Mapping out the future at GIS-T

Every year hundreds of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professionals from transportation agencies, research institutions, and the private sector come together to discuss the latest and greatest in GIS at the Annual GIS-T Conference.

Jonathon Croft of VTrans opens the 2014 Roll Call of States, an opportunity for states to highlight their activities.

Jonathon Croft of VTrans opens the 2014 Roll Call of States, an opportunity for states to highlight their activities.

The four day conference takes place around the country and this year Burlington, Vermont was fortunate enough to play host.  This year’s conference theme was “Seasons of change”, which was very fitting as Vermont had some of its first “springlike” weather of the year.  The opening remarks by Erik Filkorn, Public Outreach Manager for Vtrans, and Secretary Brian Searles both quipped that Vermont only had two seasons, winter and bad skiing.  

The purpose of the conference is to provide a platform for transportation GIS professionals to share new initiatives, technology, policies, and anything else GIS related with their fellow professionals.  One of the most interesting sessions was the “State Roll Call” where every state, Canadian Province, and Federal Agency was able to discuss what projects they have worked on or completed and what issues and projects they are hoping to work on in 2014.  Several states discussed their need to move forward with MAP-21, ARNOLD, LiDAR and remote sensing, and Asset Management.

The MAP-21 “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” which was reauthorized this year and the “All Roads Network Of Linear referenced Data” or ARNOLD, are both significant federal projects that agencies need to address and there was an obvious interest in making sure GIS was an integral part of this process.  The increasing availability of LiDAR and other remote sensing technologies is allowing AOT’s to utilize this technology on more projects but this requires more data storage and management which was identified as an area in need of research.  Asset management was another area that many AOTs were investing in to help with budgeting and to have a better understanding of what they have in their inventory.  Some agencies discussed the need to have better spatial data for assets such as bridges and culverts which can have extremely outdated location data or highly inaccurate data.

Several TRC Graduate Research Assistants and staff members attend a session.

Several TRC Graduate Research Assistants and staff members attend a session.

The Transportation Research Center (TRC) had several team members present including Research Analyst Jim Sullivan and Graduate Research Assistant Tim Pede.  The Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL) presented twice on the “Rapid Exploitation of Commercial Remotely Sensed Imagery for Disaster Response & Recovery” project; a joint project between the SAL and TRC funded by the US Department of Transportation.  The first presentation was on the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems in damage assessment and the second presentation was on the use of commercial satellite imagery and automated damage assessment.  The Park Studies Lab, another TRC partner, presented on their work in Yosemite National Park.

As the conference wrapped up, there were several subjects that were ripe for future exploration including the use of new technologies and increasing need for GIS data and need to enhance data management.  Throughout the conference this was expressed as a major concern, particularly with states transitioning to centralized IT systems.  Desire to provide data sharing capabilities and quick data transfer will tax any future data systems and investment in systems to better manage data are critical.  Interest in new systems such as the TRC/SAL’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was apparent but most discussions lead to the ongoing concerns about regulations, policies, and privacy at the forefront of discussions.

The GIS-T Conference is organized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Transportation Research Center GIS-T Presentations:

“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for Disaster Response and Recovery” Jarlath Oneil-Dunne (SAL/TRC) and Adam Zylka (SAL): Presentation, Abstract

“Rapid Assessment of Storm-related Damage Using Commercial Remote-sensing Imagery” Sean MacFaden (SAL) and Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne (SAL/TRC): Presentation, Abstract

“Establishing Roadway Priority in Statewide Roadway Snow and Ice Control Operations” Jim Sullivan (TRC): Presentation, Abstract

“Using UrbanSim for Residential Energy Demand Modeling in Chittenden County” Timothy Pede (TRC): Presentation, Abstract


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