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 http://www.dublin.oh.us/planning/community/images/OfficialFutureLandUseMap.jpg)
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 http://osmaniandcompanypvtltd.blogspot.com/)
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 http://www.freedomfightersforamerica.com/covert-ops)
"About Us." Urban GIS - Your World, Your Way. Web. 05 Sept. 2011. <http://urbangis.com/>.
"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. <http://www.spatial.maine.edu/~onsrud/tempe/onsrud.html>.
United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"What Is GIS and How Does It Work?" Free GIS Mapping, ArcGIS Shapefiles, Tools, News,
Geography Maps and Resources. Mapcruzin. Web. 05 Sept. 2011.