Chicago Department of Transportation helps build a new Chicago using Google Maps APIs

Editor’s note: Today’s guest blogger is Lawrence Olzsac and William Cheaks, Jr. from the Chicago Department of Transportation. Read how the City of Chicago’s Department of Transportation uses Google Maps APIs to create a Web site that coordinates billions of dollars of infrastructure work. The City of Chicago is one of many customers sharing their story as part of our cross-country road trip, Code the Road.

When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel set out to build a “New Chicago,” in 2011, he demanded that the City not only increase its investment in street paving projects, but also invest in those infrastructure projects more efficiently. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Project Coordination Office (PCO), managed by Chicago-based and veteran-owned Collins Engineers, Inc. (Collins), set out to get city departments and utilities to collaborate on reducing conflicts between construction projects.

To do that, CDOT and Collins wanted a new GIS management software that could be used by the City and external utilities to better manage all the projects and meet the operational demands of the CDOT's Division of Infrastructure Management and Office of Underground Coordination.

In 2014, Collins turned to Google for Work Premier Partner SADA Systems to design and build an external and intuitive platform to assist in coordination. The application, dotMaps, is an interactive web mapping service built on Google Maps and Google Cloud Platform, and helps the city manage the work, cut down on conflicts, save taxpayer money, and improve quality of life by reducing unnecessary roadwork and easing traffic congestion. dotMaps, which provides collaborative tools that allow people to create projects and resolve overlapping ones using geolocation, all in real-time, solves a bedeviling problem for city officials and planners: Coordinating public and private construction projects to avoid duplicate work.
Within the dotMaps application, city engineers, officials, planners and agencies can access all permit, project, and special event data in one location and view relevant information about 30,000 current projects on a live interactive map. They can view and search for projects by type, agency, date of construction, address and other data. Soon they’ll be able to do the same thing for projects done by private companies that do construction work in the city, like Verizon, AT&T, Peoples Gas, Comcast and ComEd—making sure that private infrastructure work is being coordinated with public work.
The Google Maps interface was a big selling point in getting dozens of agencies to buy into working with dotMaps. City workers were familiar with the Google Maps interface, and so were immediately comfortable with it. They didn’t need training because they already knew how to use Google Maps’ functionality.

A host of Google Maps APIs work together on dotMaps.The Google Maps JavaScript API displays the map on a Web page. The Google MapsGeocoding API plots points on the map, identifying each project, making it easy for city officials to get information about any project quickly. Google Maps Distance Matrix API allows someone to see every project within a given radius — a big help when checking for conflicting projects, or gauging the concentration of projects in a single area. The Google Places API validates addresses that people type in, and auto-completes as they type.

dotMaps for iOS (which uses the Google Maps SDK for iOS) and Android (Google Maps Android API) tap into the same Google Maps Web Services APIs that the Web site does. The mobile apps allow city employees to get information about nearby projects, report issues and search for information, including something as simple as finding out why there’s a hole in the sidewalk. Before dotMaps, it would have taken multiple phone calls to track down a city employee to answer the question. Now it just takes a few taps.

The city has already seen big benefits from dotMaps. It has helped the CDOT’s PCO partner with public and private entities to coordinate their work more efficiently, resulting in additional savings from duplicative work in 2014 of more than $24 million. This is a big win for taxpayers, making their money go further. Those savings can be applied to building more infrastructure and improving people’s daily lives. The city has big plans for dotMaps and hopes to make it even more useful in the near future with a powerful new mobile component on the way. Thanks to a partnership with Google, the City of Chicago is showing people that government can embrace innovative solutions, make their money go further and improve their lives.

We were excited to participate in the Google Maps Code the Road journey on June 11. We welcomed the bus in front of our building in downtown Chicago to let all passersby come into the bus to see how the we are executing the great infrastructure changes happening in our city with Google Maps.