Everyday Applications of GIS Mapping

The last time you opened a newspaper, you probably read a story about congressional redistricting in your state—or perhaps you read about how your community plans to build a new highway that will cut your commute time in half. Though they may seem unrelated, these stories are connected by a common thread: geographic information systems. GIS affects most of us on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. Here are three examples of GIS that might surprise you.

1. GIS Supports Wastewater Management and Storm Systems

In the community of Jasper, Indiana, city crews carry smartphones and iPads that provide a world of GIS knowledge at their fingertips. GIS technician Jeff Warren creates maps of the city’s streets, topographic information and wastewater lines, including the age of a pipe or depth of a manhole. Crews working in the field select a street or pipe from their smart device which can help them identify valve locations, where a contaminant entered the water supply, and even the best way residents can connect their lines to the city’s sewer system. GIS tools not only benefit Jasper’s wastewater utility department but also its engineering, planning and development, and street departments. Because linemen access geographic information onsite and in real time, the city saves time and resources, while local residents benefit from safer, cleaner water.

2. Geospatial Analysis Helps Researchers Study Gentrification

Gentrification, a phenomenon happening in cities and states across the United States, transforms lower-income neighborhoods into higher income areas. While benefits include upscale restaurants, shopping centers, cleaner streets and improved public transportation, gentrification pushes out lower income residents who can no longer afford the cost of living in their own communities. To address the growing concern around gentrification, municipal governments use GIS mapping to study its effects. For example, officials in Los Angeles created a GIS database called the Los Angeles Index of Neighborhood Change. The index evaluates income, race and cost of living, among other factors, and it’s to measure the impact gentrification has on a community. As cities and decision-makers study the balance between revitalizing neighborhoods and respecting community members, they can leverage powerful geospatial tools to analyze data, predict trends and improve civic spaces for us all.

3. GIS Mapping Paves the Way for Affordable Travel Costs

TransLink, a division of the Department of Transport and Main Roads in Australia, leverages GIS mapping to help students afford travel costs to and from school. Its program—the Student Transport Assistance Scheme (STAS)—covers costs for 140,000 students based on several criteria, including route distance from a student’s residence to the nearest state school. To help TransLink allocate financial assistance for school travel, decision-makers used GIS technology to consolidate and map geographic data. This solution provided clear visualizations and data management systems that now help thousands of school children afford education-related travel costs. GIS technology is all around us—whether we actively use it or forget it’s there. As a planning tool, it helps make our lives a little easier—from helping us navigate busy roads in a new city to providing farmers with the data they need to keep our food safe from pests. Find out more about GIS mapping and how it can reveal patterns, trends and hidden opportunities.