GIS Department

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

Spring brings daffodils, orange barrels, and Envista

Posted on April 11, 2014
As spring approaches, the warmer weather brings daffodils, orange barrels, and traffic slowdowns to Northern Kentucky. To local public works and utility officials, this spring brings the continued opportunity to coordinate pavement and roadway maintenance activities planned for the next six to seven months.

The online LINK-GIS tool called Envista will aid to increase communication and coordination for street cuts and paving projects in Kenton and Campbell Counties. This is the fourth construction season that the online tool will be available. The result will cut down frustrations felt by the motoring public and decrease the need for pavement cuts. Currently Envista shows 211 pavement projects slated for the upcoming 2014 construction season.

Representatives from Kenton and Campbell County Fiscal Courts, 22 cities, the water and sanitation districts, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6, Duke Energy, Owen Electric, Insight Cable and Cincinnati Bell are using the software-as-a-service tool to manage projects.

“All participating entities can see current and upcoming projects through the central communication dashboard and can identify conflicts and opportunities to work together,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, NKAPC’s director for LINK-GIS administration.

“The system is only as good as the data that are put into it,” said Brush. “So, in order to make the tool function effectively, NKAPC staff is aiding local governments and utilities currently with project updates and checking their data for information that would be pertinent and useful to others who might be looking at the same street segment.

“Besides the fact that we’re working to save money through coordination, we’re also working to cut down on traffic aggravation and total construction time,” Brush said. “The tool will also help participating entities to use their road construction and maintenance dollars wisely, allowing significant cost savings for rate- and tax-payers.

NKAPC has hosted an Envista user’s group regularly for the past several years for all jurisdictions participating in the program. The user’s group meetings show enhancements to the software and offer face time with the Envista representative for a question and answer period. The user group offers an open environment to provide feedback and best practices, while allowing users to put a face with a name for those with whom they’re coordinating.

“Envista staff are incredibly approachable, and have provided a level of personal service and contact that has enabled us to make good use of Envista,” said Jessica Moss, GIS specialist in Covington’s Community Service Department. “Each time I’ve had a question or an issue, they have been very responsive, usually walking me through every process step by step.”

“When I first started using Envista, it was somewhat overwhelming, but the customer service and technical feedback has allowed me to put it into good use quickly. He takes all of our feedback, questions, and suggestions seriously, finding ways to customize Envista to our specific needs.”

Contact NKAPC staff at 859.331.8980 if you would like to learn more about Envista and how it can assist in saving tax dollars for your community.

Staff develop app for collection of field data using GIS

Posted on February 26, 2014
Integrating field-collected data seamlessly into the LINK-GIS system has been a long-held goal for NKAPC staff members. Now, new software from Esri gives GIS department members the ability to roll out applications to anyone with a smartphone or tablet with GPS capabilities.

Christy Powell, GISP, NKAPC’s senior GIS programmer has created two projects to show how this capability can be utilized. The first project is a bike and pedestrian count application for the NKAPC Planning and Zoning department. This application will be used during the semi-annual audit in May of this year.

The second project is a building damage assessment application. During an emergency situation this application would be used to collect information such as number of people affected, contact names, and extent of damage. Since this information is stored in the cloud, even if the NKAPC building was affecting during a disaster, the maps and data would still be available. Another advantage of the application being in the cloud is that in a large disaster, inspectors from outside NKAPC would have access to the data.

In addition to geographic and tabular data, the user can capture photos and video tied to the location. The application also has built-in routing and directions.

“I’ve shown this application to people who collected building damage assessments in the past and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Powell. “We are currently working from a template provided by Esri. With input from building inspectors over the next few weeks, we will be refining the database to better meet NKAPC’s needs.”

The GIS staff has been showing this capability internally and externally over the past month. Several groups have expressed interest in creating projects. Steve Lilly, NKAPC’s land surveying analyst, says, “I’m working with the GIS department to create a survey control monument reconnaissance application. The way we collected this data in the past did not tie the photos to the field data. This system will save us time in the field, streamline our process, and cut out data entry errors.”

The ArcGIS Collector application is available from the Apple App Store or Google Play (formerly Android Market).  This application is free to download and has sample data from Esri available. A username and password provided by NKAPC are needed to connect with maps published by NKAPC and begin collecting data.


GIS staff creating updated, multi-use address database

Posted on February 26, 2014
“Ever searched for a needle in a haystack? It’s a very tedious process if you don’t have a magnet!” That is the metaphor Tom East, GISP, NKAPC’s senior GIS specialist, used to describe the process of finding addresses for the multi-purpose address database being built and maintained for use of LINK-GIS partners and emergency dispatch officials.

Although it may seem simple enough to compile a list of known addresses, many problems arise. Sources of the data may record addresses and road names in different ways. For example, MEADOWLARK DR and MEADOW LARK RD may actually refer to the same street, but people may have spelled and abbreviated them differently in their organization. On the other hand, they could also be two entirely different streets.

“It’s our job to resolve these discrepancies and list them as single road names or as separate road names as the case may be,” says East. “The same principle applies to individual addresses along a street.”

GIS staff has used multiple sources in building this address database. Parcel data, utility service address data, and even Google streetview scenes in a few cases, have been used to determine which addresses should be added to the database.

“One of the difficulties is that each source has a large overlap or duplication along with a smaller percentage of unique new addresses that may not be found in other sources. For example, parcel data may list a single address for a property, but utility records could list multiple unique addresses for service on that parcel.”

This fact highlights another issue – that of diminishing returns. Each source must be filtered to eliminate addresses that have been compiled already, while gleaning new ones that might be present. Eventually the number of new addresses discovered by sifting through another source begins to fall flat. Fewer and fewer new addresses can be discovered this way. The most difficult cases may require fieldwork, but as East points out, “We try to use every other affordable means before resorting to fieldwork since it is more costly, both time wise and monetarily.”

Once built, the database becomes a dynamic repository of address information that can be used for multiple purposes. Old addresses are never deleted. Instead they are marked as retired and new ones are always being added.


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