It is helpful for staff, but also to those investing in the city. Businesses, for example, tend to call city hall with all sorts of questions.

“Efficiency internally, but also efficiency externally because people have access to this themselves,” Chadwick said.

One happy accident that resulted from the city’s GIS system was a record of the city’s memorial bench plaques, which were stolen last year. Chadwick had photographed each one of them for a memorial map before they had been taken.

“We know what was on them and we can re-create them,” he said. “If we didn’t have pictures, once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Explore the plethora of city maps online at kamloops.ca/maps.

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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