GIS, or geographic information systems, are any technology that can be used to show any type of geographic phenomena.  As a trade it has been becoming more and more prevalent as time goes by and new technologies and software are being created to make GIS a much more holistic science that is applicable to almost any professional realm. Planning and GIS systems are becoming more and more universally accepted as being complementary and intertwined.  Here at Rutgers, the two are subsets of the same major. My goal in this post is to show the usefulness of GIS in the planning process of creating a comprehensive plan.

In Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy he lays out the planning process and separates it into five phases, which are all intertwined.  The first phase is the research phase, where the planners compile data and estimate what that data will be in the future. GIS would make this step very easy.  By using a GIS to look at census data or any data that the municipality has already gathered, the planner could plot out all of this data onto one output, or multiple outputs depicting several scenarios, to make understanding the data and visualizing it much easier.

These outputs would make the next step, clarification of community goals and objectives, much simpler as well. By handing out the outputs created in the research phase at planning board meetings or planning groups, the citizens can grasp an understanding of what the planners are proposing and choose the most desirable objectives. From here the planners would look at the best options and formulate a plan based on the most desirable community goals and how feasible each option is.  When this choice is made it is time to implement the chosen plan.

GIS’s practicality in planning does not end once a comprehensive plan is chosen.  After the plan has been implemented it is necessary to periodically review and update the plan to make sure it is meeting the objectives it set out to meet.  Planners could use GIS to graphically lay out a large amount of the data that would be looked at during this phase.  For example GIS’s would be useful for mapping out street congestion, emergency response times, economic data, environmental issues for any given area and just about any other issue that a planner faces day to day.  While many planning offices do use GIS’s I would advocate that any offices that are not using them decide to do so. Using GIS’s would be a great way to streamline their workflow and achieve optimum efficiency in the production of their comprehensive plans.

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