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The Public Works Department of the city of Tacoma, Wash., uses geospatial data for everything from issuing building permits and managing wastewater to maintaining streetlights. With Autodesk's Map 3-D and Oracle Spatial forming the core of its geographical information system (GIS), the city has been able to eliminate duplicate data entry, collect and process more spatial data quickly, and use existing staff and resources to maintain its large spatial database.

Although GIS and design data are largely interdependent in public works environments, many organizations maintain separate data sets for each type of information. Engineers request the geospatial data they need to design their projects from GIS specialists, who, in turn, refer to those completed engineering designs to update spatial data. However, Tacoma wanted to leverage the efforts of its design staff to maintain its spatial data. The city felt such a system would ensure more timely data by eliminating duplicate data entry.

“It's more efficient and cost-effective to have one integrated set of tools for both design and GIS,” said Gary Cantu, Tacoma's public works information technology supervisor. “When engineers do much of the data maintenance in the normal course of their work, it frees up dedicated GIS staff to collect more data, analyze it, and make it more easily available to internal users and citizens.”

Realizing it needed a GIS solution that worked seamlessly with design tools, Tacoma chose AutoDesk Map as its geospatial data creation and editing engine. The open, standards-based tool is designed to work with common geospatial data formats and incorporate the precision of CAD-based design and survey applications. The software also offers a direct connection to Oracle Spatial, the geospatial extension to a standard Oracle database.

This has enabled Tacoma to integrate its design and GIS processes while including spatial data it receives from other sources in its system.

“We use Autodesk Survey to collect field data and groom it for our designers,” says JR Smith, the city's senior GIS analyst for the Public Works Department. “Our designers carry out their work within Autodesk's civil engineering software such as Land Desktop, which is built on top of Autodesk Map. After we complete construction projects, we use Autodesk Raster Design, an extension of Map, to capture and digitize as-built information. We then collect and manage the data using Map in Oracle Spatial and publish that information to web-based applications using Autodesk MapGuide. For us, Autodesk Map is the heart of our complete end-to-end solution.”

With its GIS staff able to do more than just collect data, Tacoma has been able to extend the value of its spatial data—evident on its award-winning Web site, govME (Government Made Easy). The site—http://govme.cityoftacoma.org—uses Autodesk MapGuide to give internal users and citizens access to spatial information on intelligent and interactive maps.

“Instead of going to city hall to find zoning and permit information or construction plans, citizens can find what they need online,” said Mitchell T. Webb, senior application development systems analyst in charge of the mapping functionality on govME. “I can add new geospatial layers and functionality very quickly.”

By integrating its data creation, collection, and storage processes, Tacoma saves time and resources throughout its GIS workflow. “Our engineers and designers have instant access to all the information they need, and our Oracle database contains up-to-date information,” said Smith.

Although the newly attained process efficiencies save Tacoma's staff a lot of time, the department is even more pleased with the convenience govME delivers to its citizens. “Before, whenever citizens needed a map, they had to drive downtown, stand in line to request the information, and staff had to find the information and make copies,” said Cantu. “Now they can get all the the information they need in minutes whenever they need it from wherever they have an Internet connection. They're saving hours of their time, plus the information is always up-to-date.”