November’s App of the Month: St. John’s Mapcentre

November 1, 2017 Jasmine Sohal

Providing residents with access to quick, ready-to-use geospatial data in an interactive way delivers many benefits for both city staff and residents.  Read this blog post and discover how the City of St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador increases transparency by giving the public access to municipal information through an interactive map.  

Maps can provide us with an enormous amount of information. Now, geogeeks are already aware of the great advantages maps and geospatial information can provide, but the everyday citizen may require some extra insight into how to harness the power of geographic information systems (GIS). It can be advantageous for municipal governments to provide its residents with geospatial information in an interactive way, such as web apps, to allow them to discover information they may want to know more about. A great example is our App of the Month, Mapcentre, by the City of St. John’s.  

Mapcentre is a one-stop online geospatial information resource for the residents of St. John’s. The interactive web mapping application allows them to view map data and topographic and aerial imagery, get property information and perform queries and analytics on data.  

The concept for the app came from the need to handle frequent requests from the public for property information, zoning, imagery and other spatial data.

“We wanted to provide a resource that would allow residents to easily access geospatial data without going through a long data requisition process,” says Greg Keating, manager of Land Information Services at the City of St. John’s. “The City is also committed to being a responsive and progressive municipality; therefore, a new and flexible approach to data provision was adopted.”

The app has a lot of functionality developed in an intuitive way for anyone to use. For example, the app provides users the ability to change the basemap to a topographic basemap, or choose from a variety of orthoimages. In the basemap selector, you can also compare two different basemaps at once. This is a great way for residents to see change in their area over time and explore how the landscape was in previous years.

City of St. John’s residents have access to a variety of orthoimages to compare and contrast the changing landscape of the municipality.

One of my favourite tools in this app is the Profile tool. This tool allows users to create elevation profiles. All you have to do is add a starting point and an end point, and the app quickly generates an elevation profile. I can totally see myself using this in the winter time when I want to explore all the tobogganing parks nearby and do some analysis to determine which hill has the steepest slope, for the most fun ride.

Not only do St. John’s residents have access to data provided by the City through the app, they also have access to tools for doing their own analysis.

There are many use cases for this app. For example, a resident of the City could use the app to view the ward that they reside in, determine the planning area for a lot or view lot boundary information or assessment values for their property.

“Mapcentre benefits the public by providing access to multiple data sources and analytical capabilities that were previously unavailable,” continues Greg. “Residents can now view planning information, compare aerial imagery, construct a profile or view parcels without having to contact City staff. Business and property owners or developers in the city can also obtain spatial information before or during the building application process.”

Greg mentioned that the app also saves time by providing residents and business owners with a quick link to a large amount of geospatial data that previously would have gone through a more complex and time-consuming process. In the past, they needed to contact City staff to be directed to the correct department for a data request to be made, and the department would then search for and compile the data requested. The data would usually be provided within 48 hours. This process delivered geospatial data to each business owner or citizen on an individual basis. Now, the process is instantaneous for most requests.

Not only does the app benefit citizens, it also benefits City staff. Staff members use the app on a regular basis to view and search properties, find property information or link to street-view imagery. They also use the app to provide land owners and business owners with a quick view of current topology, parcel information, profiles and planning information. Therefore, the app has also created efficient workflows for staff.

Greg would like to recognize Rafael Fernandez, a former staff member, for his remarkable efforts in developing the application. They plan to continue improving upon the app. Currently, all functionality is being moved to Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS widgets so City staff can easily reuse the individual widgets in other internal and external applications. They also plan to provide the data that the public views within Mapcentre through their open data portal.

Take a virtual tour of St. John’s by exploring this app, and let me know what you think by commenting below.

About the Author

Jasmine Sohal

Jasmine Sohal is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada, holding an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster University and a post-graduate GIS Applications Specialist certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College. As a kid, Jasmine refrained from going to new places until she drew a map of how she would get from Point A to Point B. After taking her first Introduction to GIS course at McMaster University, Jasmine knew right away where her passion lay. Now, as a self-proclaimed Geogeek, she is always inspired to visualize situations spatially and applies GIS anywhere she can. In her spare time, Jasmine is a discoverer; for good hiking trails and restaurants, that is. She is always going out to discover beautiful landscapes during her hiking adventures around the province. Off the trails, you can find her discovering new restaurants to dine at. With her open mind and willingness to adapt and learn, Jasmine is excited to see what her future in GIS holds for her.

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