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Explore Burlington - More than just a map

From road networks to facilities, municipalities offer an abundance of data to the public. But, without the right tools, it’s hard for citizens to take advantage, leaving much of the data unused. What are municipalities doing to leverage data as well as GIS tools and resources to improve their residents’ quality of life?

The City of Burlington recently launched its Explore Burlington App. This application combines the power of ArcGIS Online and the Community Maps program to help residents and visitors make the most out of their community.

The Explore Burlington App was built using the story map series, an interactive web map template. Interested in creating your own web map? Check out this post, which is full of resources that can help you along the way.

The Explore Burlington app contains five tabs: an ‘About’ landing page, ‘Find Address, or Facility’, ‘Find Downtown Parking’, ‘Find City Trees’, and ‘Find Public Art’. Its primary use is to help residents become more proactive in discovering what Burlington has to offer. Each tab is interactive: when you click a feature, a pop up with relative information appears.

We asked Ann Evans, coordinator of Geomatics and Data Management, what led to creating this app. Evans explained that the GIS team/department was inspired by a similar application demonstrated at one of the Esri Canada user conferences. “The City has been utilizing Esri ArcGIS Online tools for quite a while and as they have evolved, we wanted to keep up with the technology and improve what we provide to the public and our staff”, Evans added.

Leveraging the Community Map of Canada

One key element to making this application so beneficial is its use of the Community Map of Canada. The Community Map of Canada is a vector basemap that is updated automatically every 24 to 48 hours with new data from contributors. Scott Gowan, a senior GIS technician at the City says, “Using this basemap was a huge advantage as it gave us the ability for to provide a consistent look and feel for all of our mapping applications. Previously, we would try to provide the data that is on the Community Map as feature layers and we weren’t always consistent. The fact that the data is current is important to us as we try to keep our layers up to date for our customers. Another advantage was that it didn’t require any extra work on our part. We normally update our open data site as per our usual business practices. The Community Map of Canada simply grabs the data from the open data site automatically and publishes those updates as part of the map.”

Another benefit is that the Community Maps team is readily available to help improve your application and are constantly improving the quality of the map itself. For example, the City needed unit numbers to display with address points, which were added to the map at their request.

The City also took advantage of the fact that the Community Map of Canada can be edited using the ArcGIS Vector Style Editor to create a custom basemap style. This is an easy way to ensure your app matches your brand and suits your organization’s needs.

One app, many benefits

The finished product is an intuitive and impressive application that is easy enough for even the most technologically-challenged people. The city has already experienced numerous benefits from creating this app in a short couple of months. “We were able to consolidate several individual applications that contained related information into one application; less searching for information across our site makes for a better experience for our customers and citizens”, says Evans.

The app has also been helpful in terms of customer service. Kristen Mark, GIS Application Analyst Coordinator with the city, explains, “Anytime you can provide information to people through an application, it allows them to self-serve, which then saves staff time by eliminating phone calls that we previously would have received.”

With the success of this app, the city plans to continue working with the Community Map of Canada customizing it as needed rather than producing and maintaining their own basemaps as they had in the past. The city is also encouraging any third-party vendors to adopt this as their standard when working with the city.

Thinking of participating in the Community Maps program? Mark advises, “once you have established an open data portal and set up your map services, the hard work is done and you get to reap the benefits of a consistent, accurate basemap. The more you can provide to the Community Maps program, the better your data will be in the basemap.”

About the Author

Erin Vedam is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada. She discovered her love for GIS while pursuing an environmental studies degree at the University of Toronto and went on to get an Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications from Vancouver Island University. Working with the Community Maps team, Erin wears a couple of different hats but spends most of her time helping to produce the Community Map of Canada vector basemap. In her spare time, she likes to create map-themed baked goods and daydream about her future dog(s).

Profile Photo of Erin Vedam