GIS in Urban and Regional Planning

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GIS in Urban and Regional Planning Powered By Docstoc
					Jason Pollack
Professor Peuquet
EM SC 100S
September 22nd, 2011

           [GIS in Urban and Regional
       In our current world, the human population is rapidly expanding in ways that civilization

has yet to have seen. Urban areas are at the center of this population boom as these cities reach

higher into the sky and stretch out along miles of once unoccupied lands. People from across the

globe with different upbringings and cultures are residing in these massive melting pots. Within

these metropolises, economies serve as the life-sustaining force that allows cities to grow larger

and more powerful. Without organization, however, how could such a complex assortment of

people, businesses, and industries come together to create the cooperation and unity necessary

for a city’s functionality. How could a city like Chicago, with over 2.6 million inhabitants act as

a fully functional city with all of the varying components working together? How can a city,

with so many different issues like urban sprawl, transportation, and public utilities control all of

its imperative parts and act as one cohesive unit? All of these questions can be answered by

using one revolutionary technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

       This impressive technology has brought revolutionary quality maps and photos to city

planners and governments worldwide. GIS has the capability of using spatial technology to

combine different maps and scenes into one comprehensive system that enhances organization

and brings clarity upon different aspects for its specific application. In the case of urban

development, GIS can help in organizing city lands based upon being residentially,

commercially, or industrially based, can dictate the best places for new roads or public

transportation based upon topography as well as population density, can aid in the goal of

making city streets free of homeless people by finding them homes, and thousands of other

applications. GIS have made it possible to run a city effectively and efficiently. People’s lives

are benefitted on a daily basis from this technological innovation and though it has some minor

adverse effects upon some people, the positives outweigh the negatives.
       One of the listless benefits of GIS mapping for urban development is that it actually

allows cities to have one digital map of all of the different types of zoning areas in the city

(residential, commercial, industrial, private or public). This is created by “using layers, called

‘themes,’ to overlay different types of information, much as some static maps use mylar overlays

to add tiers of information to a geographic background. Each theme represents a category of

information, such as roads or forest cover. As with the old mylar maps, the layers which are

underneath remain visible while additional themes are placed above,” (Mapcruzin). This is done

by the city’s government allocating which zones should be placed in the various parts of the city

based upon expert analysis of a GIS map. For example, factors that affect where a city planner

will place residential and commercial zones may include things like the distance to public

transportation, access to public utilities, and the relative closeness to other residential and

commercial areas. When a city planner is deciding where to place an industrial zone, additional

factors may include the amount of pollution created and its distance from the city. Each different

location for a specified zone must be carefully thought out by using the preexisting

establishments, the requirements for the success of a specified zone, and all the other factors

which can be analyzed by using a GIS system. The GIS system will show the city’s government

where all of the zones, power lines, water pipelines, roads, etc, exist and then someone can

analyze where to place future zones for the benefit of the city and its inhabitants. Many programs

can be used for this sort of urban and regional planning, but often there are businesses such as

Urban GIS Inc. who use the programs to make the decisions for the layout of the city and

“manage global spatial assets, activities, and incidents,” (Urban GIS). The following picture

shows a town in Ohio that has been put onto a GIS. Notice how most of the town’s commercial

zones are along the sides of the major highway running through the town. Future areas of
commercial zones will also probably hug the highway because it is easy to get to and because

people from neighboring towns have an easier time getting to these businesses as well. This can

all be told by analyzing a GIS system.

(This picture is from

        GIS not only allows a city to plan where to allow new construction to go, it also allows a

city to see which areas actually are most suitable to be built upon. Using known heights already

put into computers, GIS can actually list the specific altitudes of areas and then a person can use
these factors to decide where the best place to build upon is. For example, in the small European

nation of Monaco, the nation has already built upon all of their land. If they want more land to

serve the needs of their growing population, the nation must reclaim land lost by the sea using

geographic information systems.

       While GIS can be used to create land in coastal areas, perhaps one of the most important

aspects of GIS for urban development is constructing a transportation sector that will grow with

the urban community. The growth in the transportation sector of the urban area ultimately

decides how a city will turn out. If there are little connections from a rural area to a densely

populated area, then people and corporations will not move into this area, however, if a large

interstate highway or a train stop is built in this town, businesses and people will eventually shift

into this area. Where such a road or train stop is built is because of geographic information

systems. GIS will show the topography of an area and an engineer can dictate the best place to

build from looking at the 3D model. In the other direction, too large of a population density

without enough transportation venues will result in the need for urban development elsewhere.

