Posts Tagged ‘PortGIS’

Using the PortGIS Program to Explore the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan (NEVP)

November 9, 2010

At The Port of San Diego, like all public agencies, have hot button issues. The North Embarcadero Visionary Plan (NEVP) is currently our most contentious issue. On August 2, 2010, the These Days program on KPBS radio broadcasted a lively discussion between Irene McCormack of the Port District of San Diego and Don Wood of the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition on the future of “San Diego’s Front Porch.”

Most of the topics discussed were location/geography-based including view corridors down Broadway, overlapping plans for development, and ideas for land use changes on other Port properties. I recorded a video using our internal PortGIS Program, available to all Port employees on Port computers, with the objective of giving a geographic perspective to complement the dialog. The primary goal of this blog is to educate Port employees on the use of our internal PortGIS Program so they can make informed decisions. By utilizing tools, such as GIS, Port employees strive to be as effective, efficient and accurate as possible. This conversation gives us the opportunity to showcase these tools as they relate to NEVP and similar concepts should be used by Port decision makers across the Tidelands.

Click on the image below to watch the video. The video has audio.

If the video isn’t playing click the link below to watch it at

We really have a beautiful resource in the North Embarcadero. I think Don Wood said it best- “It has the potential to be one of the most iconic waterfronts in the United States and in the world if we do it right.” We hope the PortGIS Program will play a role in helping us “do it right.”

KPBS’s coverage

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Creating a Tree Inventory Using ArcGIS Server and Google Streetview

March 22, 2010

The benefits of trees cannot be overstated. They provide numerous financial, health and quality of life benefits for our community. The well-being of our urban forest at the Port of San Diego is one of the key resources we manage. The PortGIS Program attempts to identify resources which are advantageous to represent spatially. By placing utilities, proposed projects, the Port Master Plan, the 2010 Tidelands Mapbook, aerial photos and our tree locations within one spatial context we empower our Port employees to make  informed decisions by driving an enterprise-wide common operating picture.  Plans for future development will account for our urban forest resources from the outset if they are included in the primary set of guiding factors. It is much more costly and less likely to occur if urban forestry management is left to expensive last-minute change orders.

Much of the Port Tidelands can be seen through Google Streetview. Some find this disconcerting and an invasion of privacy, but Google Streetview is an invaluable and (IMHO) underutilized tool for creating and managing GIS Data. It can save substantial time and monies by moving expensive field work to the desktop. Managers can easily implement quality control measures by reviewing decisions made in the field by lesser experienced personnel in real-time. Real functionality comes from combining  Google Streetview images and GIS data housed in a Relational Database Management System. This PortGIS Tree Inventory tool is a departure from our other web applications in that it empowers end users to change GIS data. Our other tools are read only.

Below is a video showing how to use this tool.

Beware- GIS Dork Out Session below

From a technical GIS/database/developer perspective, this project started out as a proof of concept. Our goal was to enable our non GIS professionals to easily create, edit and manage a discrete set of GIS data through the web. In order to do this the data needed to versioned and housed within an SDE database. We also wanted to enable security, and grant permissions through Active Directory, so only certain Port employees are able to make changes. Our goals are to continue to build on this functionality and to expand the capabilities of the PortGIS Program. We would like to take this data into the field to collect more information, i.e., standard breast height of our trees and/or take pictures of the trees using a connected handheld device. Taking the PortGIS program mobile will enable us to offer real-time GIS data management to our non-GIS professionals where and when it is most convenient. This way they can use GIS as a tool which complements their primary focus of writing leases, creating architectural renderings, fixing electrical conduits, or making our urban forest as healthy, financially viable and beautiful as possible.

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Port of San Diego Presenting at the 2009 ESRI User Conference

June 16, 2009

Malcolm Meikle and I have been offered the opportunity to present at the 2009 ESRI Users Conference. We will present our paper, “Creating an Enterprise GIS at the Unified Port of San Diego” alongside Fei Wang of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles and Reagan Airports in the Washington D.C. Area. Below is a link to the session details.

The focus of our presentation will be the technical details associated with implementing the PortGIS program. Here at %scratchworkspace%, we would like to further elaborate on the philosophy and concepts which drive the PortGIS program.

