GIS Department

Articles about NKAPC's geographic information systems department and their map-related projects. NO Image:

NKYmapLAB initiative illustrates local issues, importance of GIS

Posted on August 28, 2015

PDS’ Northern Kentucky Map Lab (NKYmapLAB) initiative that was begun earlier this year is quickly developing a wealth of illustrative looks at Kenton County issues. They range from Baseball Across Northern Kentucky (a tie in to Major League Baseball’s 2015 All Star Game) to an analysis of tree canopy across the County.

NKYmapLAB’s goal is to keep residents, the business community, and elected and appointed officials informed using its wealth of data. Among its emphases are: 1) long range planning projects that are part of Direction 2030 implementation; 2) quality of life issues in cities and throughout Kenton County; and, 3) support county economic development projects as requested.

LINK-GIS has been building its data base since 1986; what started as a partnership to map utility locations for public health concerns has grown into a regional GIS system responsible for roughly six terabytes of data (6,000 gigabytes).

As the data base grows larger and more complex, it takes on some of the challenges often found with other “big data” systems. Those challenges are typically how to best share, analyze, and visualize the information that is constantly accumulating. NKYmapLAB is a direct response to that issue.

NKYmapLAB aims to analyze a wide variety of this data and present it in a more visual format that facilitates better understanding by the public and its elected leaders. Topics to date have included:

 ·        Energy Efficient Construction in Kenton County

·        Current Conditions of Kenton County Bridges

·        Walkability: Sidewalk Connectivity in Kenton County

·        Parks of Kenton County

·        KY-536 Traffic Patterns

·        Urban Tree Canopy

·        Baseball Across The Region: Northern Kentucky            

In addition to large-format maps, NKYmapLAB has started using Esri’s Story Map platform to provide users with a more interactive online experience of each topic, when appropriate. The Story Map format is valuable because it guides users through a topic sequentially, introducing key concepts and new points of information along the way.

Story Maps use geography and location (the key component of GIS) as a means of organizing and presenting information. They tell the story of a place, event, issue, trend, or pattern in a geographic context. They combine interactive maps with other rich content—text, photos, video, and audio—for a user experience that is basic and intuitive.

While many Story Maps are designed for general, non-technical audiences, some can also serve highly specialized audiences. They use the tools of GIS, and often present the results of spatial analysis, but don’t require their users to have any special knowledge or skills in GIS. This has resulted in rapid adoption of Story Maps across all industries.

For more details on NKYmapLAB, email Louis Hill, GISP, AICP, or Ryan Kent, GISP, or call them at 859.331.8980.

NKYmapLAB is also available on Twitter @NKYmapLAB.


Staff asked to assist state board with new definition of land surveying

Posted on July 09, 2015

Kentucky needs a new definition for the practice of land surveying—one that will distinguish between highly-accurate GIS maps and the technical products produced by licensed land surveyors. PDS staff members Trisha Brush, GISP, GIS director, and Steve Lilly, PLS, GISP, Surveying Analyst, were members of a taskforce charged with crafting that new definition.

B. David Cox, Executive Director for the Kentucky Board of Licensure explains the issue. “Modern GIS, GPS, and mapping technologies have dramatically increased the ability of non-surveyors to create a multitude of maps for a multitude of purposes. Some states have recently addressed the issue including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Their approach was basically to bring mapping professionals into surveying licensure, including a "grandfathering" period and attempt to license all as surveyors.”

The decision to rewrite the definition as opposed to including mapping professionals into surveying licensure was made because of the inherent differences of the two professions. Even though there are many similarities between the two professions, the final work product and what it represents are entirely different. It was this final work product for each profession that would lead to this new definition.

The committee from Kentucky’s Board of Licensure requested members of the Kentucky Association of Surveyors (KAPS) and the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP) to assist with the new definition. Brush and Lilly were selected since both are GIS Professionals who hold the GISP certification and both are involved in KAPS and KAMP. Lilly also holds a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) license in Kentucky.

“This effort was important to both professions,” said Lilly. “The new definition—however it’s finally crafted—will help the public understand our different roles better and that’s something that benefits everyone.”

Members of the taskforce from the State Board, KAPS, and KAMP developed a definition that they recommended to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC). The LRC will utilize the recommendation to create a new regulation in 201 KAR 18:150.

The new definition will probably become effective later this year.


