NYC transit help in the wings

New York City

New York City averted a public transit strike recently, saving commuters

and residents a metropolitan-size headache of getting around. But if it

had come to that, the city was ready to help idle people find their way.

A week before the scheduled strike, the city's Office of Emergency Management,

the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Frankfort,

Ky.-based PlanGraphics Inc. designed and developed an interactive online

map that enabled users to view various alternative transportation options

and vehicular restrictions.

The application, which took about a half-day to design and a week to develop, was activated from Friday evening, Dec. 13, to Monday noon, Dec. 16, the deadline for the strike, said Mike Wiley, a project manager for PlanGraphics in New York City. During that time, users viewed more than 70,000 custom maps with a peak of about 6,000 maps served up Sunday evening. Although the application was subsequently deactivated, it's available should a similar situation occur in the future.

The system can highlight bicycle and pedestrian access sites, carpool

staging areas, rail lines and stations, ferry stops and routes, including

contingencies, as well as carpool-only routes and other road restrictions.

The application is based on the city's Emergency Management Online Locator

System, which allows New Yorkers to find hurricane evacuation routes or

cooling centers during a heat wave.

PlanGraphics, which has a seven-year working relationship with the city,

also helped develop an online map of the area around the World Trade Center

shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sometimes twice daily,

the company or the city would update what areas were accessible by motor

vehicles or pedestrians in the area and provide other information.

The company is also planning to update the city's "My Neighborhood Statistics"

application, which allows users to view 14 selected performance statistics

about their community, such as air and noise complaints, structural fires,

infant mortality, clean sidewalks, felonies and certified teachers. By the

end of January, the system, which went live in September 2002, will show

80 different metrics.

The city also recently awarded PlanGraphics a three-year, $15.4 million contract to continue to develop and upgrade the city's GIS data repository, and provide greater access as well as more customized applications for the public and city agencies.

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