“How … can port managers and engineers best identify and prioritize projects among competing demands? We believe the key to successful port engineering is the integration of vital infrastructure information in a robust and functioning Geographic Information Sytstem (GIS). Regardless of the type of port facilities, similar basic facilities data is maintained, often in hard copy format only. Property surveys, facility base maps, soil-boring data, building plans and facility as-built drawings are fairly common types of records maintained by port engineers. All of such data can be reference and tied together using a spatial context – thus creating a geographic port data framework.

Applying an integrated GIS to a port offers facility management professionals the opportunity to catalog this disparate information using established standard and data conventions. The cataloged data can then be managed according to parameters set by the users to provide better integration of information and yield better decision support products. Information is no longer fragmented or isolated, and multiple data types and scales start providing critical and usable correlations to support both short-range and long-term decision making processes.”

From the book: Application of GIS Technologies in Port Facilities and Operations Management
Neal T. Wright and Jaewan Yoon
American Society of Civil Engineers
Ports and Harbors Committee

By using geography/place/location as the common factor it will allow us to bring together data that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to integrate. These tools have been available for a long time through proprietary, expensive and hard-to-learn GIS software. The ubiquitous nature of the internet and the web browser has given us the platform to share this data across the enterprise, touching every Port employee and every Port computer through a wide variety of clients, including ArcGIS Software, ArcGIS for AutoCAD, Mobile Devices or a plain-vanilla web browser.

The Dewy-Decimal System and our Port Geographic Information System (PortGIS) are used to answer questions, or in computer lingo-make a “request”. “Where are Vietnamese Cooking books?” is analogous to; “Show me the aerial photo for Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal?” The server works on the question and sends a “response”, or answer to our question. In our example the answer is the image which renders on your screen.

Our goal is to assist in streamlining the workflow at the Port of San Diego by identifying the tasks/questions/requests which are most advantageous to approach from a geographic perspective. By customizing the GIS interface we intend to empower all Port employees to independently accomplish substantial and consequential geography-based work.

Managing and Expanding an Enterprise GIS Session at the 2009 ESRI User Conference Details

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Using Google Streetview within the PortGIS Explorer Web Application

May 7, 2009

We have all used Google Maps and Google Earth with amazement. Google has done an incredible job of creating engaging and easy-to-use geography visualization tools. Streetview, a feature of Google Maps and Google Earth,  provides a 360° horizontal and 290° vertical panoramic views from a row of positions along streets throughout the world. The Streetview images were collected by a camera mounted on a car or truck; therefore, the images are limited to streets. Below VS (See Docs: 315612) shows us how to use Streetview from within our PortGIS Explorer Web Application.

Data collection is the hardest part of any GIS. Google has collected an incredible amount of ground level information as geospatially referenced images. At the Port, this tool can be used to identify an unfamiliar area or be used as part of QAQC process, but the real functionality comes across when we combine Streetview images and our Port data, such as the TidelandsMapbook2007. For example, with this tool in their arsenal our Land Use Planning Department can explore areas before construction or demolition takes place. Without switching to another system, they could also research adjacent tenants, their frontage, and when their lease agreements expire.

We also wrote a blog post on how to use Streetview from within the Harbor Police Desktop Application based on ArcGIS Explorer. We want to thank ESRI, and the tool’s author, for making it available to the public through ESRI’s .Net ADF Code Gallery. See the links below to learn more about these topics

Streetview in PortGIS Harbor Police desktop Application

More information about implementing this tool:

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NorthSouth GIS at the Port of San Diego

April 5, 2009

Last Wednesday we had a visit from Daniel Elroi and David Pimblott of NorthSouth GIS. We got their attention through a blog post we wrote about a month ago. In January 2008, NorthSouthGIS wrote a document titled “The Port of Los Angeles Port Police GIS Strategy Project”(DM#: 348668). This document outlines steps to implement a world-class Enterprise GIS at the Port of LA, including specifics such as which software suites to use and skills to look for in new hires. We are very interested in the progress the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) is making toward the development of their GIS program. POLA is much larger than the Port of San Diego (POSD), but has many of the same obstacles and objectives. Today, we held a meeting where Daniel and David met with key representatives of various departments at POSD. Port Employees representing Information Technology, Land Use Planning, Engineering, Environmental, Harbor Police/Dispatch, and Homeland Security were there. For all who were present, the meeting was an opportunity to discuss the future goals and possibilities of the POSD GIS program. Before Daniel and David started their presentation I took the opportunity to describe where we are in the process of creating a truly Enterprise GIS. Below are my notes and videos on the current GIS functionality available to everyone on our internal network.

