What is GIS?
GIS (Geographic Information System) is a computer-based tool combining mapping and database technologies for the analysis and visualization of all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS technology integrates powerful database functions, such as querying and statistical analysis, with visualization tools to represent information graphically through a static or interactive map. GIS allows users to not only view geographic data in maps, charts and reports but to also ask questions about the data to reveal relationships, patterns and trends.
The analysis and visualization tools that are routine for a GIS system would be extremely difficult and time-consuming to accomplish through conventional methods. It is this power of GIS – linking physical locations to the information in a database – that makes it an indispensable software tool in many fields today.
GIS is used around the world because of its abilities and ease-of-use. For example, a utility company may need to know where their electric poles are located so that it can maintain appropriate maintenance schedules and records. Or, a transportation company might want to analyze the proximity of potential transit riders in relation to transit routes so that it can better plan and map its routes and schedules. In general, people use GIS quite often when we search the internet for local attractions such as restaurants or shopping centers or to get directions and map the quickest route to the nearest gas station or hospital from a mobile phone or GPS navigation unit.
For more information on GIS please visit ESRI: What is GIS?
How does the SMTC use GIS?
As a transportation planning agency, the analysis and visualization of geographic information is an integral part of what we do. We use GIS to analyze regional and corridor level data and to create maps for display at public meetings and in our study reports.
Beyond simple mapping tasks, GIS aids in the decision-making process for transportation planning. For example, in the East Genesee Sidewalk Study, several datasets were gathered to represent the current conditions of the East Genesee Street Corridor, including locations of signage, utility poles, curbs, retaining walls, and trees in relation to the location of existing and potential sidewalks. This information was then analyzed to determine whether a sidewalk would be feasible in the study area. For the Environmental Justice analysis, SMTC uses GIS to display several types of Census data, such as low-income and elderly populations. By mapping this information we are able to determine which Census geographies contain high densities of certain populations; this allows us to define “target areas” in our planning area that may be of concern in regards to transportation planning. Mapping Census data also allows us to observe population and housing trends over time.
About SMTC GIS Data
At the SMTC we use ESRI software (ArcView and ArcInfo). Our data are in geodatabase, shapefile and coverage format, while most of the relating databases are in Microsoft Access or Excel compatible formats.
The SMTC houses many of the GIS files relating to Onondaga County and the Central New York area. We have created some files, and we have acquired others from different agencies. The GIS data that is created by the SMTC is available for public use; to inquire about data that has been derived elsewhere, please contact the appropriate agency.