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App of the Month: Brampton Road Closures

It’s a known fact that here in Southern Ontario, we have 10 months of winter and two months of construction. But road construction and reduced laneways are annoyances to any commuter, whether they’re travelling for work or for leisure. August’s App of the Month, Brampton Road Closures & Lane Restrictions, provides an alternative way for municipalities to inform people of local road closures using ArcGIS Dashboards, with the hope of reducing those annoyances.

Origin of the app

This is not an official app by the City of Brampton. The author of this app is Jan Acusta, a divisional crime analyst with the Toronto Police Service. Jan built this app on his leisure time to learn more about the functionality of ArcGIS Dashboards.

This photo is a screenshot of the Brampton Road Closures and Lane Restrictions ArcGIS Dashboards app. The dashboard has a blue and yellow colour scheme, corresponding to the colours of the City’s logo.

At first glance, the app looks like an official City of Brampton app, as it uses the colours of Brampton’s rose logo. Using the simple and flexible customization options within ArcGIS Dashboards, Jan was able to stylize the dashboard to represent the city that the map and data are illustrating. If you’re creating your own dashboard, this kind of branding is a great way to enrich the data and message you’re trying to convey.

The dashboard’s overview section uses simple graphics to draw people’s attention the types of roadwork currently going on in the City of Brampton. These types of design elements can help people quickly understand the purpose and functionality of your own applications.

This photo is a screenshot of indicators on the dashboard that summarize the total number of construction projects, the number of emergency road closures, the number of special event road closures and other types of road closures.

Moving from left to right on the dashboard, we first have a list component that provides detailed information on each individual road closure. Adjacent to the list is the map displaying where in Brampton the road closures are. The bar chart on the right allows users to compare the different types of road closure.

The next thing I love about this dashboard is the way the data are synced to different components. Each component allows you to access the data in a different way. Let’s start with the basic selector component on the header of the dashboard. The selector allows the user to filter the entire dashboard and display information based on year of interest or type of road closure.

Selecting an item from the list will trigger the map to zoom and pan to where the project is. Similar to the filters in the header of the dashboard, selecting the bar on the graph allows you to see where (on the map) and what (in the list) the road closure is about.

The image shows a map and a horizontal bar graph side by side to illustrate the simultaneous interaction between the two components in the dashboard.

Finally, if you want to focus on a particular area in Brampton, you can search the map to zoom and pan to the area of interest. Each component on the dashboard will change based on the extent of the map you’re currently viewing.

This dashboard uses a simple layout, user-friendly functionality and a clear, legible theme. Together, these give users a quick look at the overall state of road closures in Brampton as well as the ability to explore each individual closure.

Now you might be wondering, data! How did Jan get access to Brampton’s data to build a dashboard like this? Thanks to the fact that the City of Brampton’s GeoHub includes open data, Jan was able to access the City’s public data and draw directly from the open data layer to create his own visualization and applications. This means the data is maintained by the City of Brampton staff. You can use the data, too. If there are any updates, you don’t need to redo or even refresh your map or application. Having this level of transparency can lead to inspiring and amazing apps like this one!

The image is a screenshot of the road closure data in the City of Brampton’s GeoHub.

Real-life application

Although Jan built this application as a fun project to help him learn ArcGIS Dashboards, the Brampton Road Closures app is a great example of what ArcGIS Dashboards does well.  It’s a way to visualize real-time data in an easy-to-understand way while also being a great option for sharing your data so that others can interact with it.

The most common way that we use geography in our daily lives is finding out how to get from point A to point B. In an ideal world, that would just be a direct route along a road network. However, the reality is that our commutes are filled with road closures, lane reductions and traffic congestion. Having a dashboard like this could help your community members make efficient and smart choices when they’re planning their next route.

Get started building a dashboard

ArcGIS Dashboards is easy to use and new features are continually being added. In the April 2021 ArcGIS Online update, the new ArcGIS Dashboards came out of beta. Features like ArcGIS Arcade were introduced to improve the formatting of lists and of the indicator component. In addition, with Arcade, you can now manipulate your data on the fly when your data may not fit a particular dashboard component. More recently, the ArcGIS Dashboards June 2021 update included a facelift of the selectors in the dashboard.

Get inspired with examples of dashboards!

About the Author

Mingsze Ho is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada. Fascinated with displaying data in a spatial way, she focuses on generating story maps and other applications using Esri technology. She discovered her passion for maps when she started colouring and drawing maps in elementary school, and she was determined to become a cartographer. Mingsze loves how a map can illustrate the ways that certain features or phenomena affect human lives. While obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, she realized the world had moved on to digital maps. She was heartbroken initially, until she discovered the power of GIS and how it can be used to leverage both art and data to create beautiful, interactive maps. In her free time, Mingsze continues to draw maps. She just really likes maps.

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