Our current full blown enterprise systems at the Port are Docs Management and SAP. Creating an Enterprise GIS System will help create a common operating picture from a geographic perspective across the Port from General Services to Real Estate and from our interns clear up to our CEO. There is no longer a costly piece of software, minimum hardware requirements or years of technical experience blocking access to basic GIS functionality. Our goal now is to understand the workflow of Port Employees and how this system could be best utilized to them be more efficient and accurate. One important  point about this system that should be mentioned is that the Enterprise GIS System is currently only an internal product. Only those who have access to our other Enterprise systems, DM and SAP, have access to this system. This system is not being shared with any outside organization.

[Play video one] This is the PortGIS Resource Center. You will be able to get here from a clear icon on the internal homepage. The PortGIS Resource Center is the central gateway to access GIS information at the Port of San Diego. From here you can access web mapping applications designed specifically for various tasks and departments. At the PortGIS Resource Center IT staff will also have a streamlined method to help end users (you) through the process of installing software. Users can also send us an email or check out the GIS blog. All of the GIS web applications are still in Beta, meaning they can’t be counted on to be up and running all the time, but they are of a high enough quality to expose users to their capabilities.

[Play video two] This GIS web application is called PortGIS Explorer. At this site a user can access our high resolution aerial photos and the tidelands mapbook, which represents our overall geographic interests at the Port of San Diego. A user can navigate to see precisely the information they need. They can turn on and off layers and create images to include in reports and emails. They can learn specific information associated with the geographic features on display allowing them to answer questions like: “Who is the Master Tenant at this location?” They have the capability to measure distances between two or more points and measure areas. Questions this might help users answer are: “How long is the runway on the Midway? Or, what is the area water between the Navy Pier and the Broadway Pier?” We also have included a link to utilize Google Streetview. This tool allows users to access ground level images from within the GIS environment.

[Play video three] The second GIS web application is called PortGIS Projects. It is a full port effort to work through our large development effort which effect land we manage. This application includes the full functionality of the PortGIS Explorer application, but it also includes georeferenced maps from important documents. The ability to measure distances or compare these plans to the tidelands mapbook will create a common operating picture as departments move forward. Currently we have maps submitted from Destination Lindberg, the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan and the Old Police Headquarters and Park Project. If you would like to include a map from a report it is as easy as clicking on the “Add a Map” link and attaching it to your email.

[Play video four] The last GIS web application I’d like to introduce is called PortGIS Utilities. This web application is intended to be the central clearing house for our utilities data. The particular utilities included are: Electrical, Fire, Natural Gas, Fuel, Molasses, Oil, Sanitary Sewer, Storm Drain, Tallow, Telephone, Water, Chemical, Fiber Optics and Communication Lines. It is built upon the familiar PortGIS interface and is live data, meaning as our Engineers update this data it is updated in this page. Not only have we included the linework on the map, but Halcrow has also helped us to integrate the extent of our record drawings PDFs. These PDFs can be accessed from inside the PortGIS Utilities Web application. Instead of our engineers working with a file system to structure their data, the data will now be spatially indexed so they can find it more easily. It also will allow our engineers to share this data with the rest of the Port. General Services and Port Police are very interested in learning how to access this information quickly and efficiently.

The PortGIS (Projects) Web Application and Mayor Sanders’ Airport Plan

March 3, 2009

At the Port of San Diego we manage many properties which are under development. Reports and general information about the more substantial projects are prominently displayed on our external homepage, under the heading “Current Development Projects.” Many of these reports include maps which we might want to compare to existing infrastructure for a wide range of reasons. The PortGIS (Projects) web application intends to give Port employees the ability to compare plans for developments which effect Port properties.

In 2003, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority split from The Port of San Diego, but we often have overlapping interests an concerns. Over the years there has been a lot of debate about revamping Lindbergh Field or moving the airport to another location. On February 12, 2009, the Ad Hoc Airport Regional Policy Committee, chaired by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, released an Executive Summary (docs #354064) outlining their plan for Lindbergh Field. They also released an impressive video simulation. Click the Play button below to hear a KPBS story about the release of this document.

On page 11 of the Executive Summary is a Map titled “Recommended Development Plan.” In the video below I explain how to explore this map in relation to our high resolution aerial photography and our Port interests as represented in the 2007 Tidelands Mapbook.