Analytics, economic development to be focus of NKY mapLAB initiative

Posted on March 02, 2015
Recognizing that a good map can often inform an audience better than a voluminous spreadsheet of geographical data, PDS last month launched Northern Kentucky mapLAB. The initiative seeks to accomplish two critical goals: illustrate the robust analytical capabilities of LINK-GIS; and, use those capabilities to support Kenton County’s economic development program. Products of the program will be distributed via PDS’ broad range of social media tools.

“We’ll soon celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of LINK-GIS’ founding,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS and managing partner of LINK-GIS/Kenton County. “That makes it one of the oldest GIS systems in this part of the country. And, because time has a way of translating into information for these systems, LINK-GIS is a veritable treasure trove of intelligence.”

Gordon is banking that when the community is exposed to ongoing examples of GIS analytics, more people will come to appreciate what PDS and its partners have built for the community. He asserts that outside interests will also come to appreciate its capabilities.

“There’s no secret to the fact that a geographic information system (GIS) can be one of the most potent tools a community can have in its arsenal when it comes to economic development,” said Gordon. “The ability to provide enormous amounts of geospatial data in short periods of time can mean the difference between winning or losing a prospect.”

Geospatial data is information that identifies the geographic location and characteristics of natural or constructed features and boundaries on the earth, typically represented by points, lines, polygons, and/or complex geographic features. It’s the type information critical to economic development programs whether you’re a company looking for a new home or a community desiring to be that new home.

Northern Kentucky mapLAB will produce and distribute maps on a monthly basis using data supplied by LINK-GIS. The inaugural map illustrated energy-efficient construction being pursued currently in Kenton County. Future maps will focus on a number of issues critical to economic development including quality of life. All published maps will be stored online for future reference.

“We’ve supported Tri-ED’s efforts for a number of years,” said Gordon. “Now that Kenton County has hired a professional to support its and the cities’ interests in this arena, we look forward to supporting them too.”

LINK-GIS is an interlocal partnership made up of Kenton County Fiscal Court, SD1, the Northern Kentucky Water District, and PDS.

Delivery of GIS data provides community with tree canopy inventory

Posted on December 01, 2014
A recent grant from the USDA Forest Service through the Kentucky Division of Forestry to the Northern Kentucky Urban and Community Forestry Council has provided LINK-GIS partners with high resolution data on tree cover. SavATree, in collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory, mapped Northern Kentucky’s land cover.

“We’re pleased to receive these new data,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS executive director and managing partner of the LINK-GIS partnerships. “This collaborative effort with Northern Kentucky’s Urban and Community Forestry Council will be extremely helpful to PDS and our GIS partners as more and more emphasis is focused on air and water quality issues.”

The project succeeded in mapping land cover for Northern Kentucky with a high level of accuracy. The project was able to achieve its goals by leveraging existing data provided by LINK-GIS. The 7-class land cover will be useful for producing tree canopy and land cover metrics. The percent of forest was broken down for each city, watershed, block group, and even down to the parcel level.

Tree canopy data is now available on the base map of the LINK-GIS website. Questions should be addressed to the GIS staff at PDS.

Senior staffer’s service nets President’s Award at annual KAMP conference

Posted on November 06, 2014

During the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals’ (KAMP) annual conference in Louisville in September, PDS Senior GIS Specialist Tom East, GISP, was awarded KAMP’s first ever President’s Award.

According to the KAMP website, “This award is not presented yearly but at the discretion of the current President. This award recognizes extraordinary service to the KAMP Executive Board and members.”

East has served as the treasurer for KAMP since 2012 and has initiated several efforts improving the record management, membership management, and financial management of the organization. KAMP is an organization of almost 400 professionals involved in the mapping sciences, with the stated purpose of fostering understanding and improved management and use of geospatial information throughout the Commonwealth. It also seeks to provide a mechanism for dialogue and education regarding geospatial information issues by professionals.

Along with East, other PDS staff members also participated in the conference. Senior GIS Programmer/Specialist Christy Powell, GISP, led a workshop on mobile data collection for GIS and, along with Principal GIS Programmer/Specialist Joe Busemeyer, GISP, and Principal Planner James Fausz, AICP, made a presentation about the creation of the new, all-digital, Direction 2030 comprehensive plan website.

Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration presented a session on the marketing of GIS services through social media. East also presented an informational session on Next Generation 9-1-1 and the essential role GIS will play in its operation.


