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Using GIS: A Critical Tool for Planners

Using GIS:  A Critical Tool for Planners

Sara Kidd

Senior Environmental Planner

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is defined as a collection of computer mapping hardware and software that aids in analyzing geographic information in order to understand the distribution of certain characteristics across the landscape (whether a single property or across the world). This leads to better decision-making by those involved in the issues at hand.

Since planners act as a bridge between local, state, and federal government decisions makers and the public, GIS is a critical tool used by planners at all levels to analyze information about a community. Planners use GIS for several purposes:
•    Visualization and analysis of data
•    Visioning exercises with the public or elected officials
•    Creating plans (such as comprehensive plans, transportation plans, etc.)
•    Public participation and communication through online mapping portals and mobile mapping technologies

The full article describing these functions of GIS in planning can be found at the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association website.