In New Jersey, their transportation department is using GIS in an attempt to deter that problem.

       “NJDOT's Traffic Monitoring System (TMS) program has collected traffic count

information for decades. Using a set of permanent and short term traffic count stations, NJDOT

annually produces a large amount of traffic volume data to support multiple federally mandated

programs. These collected data are made available to the general public via the Internet,” (GIS in

transportation). In the following picture, one can see the existing highways in red, and the

highways that the city of Hyderabad is planning to build in green because of analysis from a GIS

such as the one below which shows the most populated areas in the city and how to alleviate

some of the traffic.
(This picture is from

       GIS is not only used to create new urban communities, they are also used to improve the

lives of urban citizens. One organization, called the Kirwan Institute, specializes in a program

that they call opportunity mapping. This strategy for addressing the needs of the poor is a

“composite (of) index maps based on numerous neighborhood indicators of community

opportunity and vitality. Opportunity mapping can provide valuable information to address and

the needs of marginalized or disadvantaged communities in the region,” (Department of Housing

and Urban Development). This strategy deals with the following issues: How can an

underprivileged community be given opportunities in a realm of safety? Where can affordable

housing be placed in areas full of economic opportunity? How are children being affected in

impoverished areas? The main objectives of the Kirwan Institute’s GIS activities are
       “To utilize the mapping to inform and guide advocacy campaigns, policy advocacy and

       community planning. To provide data, analysis and recommendations to help build local

       organizational capacity in understanding challenges, needs and strategies for

       marginalized neighborhoods. To provide a local resource to identify areas of greatest

       need in communities and assess ‘gaps’ where need is not being met by on-going

       advocacy efforts, local initiatives, investments or policy initiatives,” (Department of

       Housing and Development).

In the city of Austin, Texas, one community organization called Community Coalition for the

Homeless, was aided by the Kirwan Institute in making GIS maps to show where most of the

city’s homeless were residing. Additionally the research also allowed the city government in

Austin to build low income housing in an area of the city that could serve as a place to live, for

participating homeless citizens of Austin, in an opportunistic part of the city which could give

them a chance to achieve economic success.

       Despite all of the benefits and amazing feats that have been achieved because of GIS,

there are many critiques with using certain aspects of it in urban development. There are many

privacy issues with geographic information systems. Imagine the thought of having satellites in

space, which can take hundreds of pictures per second and can see something as small as a penny

lying on a sidewalk, constantly having the capability of watching a person’s every move. This is

where the problem arises. A city government could potentially use GIS mapping to get constant

updates upon the movement of businesses, certain ethnic groups or even individuals. This fear is

one reason why GIS is not being used more widely in urban development. An additional issue

with GIS in urban development is that there is a lack of regulation. This can sometimes lead to

privacy issues or faulty maps.
        GIS in urban development is a modern marvel which has done tremendous good for the

world. Despite the fact that there are some faults in its regulation and privacy issues, the

positives certainly outweigh the negatives. This technology has the capability to greatly aid in

the battle against overpopulation by providing the information necessary to make decisions that

will lead to an urban area being organized. GIS is becoming similar to the brain cells in a human

body, full of incredible data that only needs to be put to use. This technology is truly only

beginning to blossom—the things being inferred from the information now will seem minute

compared to the future uses of GIS for urban development.

(This picture is from
Works Cited

"About Us." Urban GIS - Your World, Your Way. Web. 05 Sept. 2011. <>.

"GIS in Transportation | Resources - Newsletters - Summer 2011." GIS in Transportation -

Planning, Environment & Realty - FHWA. Summer 2011. Web. 05 Sept. 2011.


Onsrud, Harlan J., Jeff P. Johnson, and Xavier Lopez. "Protecting Privacy in Using GIS." Web.

06 Sept. 2011. <>.

United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Http:// Web.

"What Is GIS and How Does It Work?" Free GIS Mapping, ArcGIS Shapefiles, Tools, News,

Geography Maps and Resources. Mapcruzin. Web. 05 Sept. 2011.


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