Tracking and routing municipal services

August 2012 » Columns » GIS SOLUTIONS
Jeffrey Yoders

In 1980, Gilbert, Ariz., had a population of 5,717. As of 2009 that population had increased to 217,521. The Southwestern town 25 miles east of Phoenix adds about 1,000 new residents every month and is the fourth-fastest growing municipality in the United States and part of the fourth-largest county, Maricopa. In 2010, CNN placed it on a list of "Best Places to Live." To support such massive growth, the town of Gilbert has embraced GIS for tracking many of its infrastructure services. One novel use that's captured hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings and caught the attention of larger municipalities is tracking solid waste pick up and removal.

With so many new residents, trash removal and remediation is critical to Gilbert's continued growth and preservation of the beautiful environment in which so many new residents want to live. "We had to look at what we [could] do to save money down the road," said Michael G. Benschoter, solid waste specialist for the Town of Gilbert. "Right now, at a cost of $22.47 a ton to drop, we cannot build a transfer station. It is not cost effective right now. If it gets up to $35 or $30 a ton it might be, but we had to work with the resources we have."

In 2002, the town expanded its software capabilities to include a more complete integration of Esri's ArcGIS into all departments. Two years later, the town selected Esri Business Partner GBA Master Series' infrastructure management software as an extension of ArcGIS for use in asset and maintenance management and GIS-integration extensions. With the software, the Town of Gilbert is able to track assets, create work orders, and schedule preventive maintenance. The software allowed the town to connect its infrastructure management system to GIS for data visualization, spatial analysis, map editing, and network tracing. It also allowed Benschoter to track all of the solid waste pickup routes for the first time.

Benschoter did a cost-per-mile analysis on all f Gilbert's solid waste trucks and ran it through ArcGIS. The town is set up in five zones for both recycling and trash pickup. Four zones have bulk trash pickup once a month. All truck routing is set up in ArcGIS through RouteSmart (www.routesmart.com), a GIS tool for planning routes and workloads involving even the most complex large data sets.

The Town of Gilbert, Ariz., built this viewer with the ArcGIS API for Silverlight/WPF. The viewer uses enhanced identify and measuring tools, a map service selector, and search tools through a Web service.

Benschoter's analysis showed that by switching from running trucks six days a week to just five days, the Town of Gilbert could save $340,000 a year on one trash pickup route alone and $750,000 in annual savings on all routes. Each zone would receive solid waste removal services twice a week, limiting truck routing to Monday through Friday. The vehicles would stop by the curb once for garbage and another time for recyclables. Four zones would send trucks for bulk pickup services once a month.

RouteSmart for ArcGIS route optimization software operates on top of the Esri ArcGIS technology platform and uses highly accurate street data from NAVTEQ to calculate miles and fuel costs for accurate analysis and routing. "It does a great job when routing your trucks," Benschoter said. "There is always a better way to do something. When we added RouteSmart it showed us where our savings were and filled that role."

Gilbert was awarded the Municipality Award at WASTECON this year for the savings it has gleaned from ArcGIS with RouteSmart. The schedule change, which took effect in 2010, affected only about half of the town's 60,000 households. The change was communicated to residents through the local media and maps of the five routes were posted on the Town of Gilbert website (www.gilbertaz.gov/pw/maps.cfm). In June, neighboring metropolis Phoenix took note of Gilbert's success and switched to a five-day pickup schedule as well.

Still, Benschoter said dealing with the ever-increasing population in Gilbert is a continuing challenge. While the recent recession did cause home values to decrease and a momentary drop in the rate of its population growth, low home prices are starting to push the migration rate into Gilbert back up.

There are currently 67 homes per route in Gilbert, and Benschoter believes that, at the current rate of growth, in 15 to 20 years the town's ability to serve its residents with current resources will be maxed out.

Read this and other GIS articles at www.zweigwhite.com/GISSolutions


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