Fairfax County Virginia Community Maps Success Story

Fairfax County in the State of Virginia has been a contributor to Esri’s Community Maps since 2010.  Brendan Ford, the County’s GIS Applications Manager was drawn to the program by the prospect of using ArcGIS Online basemaps instead of building their own basemaps to support applications.  Before joining the Community Maps, Brendan and his team spent a considerable amount of time  developing basemap content with their first released web applications.  Due to the subjective nature of the basemap cartography, where they started from scratch on symbols and label fonts, they struggled to develop a consistent basemap usable by multiple applications.  Using the high-quality cartography of the World Topographic Map on ArcGIS Online was an easy choice for the new versions of their web mapping applications.

“Prior to the release of ArcGIS Online and the Community Basemap, we had no way of quickly developing business specific apps to meet targeted needs.  Any new ideas our customers had for web maps such as Watersheds, Street Lights, or Flood Hazards, had to be merged into an existing application.  Time was spent developing a new basemap just to serve one or two layers.  Further the basemaps for all of our initial web applications ended at the county border, often leaving the users wanting more. The development of a basemaps for these earlier applications was often frustrating as everyone wanted a different size font for map text or a feature color to be changed, then changed again.  When we saw the option to use our data in the ArcGIS Online basemap style, we immediately saw the benefit.  Now we are able to quickly produce web maps and applications with no basemap issues the Community Basemap has solved the once time consuming problem.” – Brendan Ford

FairFax County Streetlight Outage Application

Fairfax County is home to over one million residents and located only a few miles west from Washington DC.  The County is centered in a dynamic region surrounded with other densely inhabited local governments which raises the need for the county to participate in regional mapping efforts.

“While our responsibility to maintain geographic data clearly ends at our jurisdictions boundaries, the delivery of services often extends beyond those boundaries.  As such it is imperative that web maps extend into other jurisdictions.  To that end, it makes complete sense for all of these government agencies to provide their data and contribute to the community basemap program, then we all get a consistent map built with locally maintained data.” – Brendan Ford

Before contributing their data to Community Maps, the county took on the improvement of several layers.  The county initially only managed their building footprint layer into five categories: Residential, Commercial, Public, Industrial, and Other.  While still able to perform analysis and make interesting maps with the five existing themes, Brendan and his team took on the challenge to extend these classifications to the 12 used in the World Topographic Map.

Fairfax County Capital Projects App

More themes allow further analytics and add extra detail when used in the basemap.  Additionally the county developed an extensive Landmarks layer from real estate data, field research and their own local knowledge.  Now the county maintains a highly detailed polygon feature class with over 275 education institutions, 133 retail centers, 423 industrial areas and 25 golf courses to name a few.  “The initial effort to develop the Landmarks layer and reclassify our building footprints was extensive but it turned out to be well worth it” – Brendan Ford

Fairfax is reaching a broad audience by participating in Esri Community Maps.  Their data are the authoritative local ingredients in basemaps available around the globe and are helping to build a living atlas of the world.

Some of the other web maps and applications developed by Fairfax County that leverage the Community basemap are listed below:

Pedestrian Improvement Requests: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/pedestrian/map.htm

Fairfax Trail Buddy: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/trails/

Bike Fairfax:  http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/bike/bikemap/

Esri is interested in hearing how your organization is benefiting by contributing to and using the ArcGIS Online Basemaps.  Please contact us at communitymaps@esri.com to let us know your story.

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