Mobile field data collection starts with a reliable hand-held device and software that can be as functional as any desktop GIS. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada found that its existing mobile solution was incompatible with its GIS, which resulted in some redundancies. That problem was mitigated with an ArcPAD solution that was more than up to the task for the city’s Parks and Open Spaces Division.
Founded more than 100 years ago, Las Vegas, Nevada, began as a stopover on the pioneer trails heading west. Soon it evolved into a popular railroad town and staging point for the many mining operations in the area. In 1911, the population was about 800 people. Las Vegas then began to grow in leaps and bounds, with construction of nearby Hoover Dam during the 1930s and the beginning of its now massive casino industry during the 1940s and ’50s. Today, the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area is home to nearly 2 million residents.
Maintaining the infrastructure necessary to support a population of this size requires carefully coordinated efforts by the city’s Department of Operations and Maintenance to minimize redundant work and make the most of shrinking city coffers during these difficult economic times. While the department has used Esri’s ArcGIS software for many years, a separate maintenance management system (MMS) had been implemented to collect and manage the assets within its parks and related facilities. The drawbacks of that system were substantial. Even though data could be collected in the field with a GPS device, crews had no way of knowing whether the newly collected data had been previously recorded because there was no underlying basemap or link back to the MMS database. In addition, it was necessary to send the field data to the company that developed the MMS for processing. This normally took three to four days, and there was a separate processing fee for each batch of data submitted.
Said Joel Hillhouse, GIS analyst at the city of Las Vegas, “One of the problems we encountered with this data collection method was that while the hand-held device showed the points and lines that were being collected, it did not show where you were or if the points had been collected before. Basically, we were collecting the data blind. As a result, some points were unintentionally collected several times and others not at all.”
In 2009, the Department of Operations and Maintenance began the development and deployment of its Park Asset Data Collection and Data Conversion Program (ParkPAD) to replace the existing MMS. Based on Esri’s ArcPad software, ParkPAD has greatly improved the department’s capability to collect and manage park assets because it is fully compatible with the department’s existing ArcGIS enterprise system. Field crews can now view a digitized image of a park or other venue and immediately determine whether the data have already been collected. Getting data in and out of the new system is a quick and easy process, and updates can be performed in near real-time.
The Parks and Open Spaces Division is currently working with the Information Technologies Department to complete the digitization of the base layers for all the city’s parks, landscaped areas, trails, medians, and school landscaping and sports fields. These new base layers will make it easier to collect and track the number, location and condition of assets such as playgrounds, shade structures, drinking fountains, picnic areas and benches.
These new data will be included in the city’s enterprise GIS so that they are available to the other departments that rely on them. Currently, these departments maintain their own datasets for park assets and there are discrepancies between them. Using a single dataset is particularly useful for the Department of Operations and Maintenance, which maintains the parks, and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, which schedules outdoor events, manages sports fields, and manages the use of picnic and other recreation areas.
The new parks inventory database has produced some immediate cost benefits to the city. Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert, where conservation is very important. The vegetation layers in the database are used to determine the square footage of each park so that the necessary amounts of seed, fertilizers and herbicides can be accurately calculated and purchased. In a related project, the data from an earlier tree study were added to the database so that the parks maintenance staff could determine water usage requirements for each tree based on species, size, location and so on.
In the next stage of the project, an irrigation layer will be created for the database and will include the locations of irrigation clocks, stations, valves and controls. This will allow the irrigation system repair crews to quickly locate equipment when there is a break in the water main or if a valve becomes inoperable.
Hillhouse concluded, “Our use of GIS continues to grow. In the near future, we will be posting our parks data on the city website for residents and visitors so that they can find information and make reservations for a specific site using an interactive park finder.”