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Dr. Bruce D. Spear

Speaker: Dr. Bruce D. Spear, USDOT Research and Special Programs Administration, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, University of California, Irvine

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are much more than computer generated maps. A GIS is a sophisticated database management system designed specifically for spatially referenced data, Using location as the common reference, a GIS enables one to display different databases as layers on a map and then combine data in one layer with that in another using topological relationships. For example, with a GIS a transit planner can overlay a proposed bus route on an area database of census tract population and determine the potential market of bus riders residing within a quarter mile of the bus route.

Since transportation is inherently a spatial activity, GIS is particularly well suited to be a platform for managing much of the data used in transportation applications. Moreover, rapid advances in microcomputer and graphics workstation technology during the past few years have moved GIS from the mainframe environment to the desktop of the transportation professional, where it is evolving into a basic analysis tool just like the word processor, spreadsheet, or database manager.

On September 11 the Visiting Scholar's Seminar will address the emerging role of GIS in transportation. Drawing on examples from local, regional, and national applications, Dr. Spear will illustrate how GIS is currently being used in transportation planning and operations, and will identify likely application areas. Potential barriers to GIS use in transportation including organizational changes, hardware and software technology, and data requirements will be discussed, along with efforts in both the public and private sectors to overcome them.