There was a time not so long ago when people drafted maps painstakingly by hand. Small changes, including special details about different areas, necessitated the creation of a whole new map. In the early ‘60s, someone figured out how to generate a map on a computer and what we now call GIS (geographic information systems) was born.
In an effort to publicize GIS and geography in general, the National Geographic Society established GIS Day in 1999. Associated with Geography Awareness Week, GIS Day was on Nov. 15 this year.
The celebration came to Bellevue City Hall, and the public was invited to a variety of geography-related festivities. GIS Services staff demonstrated what GIS is and how it helps make Bellevue a better place to live, work and play. There were map displays, online displays and GIS-related games.
GIS is much more than computer cartography; it offers a way to integrate all kinds of information about a place into an image or map of that place. Go online and type in an address or business name and you can see it on a map. Search for schools and see all of them show up at once.
The City of Bellevue has been a leading user of GIS technology in the region since the 1980s. Many city departments rely on geographical analysis and tools in their day-to-day service to the public, from Service First answering questions using Mapster, to hiking trail maps in the Parks department, to flood control in Utilities, to sidewalk accessibility planning in Transportation. The Information Technology Department’s GIS Services division provides the public with access to a variety of maps, showing everything from weekday traffic patterns to zoning.
Displays at City Hall included GIS maps generated for nearly every city department, from three-dimensional views of downtown to bike-pedestrian paths to crime area maps. Visitors will have access to computers with GIS applications on which they can browse with help from city GIS analysts.
Participatory activities gave people a greater understanding of what GIS is and why they might want to use it. Visitors gave staff information about themselves and see it translated onto a map.
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