Spring 2012 - Department Spotlight: Using GIS in the Development of Dakota County's Transportation Plan
By Scott Peters, Dakota County Transportation Department
Reprinted with permission from the Dakota County GIS Newsletter
The Dakota County Transportation Department is updating the County’s long-range Transportation Plan. The Plan (Dakota County 2030 Transportation Plan), is a document used by the County, its partners and residents as a guide to maintain and improve the County’s transportation system through 2030. The Plan was developed in the context of regional, state and national transportation planning and funding policies and guidelines.
The Plan provides the vision for the future transportation system, supports land use goals and objectives, and documents the County’s transportation policies and strategies. The Plan identifies major transportation system investment needs and prioritizes these needs. The Plan has several major goals that address areas of funding, transit and other transportation modes, preservation, management, replacement, and expansion.
The document contains details identifying how strategies and policies support specific goals. However, one of the most valuable elements of the Plan is the maps that support the Plan goals, objectives, strategies and policies. County GIS staff provided a great amount of support in developing this Plan by providing analytical support and developing corresponding maps that depict specific transportation topics or provide visual information.
Some examples of maps within the Plan include identification of roadway function, roadway jurisdiction, roadway and driveway access spacing, and analysis of existing and future travel demand. Specific examples include maps developed that identify current and future locations of roadway capacity problems using data from the County’s Travel Demand Model. This assists Transportation staff to determine transportation system needs and corresponding funding needs. In some cases, the maps provide an overlay of additional information such as transit corridors and bike trails to provide staff with a better understanding of how all transportation modes tie together and what geographical areas of the county may be of concern.
The Transportation Plan also includes maps that provide a visual inventory of the County’s transportation system. These include County roads that are gravel, locations of County-maintained bridges, transit routes or even highway age. Oftentimes, these maps can show geographical clusters within the county and identify locations for focused attention. This is especially helpful in a county that transitions from urban to suburban to rural land uses.
The Plan also includes maps with a planning emphasis. These maps identify areas of the county that may require future attention or planning efforts. These include maps that identify future County highways alignments or future transportation corridor study locations.
In all, GIS staff’s analyzing of data and development of maps provided a very significant element of the County’s Transportation Plan. The maps provide a snap shot of how a specific transportation component or issue may affect the entire county or may only occur in a specific area. Many times the maps can depict multiple items and relationships without the need for multiple pages of text describing the situation.
The Transportation Department staff rely heavily on the maps within the Plan because, as the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In many instances, the maps within the plan truly reflect this and often the maps provide the most important piece of the puzzle in analyzing or describing transportation issues or topics and how they may be addressed.