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GIS Mapping/Modeling Techniques

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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has revolutionized the world of mapping. GIS allows us to link endless amounts of information to a specific geographic location and helps us answer questions and solve problems by looking at data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.  GIS does this by organizing information into categories and then placing each category in a separate map layer. The layers are then overlaid to produce a composite map showing the relationship between the layers.

No matter how large or small the community, planners must understand the physical, social, cultural, political, and environmental landscape of a community or region. Maps are critical, not only for understanding the existing environment, but also for envisioning future conditions.  GIS can help inform the decisions that planners either make or help their local decision-makers to make.

The following is a short list of planning functions that can use GIS to enhance decision making:

  • Zoning and land use planning
  • Crime analysis and prevention
  • Traffic analysis
  • Issuing of permits
  • Code inspection and enforcement
  • Natural resource management and environmental assessment
  • Demographic analysis
  • Emergency management planning and disaster recovery
  • Public health and healthcare access
  • Tax assessment and collection
  • Parks and open space planning
  • Transportation and public transit planning
  • Historic preservation

Planning applications of GIS can be organized into three categories: planning, operations, and public information. Planning requires the assessment of past trends and current development patterns to predict what will happen in the future and where it will happen. GIS allows planners to develop various future scenarios and analyze the potential impacts of these various alternative futures. GIS is used in municipal operations to track the delivery of services, regulatory activities, maintenance of infrastructure and facilities, and response to natural disasters. The use of GIS to disseminate public information is becoming more popular and accessible. Many jurisdictions are using GIS, often using an internet map server technology, to provide information to the public such as development proposals, access to amenities and services, transit routes, and locations of upcoming community events.

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