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The Port of Los Angeles GIS Request For Proposals

February 18, 2009

As San Diegans we sometimes view Los Angeles as a bigger, more pushy, older brother. We are buffered by Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, Anza-Borrego National Park and Camp Pendleton on the south, west, east and north, respectively. These buffers will keep San Diego a unique destination for residents and vacationers alike. This being said, we should do everything we can to learn from our larger neighbors.

The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for GIS Consulting Services for their Harbor Police Department. A consultant will be selected around May 2009. As you might imagine, at the Port of San Diego GIS department, we are very interested in their choices and progress. They are working hard to accomplish many goals similar to ours. Not only are we in the same industry, but we both work with similar environmental laws, financial constraints and weather which effect the state of California and our region.

For Example, both Ports are working to bring Engineering drawings into GIS to be shared with their respective Harbor Police Departments. If you are a regular reader of %scratchworkspace%, you are familiar with the Port of San Diego GIS departments work with Jerry Wallenborn from Halcrow to bring our utilities data (currently only accessible through our engineers, surveyors and architects) and project closeout PDFs to every internal computer at the Port of San Diego, including the Mobile Data Computers (MDCs) in the patrol cars.

Much of the funding for these types of endeavors comes through the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP). We are classified as a Group 2 Port, while the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together are classified in Group 1. Under this program, they receive about 10 times the funding we do.

Before the RFP was released in December, POLA released a GIS Strategy Project, written by NorthSouth GIS LLC, which detailed specific steps to bring a world class GIS program to the POLA Port Police and POLA as a whole. This 67-page document was very well thought out and in-tune with today’s thinking in the GIS, Information Services (IS) and IT communities. This document details required skills for positions to fill, how to leverage current systems, what type of servers to purchase, software vendors to use and a myriad of other strategy implementation specifics. I found myself saying “right on” out-loud more than once while reading this document. Many of these concepts directly apply to our GIS goals at the Port of San Diego. Below are some of the quotes I circled.

From POLA Port Police GIS Strategy Project (January 2008)
Executive Summary p4
“Accurate, timely and complete geographic information improves emergency response time: The primary need for GIS within Port Police is to provide accurate and timely information to officers in the office and in the field. GIS should help answer key questions of: “Where am I?”, “How do I gain access to this facility?”, “Who is the tenant and how do I make contact?”, or “Are there hazardous materials or circumstances at this location that I should be aware of?” GIS reduces the time needed to respond to a call for service.”

Needs Assessment- Systems Integration- Software Applications p12
“GIS implementation often relies heavily on a GIS analyst to provide products (typically maps and reports) on behalf of clients, which becomes a bottleneck in operations. The judicious building of a specific software application that provides specific search query and analysis tools, coupled with customized reports and map templates, can deliver powerful capabilities directly to users. This not only removes the human bottleneck, but permits users to make many more requests than would be feasible through a human agent, and in police work this can be a crucial freedom.”

Recommendations – A Vision P14
“Successful GIS implementation at Port Police will not be possible without senior management commitment to the project, including acceptance of the proposed strategy supported by way of financial investment and commitment to the proposed organizational structure.”

Recommendations –Implementation-Create a training program p17
“While GIS implementation is focused on data, it is possible for most Port Police to “experience” GIS through other systems that consume this data, like CAD. Similarly, if most applications development is Web based, then very limited training may need to be provided.”

Recommendations-Infrastructure-Software Applications-Support COTS First, Provide Access Second, Custom Applications Last p35
“CAD/RMS and Integrated Command are examples of systems already being funded, which rely on GIS data. It would be a missed opportunity to let the vendors provide their own data, in a manner that would not benefit the broader GIS effort. Conversely, this could be an opportunity to push GIS development forward (and get funding), and also to be in the driver’s seat for the data that will be provided to those systems.”

Recommendations-Software Applications-Prioritize Applications that Benefit Most from Spatial Analysis and Integration p37
“GIS is a technology capable of managing and displaying geographic information, but also of analyzing this information and integrating it with other systems and types of information. Whilst GIS is most critical in the initial phase for supplying up-to-date data to other systems, such as CAD/RMS and Integrated Command Console, over time GIS will find utility in supplying capabilities that other systems are incapable of supplying. One of GIS’s particular strengths is in bringing together data that would be difficult or impossible to integrate, by using the spatial element of the data. It will be at this stage that GIS will gain particular visibility at Port Police – until then it may be limited to a supporting role.”

Interview Summaries w/ Director of Real Estate p61
“It is perceived there is a need for a GIS division within the Harbor Department.”

