Location technology simplifies transportation projects from beginning to end and beyond.
Location technology plays an important role in supporting decisions before, during, and after a transportation project. Whether you are new to location technology or are regularly taking advantage of it, here’s how it can help throughout a project’s life cycle.
Construction and management of roads, rails, transportation facilities, and transit lines requires the application of accurate location-based data at each project phase. Location technology provides tools to collect and analyze geospatial data, allowing transportation engineers to more efficiently locate, design, and build transportation infrastructure. This includes tools to determine route assignment, land use forecasting, and to help review whether proposed infrastructure is economical and environmentally compatible.
Transportation engineers and their project teams require consistent access to continually updated spatial data to support projects. This includes parcel boundaries, property attributes, ownership information, land value, zoning, environmental data, transaction history and deeds, demographics, school boundaries and districts, hazards, aerial imagery, the county assessor’s property value, land use, and many more attributes. Managing all of this data is challenging, particularly if it’s coming from multiple sources, or if data is outdated and unreliable.
Location technology is an essential tool for transportation engineers because it’s a powerful way to gather intelligence from a variety of data, sourced from GIS, aerial maps, property information, and also an organization’s own database. Information is continually updated to ensure the most accurate information is used for asset management and analysis, and can be easily translated into insights that support decision making, starting at the project’s conception phase and continuing well after completion.
Simplified planning and pre-construction
Location technology is used to analyze sites quickly and efficiently, supporting civil engineers with data to conduct research and make decisions relating to planning and pre-construction. Transportation engineers looking to route a transit line and plan new infrastructure need to research, evaluate, and validate a range of location-based information for land acquisition and appraisal. Location technology supports the entire spatial analysis workflow in one place, providing the ability to virtually gather specific visual datasets on hundreds of miles of land without having to visit multiple sites that may not meet project requirements.
When planning new infrastructure, location data can be used to guide design and implementation. A location technology platform can provide property attributes including size, location, geometry, and other data points necessary to inform how a project will be executed. Access to instant, updated data includes recent sales in a given area, similar properties for price comparison, and the ability to filter for attributes such as land use and zoning.
Transportation engineers can collect the information they need to take inventory of land and begin to develop forecasts for proposed projects. This includes population, land use, economic activity, transportation facilities and services, travel patterns and volumes, population growth, and plans for new residential communities or business parks. With all of this information on one platform, transportation engineers can begin to forecast how new infrastructures will perform, and effectively prevent problems such as traffic congestion or premature decay of structures.
Reviewing proposed transit routes based on property attributes such as current property land use, zoning, and land values offers insights into route variations and which routes will ultimately be the most efficient and offer the fewest obstacles. Transportation engineers can more easily determine the spatial context of plans, using actionable location data to access all of the information that’s needed.
For complex acquisitions like tunnels and bridges, location technology allows engineers to start the acquisition process faster by providing accurate and current information on ownership, land value, and owner contact information to help streamline the process as much as possible.
A location technology platform can also facilitate communication with property owners. This is critical in the planning stages for multiple reasons, including the desire to purchase or lease land and to remain transparent about how the proposed route will impact the owner and neighboring properties. With access to complete owner information, transportation engineers can streamline the communication process with tools that auto-generate mailing labels or notifications to ensure land owners get information quickly.
Relocation of property owners can be a complex process, but if this is needed, location technology offers comprehensive spatial analysis and parcel information for the region (not just the project area), making it easier to identify comparable properties, including review of property ownership information, deed, and transaction history.
Maximize productivity and collaboration
Location technology benefits transportation engineers and their project teams well beyond initial project phases. The collaborative nature of location technology helps teams work with data more efficiently to improve productivity through the entire project cycle.
Using a cloud-based location intelligence platform for spatial analysis ensures your entire team is using the same information when reviewing assets. Decision-making and action items are more effective when everyone has eyes on the same data and are receiving the same updates.
Additionally, a strong location intelligence platform breaks down silos that can occur when information is gated or inaccessible by supporting the work of the GIS scientists/experts on your team, as well as novice users needing to perform spatial analysis to complete their work.
A location intelligence platform allows you to load layers of project data for visual analysis, making it easier to understand and review complex sets of information during construction. For example, a location intelligence platform can illustrate impacted parcels, show when projects are expected to cross multiple jurisdictions, and will present contact information for all of the agencies and municipalities that a company must collaborate with during construction.
Optimize post-project asset management
Transit lines require ongoing review for maintenance, upgrades, audits, revaluations, and reporting. A location technology platform makes it easier for project teams to continually review assets and property information after projects are completed. Transportation engineering teams can visualize plans and view time-stamped data and updates to efficiently track and manage all transit projects after they are complete.
For example, tracking environmental data or population changes can help in monitoring corrosion control or maintenance requirements such as repaving. The work doesn’t end when the project is complete.
When maintenance and upgrades become necessary in the post-project phase, location technology helps the organization communicate internally and monitor status of the issue. Everyone has the same current information, which goes a long way in reducing unnecessary rework or communication breakdowns.
Reducing rework protects profit margins, and time and money wasted on unnecessary rework is a common challenge for transportation engineering teams. Here’s an example of how location technology can help: Engineers can tag a section of a freeway for review and then note if there is a need to send a technician to handle a maintenance issue. The status on that particular freeway section can be uploaded and managed on the platform to ensure every team and department has current information. Everyone will know when the issue is open and can get an update on exactly how and where it’s being resolved.
As assets are continually monitored in the post-project phase using location technology, they can provide critical insights for future projects. Transportation engineers can compare various data points to determine how well earlier projects are performing against the initial objectives. For example, teams can layer data to view environmental conditions together with infrastructure deterioration and determine if there is a correlation that should be considered for future projects.
Optimize project life cycles
Transportation projects are characterized by asset-intensive holdings, with millions of dollars invested annually in procurement and management. Planning and maintaining transportation is complex, and engineers face many challenges associated with pre-construction, design, construction, and maintenance of transportation infrastructure systems.
Location data has always been available to transportation engineers, but how it’s used has changed. The critical spatial component to transportation asset management becomes easier and more efficient when using location technology to gather, track, analyze, and manage spatial data. Engineers now have the ability to leverage the power of location and support asset management more effectively through the duration of a project’s life cycle and beyond.
Tara Bleakley is data and analytics director for Digital Map Products (www.digmap.com), a pioneer in geospatial mapping technology and location intelligence. Bleakley has 20 years of experience in the building and real estate industry, including GIS analysis, land evaluation, property owner map analysis, and business development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.