GIS department provides HBA information on available subdivision lots

Posted on November 06, 2014

The PDS GIS department worked closely recently with the Homebuilders Association of Northern Kentucky (HBA) on a project to determine the number of “finished” subdivided lots in Kenton County.

Finished lots are vacant lots ready to be sold but without an existing structure.

Additional lot definitions utilized in this project fell under several categories: lots with water and sewer access, lots with just water access, lots with only sewer access, and lots without access to either utility. The analysis also took into consideration the zoning of the property; residential, commercial or industrial.

“This analysis is exactly the type that GIS is built to report,” commented Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS at PDS. “We were happy to share these data with the HBA, and look forward to serving the association in the future as needs arise.”

Due to the scale of the project, the PDS team delivered the analyzed data in three maps. The maps were broken down as Urban (the Ohio River to I-275), suburban (I-275 to KY536), and rural (KY536 to the southern Kenton County boundary).

Staff’s goal in moving forward is to have these data and more available on the fly or on an as needed basis. There have been some discussions of building a website just for HBA’s needs with a secure login, but for now that is purely conceptual.


STEM: Ripe for the Picking

Posted on August 15, 2014

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Girls Day Out,” Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outing for girls of junior high age on June 27th. Six companies in the area along with PDS participated in the event: ATech Training, Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions, Duke Energy, Delta, Messer Construction, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, NA. Over 70 girls participated with an average of eight girls visiting per site.

STEM is an acronym used in curriculum referring to academic disciplines in K-12 and college. The term is used in the US when discussing competitiveness in technology development across the nation. The idea was first introduced in 2006 with an initiative to increase America’s workforce talent toward engineering and math.

“June 27th was a great day to be at PDS!” said Trisha Brush, GISP, PDS’ director of GIS administration. “We introduced our ten girls to what a day in the geosciences career would be like, gathering data with GPS units and trying their hands at geocaching.”

“We showed them LINK-GIS maps and how local geographic data can be used in the decision-making process. Chris Gephart, a principal at Bayer and Becker Engineering and Kentucky registered land Surveyor, helped the group find a survey pin in the field by using GPS and paper map.”

The day ended with lunch, questions, and answers with the geoscience and survey professionals.

STEM Girls Day Out was a free experiential learning opportunity for female students across Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati. The Girls Day Out program was designed to promote interest in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math). The workshops allowed for personal and in-depth career exploration.


“Impressive” data, expertise aid tree canopy study

Posted on May 23, 2014
The Northern Kentucky Urban and Community Forestry Council was awarded a grant from the U.S. Forest Service in December 2013 to develop land classifications and forest canopy data for Kenton, Campbell, and Boone counties. This data will be used to develop tree planting plans for several areas in the region and can be used as models for other communities.

After pursuing a request for proposals process this spring, the Urban Forestry Council awarded a work contract to SavATree Consulting Group which includes the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Laboratory. Project completion is expected by July 2014.

For its part, the Urban Forestry Council created a GIS and strategic planning committee; an interdisciplinary group of GIS specialists, planners, certified arborists, and others together to help with this project and beyond.

“NKAPC’s Ed Dietrich (planner) and Kyle Snyder (GIS specialist) will play integral roles on the committee; bringing Ed’s planning background, and Kyle’s GIS/forestry background. The motion to form this committee, which was unanimously voted into council that day, couldn't have happened without their support," said Mathew Frantz, ISA, co-chair of the Urban Forestry Council, and chair of the newly-formed GIS and strategic planning committee.

Local data were leveraged in order to keep project costs down and insure success with a rapid turn-around time. LINK-GIS provided LiDAR, imagery, and other data; some federal data such as National Agriculture Imagery Program data will also be used to aid in consistency.

LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. LINK-GIS’ LiDAR data provide extremely accurate elevations.

Upon receiving the LINK-GIS data, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, director of the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Lab responded, “That is an impressive collection of data you have! We work with a lot of communities and few are up to the standards that you folks are. Thanks for the speedy turn-around. We look forward to adding to your collection of outstanding data.”

This project will provide the NKAPC/LINK-GIS partnership with valuable data such as: forest canopy, seven classifications of land cover data, and an inventory of potential planting areas. Some of the relative information will include canopy height and approximate age of the trees.

This data will be useful in comparisons to past canopy studies (Kenton 1995 and 1999; Campbell 1999) and future ones. Potential planting plans will be valuable for day to day planning as well as for special initiatives like
Taking Root.