From POLA Port Police GIS Consulting Services RFP (December 2008)
Project Description-Project Goals and Objectives p8
“The Port Police desires that a number of data sources external to the Harbor Department be able to “stream” data into its GIS, and into other systems, such as the Integrated Command Console. Such data sources include a variety of vehicle, vessel, and cargo tracking systems. The Port Police seeks to leverage Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), so that the data streams are able to be “plugged into” a variety of client applications. To easily accomplish such use of these data streams, an architecture should be designed that permits different data streams types to be funneled into a uniform format that can then be consumed by any system capable of understanding such data streams.”

We have been in contact with POLA’s Project Manager for the POLA RFP. She has kept us informed of her progress and we are excited to follow, learn and collaborate.

If you would like to view these documents you can borrow the hard copy I have printed out for my files or click the links below. They have also been uploaded into our Docs Management System at the Document Numbers below.

Web 2.0 and GIS at the Port of San Diego

January 26, 2009

Web 2.0 is a vague concept described broadly as the second generation of internet based tools and capabilities which have come about since the bursting of the 2001 dot-com bubble. The term became popular after the O’Reily Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Below is a quick video (51 sec) where Tim O’Reilly (the founder of O’Reily Media) describes Web 2.0.

Let’s dig into his major points and apply them to examples of our daily work at the Port.
“The Network is the Platform and Users add Value”

Our real estate department and Port attorneys set up tenancy agreements with our tenants. These contracts are meant to be static. They are intended to clearly outline the rights and responsibilities that both the Port and our tenants need to adhere to for the duration of the contract. The platform for our relationship is documented on those pieces of paper.

However, in Web 2.0 we create value-added services by increasing connections within our network. For example; the primary goal of this blog is to communicate with Port Employees about GIS and how it is being implemented at the Port. This blog could be written as a paper or email newsletter, but it would really be our department communicating “to” Port Employees, not “with”. At the bottom of each blog post is a “comments”  section where anyone can add their perspective on the issues. If their comment involves a question we can respond to them. Others can read or comment on these comments also and one blog post can become a conversation, or dynamic document. This capability is not possible in the newsletter format or in the example of the lease agreements used above. The use of the network, or the connections between us, can exponentially increase the value our communication. The value-added service we achieve by implementing a dynamic format, instead of a static one, is completely dependent upon participation from the users.

OK, So how does Web 2.0 apply to GIS?
One might be inclined to think that maps are fairly static and data is replaced in regular intervals, but this is Web 1.0 thinking. Through a technique called Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), our various enterprise data management systems, primarily Documents Management, SAP and GIS, can be set up to ask and answer questions from each other. As Port employees we ask these systems questions everyday: Show me all the documents created by John Smith? What is the lease number for the Sheraton? Or how long is the runway at the airport? We can set up SAP, for example, to answer questions from other systems, enabling users, to ask questions like: What lease numbers are withing 100 feet of the Sheraton? Within these systems we are creators and managers of spatially based data. In addition, we can set up new functionality to streamline and improve the efficiency, accessibly, timeliness and accuracy of our data across the systems.

Measure tool in the PortGIS (Beta) Web Application

January 21, 2009

Below is a quick video on the measure tool in our PortGIS Web Application.

We use the infield at Petco Park to show the tools accuracy, but the real power is combining this tool with Port data, specifically the TidelandsMapbook2007 service. The system is set up to answer questions such as; How far is it from the U.S. Pierhead Line from to the parcel leased to the Maritime Museum Association of San Diego?

Lastly, we would like to welcome Vice Admiral Charles Wurster to our Port family. Admiral Wuster was named the Port of San Diego’s new president and chief executive officer. To see the official Port of San Diego Press Release click here.

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The PortGIS (Beta) Web Application

January 4, 2009

Below is a quick introductory video showing how to access and use our internet browser based GIS web application. We created this product to give all Port employees access to our in-house GIS services: high resolution imagery (Aerials2005HalfFoot) and the Tidelands Mapbook (TidelandsMapbook2007). Every computer that has access to the internet has the hardware to use this web page. Unfortunately, this page requires Internet Explorer 7 (IE7). The browser installed on most machines at the Port is Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). You can access this webpage in IE6, but it doesn’t function quite as well. We are in the process of upgrading everyone to IE7, primarily to support the upcoming SAP upgrade. The video below was recorded using IE7. To check which version of Internet Explorer you are using: Open Internet Explorer and goto Help>About Internet Explorer. You can also access this webpage with newer versions of other browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or Google Chrome.

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