Interactive inauguration map would help crowds visiting Washington

Nearly 40 agencies collaborated on map’s features, from medical aid stations to Metro stops

The U.S. Capitol is shown during a rehearsal for the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Donald Trump. 

Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

To help crowds deal with Friday's presidential inaugural events, Washington officials have posted an interactive online map showing street closures, transit stops, medical aid stations and even warming tents.

The map can be found on the web using any modern web browser at http://bit.ly/inaug2017.

Users can access the map wirelessly with smartphones and tablets, taking advantage of added capacity from multiple portable cellular transmitters set up near the Capitol and National Mall and along the inaugural parade route from the Capitol to the White House.

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Various estimates have put the potential crowds at between 700,000 and 2 million for the inauguration of Donald Trump, and various related events and protests.

Esri
Washington officials provided online maps to help visitors navigate first aid and other landmarks for the inauguration using Esri GIS technology.

With the map, a user can find an address with the added advantage of seeing overlays of where police and fire stations are located, as well as Metro stops, bike-sharing spots and for-hire ride sharing and taxi locations.

The map relies on technology from Esri, a GIS (Geographic Information System) technology provider with a long-time service contract with the District of Columbia's Department of Transportation.

While GPS and GIS mapping are nothing new, officials in Washington said the Presidential Inauguration map represents a way to use a common, precise, widely available map that can be shared by the public and nearly 40 different government entities, including the U.S. Capitol Police, U.S. Secret Service, and emergency personnel from the suburbs.

"We have decided to get away from static maps and, now with GIS being more robust, we are able to share interactive maps and empower the many stakeholders," said James Graham, GIS and applications manager for the District's Department of Transportation.

"We don't want to recreate these maps each year when we have a big event, so we now have one platform for everyone to use, to work off the same sheet of music," Graham said in an interview.

A common platform helps agencies track conflicting information, such as a wrong address or a building's size or location, Graham added. "One source means every group doesn't have its own information. Location is a key piece in how we organize ourselves."

Jose Colon, CIO of the DC Department of Transportation, said the city recently began matching its GIS data with aerial high-resolution photos taken every four months and with street-level images, some taken via LIDAR on city vehicles.

"We can measure within an inch" various changes in the city's infrastructure over time, including factors like a bridge span that's sagging, he added.

GIS has lately been paired with Waze -- the traffic and navigation app -- and an automated routing system to help oversized trucks avoid restricted routes in the District. The DOT also sponsors a Potholepalooza campaign to encourage drivers and residents to report potholes in streets. With GIS and related automation, maintenance crews can repair a pothole within 48 hours, down from the usual 72 hours.

Modern GIS capabilities are far more affordable and easier to implement than in years past for government authorities, Colon and Graham said.

"The rewards are certainly worth it," Colon said. Using an annual service contract from Esri for GIS mapping and related technology costs far less than the $100,000 the District used to pay to several different companies in the GIS category. He didn't provide the annual cost for the Esri service, but said, "It's not a very big number."

One advantage is that the District can create the map with Esri, which dozens of other outside agencies can use to add their specific information without paying an added fee. "The various agencies all have a stake in what's on that map," Graham said.

"It's getting easier and easier for a city to be more effective in using map technology," Graham added. "It used to be that only experts would be effective, but lately a lot has happened in the background. There's an expert element still, but I can take somebody relatively familiar with Google Maps and a few other technologies and I can have them contributing in a meaningful way. You don't need a four-year degree anymore to do this."