New, highly detailed aerial photography in the works for LINK-GIS

Posted on April 28, 2014
Over the last few weeks, new aerial photography covering both Kenton and Campbell Counties has been captured for LINK-GIS partners. This photography will provide some of the most detailed views of these counties ever seen, and will include the capability to measure the vertical heights of buildings, towers, and other objects on the ground.

While LINK-GIS partners have had vertical measurement capability for several years now, what’s different is the resolution of the new photography. These images, flown by Pictometry, are created using an updated, high resolution aerial camera system which captures finer detail than in the past. To enable the vertical measurement capability, an accurate model of ground elevation is essential, so LINK-GIS provided its highly detailed LiDAR elevation data to Pictometry for this element.

LiDAR, an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging, is a highly-accurate method of measuring ground elevation using laser distance measuring equipment mounted in a plane. As the plane flies over an area, the LiDAR equipment sends out tens of thousands of light pulses per second, painting a pattern of dots on the ground, and then measures the time required for each pulse to bounce back to the plane. At the same time, the altitude, position and orientation of the plane is continuously recorded. The collected information is then processed to produce a detailed elevation model of the earth’s surface.

“The camera system Pictometry uses captures five images at a time – one each in the forward, backward, left, and right, or ‘oblique’ perspectives from the plane, and another facing straight down,” said Tom East, Senior GIS Specialist at NKAPC. “At the time of each exposure, computers on board the plane capture the plane’s exact position over the earth using GPS and the exact time of exposure.”

“Also captured are its altitude, bearing, tip, tilt, and roll angles so that all perspectives of each image exposure are known. Later, during processing, this information is used to reduce or eliminate distortions in the imagery,” according to East.

The final result is a model consisting of thousands of images, assembled so that the viewer has a “birds-eye” view of the ground from all five cameras. The user can then move to nearly any location over the ground and see a detailed view of the earth below.

Local law enforcement and emergency response agencies find this information valuable when responding to dangerous situations. The images can also save time and money for county property valuation administration (PVA) offices by reducing the need to go into the field.

Delivery of the new imagery is expected to be complete by the end of July.

GIS provides much-needed analysis support for redistricting

Posted on April 28, 2014
The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission is tasked with redrawing legislative districts every ten years in conjunction with federal census results. With legislative districts changing and population shifting, voting precincts too must change and shift to match new legislative boundaries.

LRC (the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission), pursuant to KRS 7.550, is charged with maintaining and continuously updating a computerized map of census geography and election precinct boundaries. To accomplish this task, LRC works closely with Kentucky’s counties. For Kenton County, this means working with Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe, and her staff.

Summe and her team work tirelessly to draw and redraw voting precinct boundaries to match new legislative boundaries and to accurately detail any and all changes in accompanying reports. To assist her in this process, Summe calls upon NKAPC’s GIS Administration department. She is also able to work from her office by taking advantage of the online mapping provided by the LINK-GIS website.

“As the county board was redrawing precincts to match the changes made by the redistricting, the online access to GIS was awesome,” Summe noted.

Utilizing LINK-GIS allows Summe to overlay multiple layers (voting precincts, city boundaries, road centerlines, census blocks, new House and Senate district boundaries) and see precisely where voting precinct line changes need to occur. Summe and the GIS staff are able to work side by side to view all the necessary data and instantly make changes to the voting precinct boundaries as needed. What once took weeks to accomplish can now be done in a matter of hours.

“NKAPC’s Joe Busemeyer was incredibly helpful in redrawing the precinct maps,” said Summe. “He made himself available on short notice for a large project that was required to be done in a short time period.”

“We could not have done it without him. His willingness to work with the county board and with LRC, so that we complied with House Bill 1, was invaluable."

Working in the GIS format enables a rapid turnaround of the data, which can be sent to LRC for a quick review. When LRC reviews the data and submits comments back to the county clerk, she and the GIS staff can make the changes quickly and get them back to LRC. This is critical on a project such as this that requires several revisions over the course of many months.

After each revision, the GIS team is able to produce simple, yet effective voting precinct maps for Summe and her team to evaluate what changes were made and explain to LRC why they were made. In the end when all the revisions have been made, LRC will have clean, accurate voting precinct data and the Kenton County Clerk can provide Kenton County voters with maps showing clear precinct boundaries and polling locations.

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