GeoWorld September 2012

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Using Fusion for MapServer as a base, a few sample applications were developed, some with customized widgets. Designing the Web applications followed Louis Sullivan's dictum: "Form Follows Function." Only include the necessary widgets and no visual clutters. All these applications share the same characteristic: to serve or collect geospatial data in an innovative and interactive way through the Internet. Census 2010 and ACS Demographic data from Census 2010 and ACS (Figures 1, 3 and 4) were used in various planning fields. Minority information, for example, always is requested by planners doing environmental impact analysis for transit projects. With an online map application, a GIS specialist can simply send a URL to the planner mak- ing the request, through which he or she can zoom, pan, query information and print out maps. It's more cost efficient, and it liberates staff time for tasks less routine and more creative. A Footprint-Editing Collaboration Application VTA maintains a parcel geospatial database that features polygons representing property-lot boundar- ies. For most planning use, such information is good enough. However, for some planning analysis or research, especially those related to pedestrian and bike planning, building-footprint information occasion- ally is needed, but VTA didn't have these data yet. After some research, VTA found that OpenStreetMap already has such data—incomplete, but a good starting point. A Fusion for MapServer application enabled collaborative editing efforts in the planning department. The application overlays building-foot- print data obtained from OpenStreetMap as well as VTA's transit-facility data with a Google basemap (Figure 2). With customized editing tools, any plan- ning staff with or without GIS knowledge can use the Web-accessible interface to draw polygons based on the Google basemap and save it back to the data- base. The online map will instantly refresh to show the saved edits from any staff. Taking the Leap The aforementioned applications have just scratched the surface of what can be done with open-source tools. Although the use of open-source systems, such as PostgreSQL, is nothing unusual in the Unix and Linux world, inroads into the Windows operat- ing system are recent. And using it among govern- ment agencies still is avant-garde, partly because Windows has always been the dominant operating system in this arena. It takes pioneering spirits, daring hearts and sound foresight of IT and planning/GIS staff to use open- source products for an enterprise project. It's a leap Figure 3. A Web application shows the distribution of minority populations in Santa Clara County through a thematic map. The selection set is rendered differently to show records in a table format. Figure 4. A Web application shows features intersecting a one-third-mile area of a light-rail station, shown as a red circle. based on knowledge and experience, rather than faith. Hopefully, many years later, it will have made all the difference. Ya Wang and George Naylor are senior planner and manager, respectively, with Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority; e-mail: and, respectively. S E PT E M BE R 2O12 / WWW . GEOPLA CE . COM 21

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