When citizens of Riverside, Calif., walk into the Public Utilities Department and ask to expand or modify service, the response they get is much different than in past years. Within minutes, the customer service representative enters the person's address on a computer and pulls up a map display (complete with an aerial photograph) detailing electric, water and sewer service in the vicinity, as well as streets, sidewalks, buildings, trees, and other important land features. Sixty different layers of data can be accessed, making the system one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated GIS databases in the country.
With that information, they can discuss the customer's service expansion needs and begin the process -- online -- of meeting those requirements.
Only a few years ago, customer inquiries and requests for service took days or weeks to process. Adding to the frustration, mapped records were often incomplete. In some cases, multiple maps were frequently needed just to detail the utility services contained within a single intersection. In some cases, the city was as much as six years behind in record-keeping.
The Public Utilities Department found the city was spending roughly $7 million a year just on mapping and map-related functions, many of which were redundant. Engineers and staff could never be certain that the paper maps they did pull were current and accurate. Not only did this situation make engineering and service extension issues difficult to analyze, but it was anathema to growth.
The solution to these problems came in a project known as CADME, or Computer Aided Drafting, Mapping and Engineering. Designed, developed and made fully functional between 1989 and 1996, CADME allows the Public Works, Planning and Public Utilities departments to achieve significant cost savings and efficiency improvements by automating mapping and facilities management functions.
CADME actually traces its origin to 1987 and the realization within the Public Utilities Department that maps and other paper records were outdated and inconsistently handled. Officials recognized that problems with their mapped records would be a hindrance to growth.
Despite the recognized need for a GIS, the demands that growth placed on everyone within Riverside's Public Utilities Department prevented the thorough exploration of alternative technology solutions to the problem. In early 1989, therefore, the city retained UGC Consulting of Englewood, Colo., to assist in identifying needs, designing a project and implementing the solution.
CADME's initial implementation is nearly complete. The consensus within utilities is that the investment in CADME represents a "1+1=3" equation: the department's ability to operate more efficiently and effectively far exceeds the investment made in the technology.
CADME is allowing the department to reinvest roughly $2 million a year that had been spent on mapping functions. Most of this money is being directed toward new projects and functions that could not have been done without the technology. The department is offering a wider variety of map products to the public than ever before, its workload is up to date and it is able to conduct more thorough and timely analyses of its distribution network and related facilities.
As a direct result of CADME, at least a half-dozen people who used to do mapping-related jobs have been reassigned to other functions within the department. The remainder of the staff is doing its mapping-related work more efficiently and effectively. This has enabled the department to do things it had never done before, such as more detailed project analysis and planning.
In one instance, the ability to put maps and records on-screen benefited the Public Works department to the tune of $6 million, when officials were able to respond on short notice to a federal program for bridge work. Had Public Works been forced to deal with paper maps alone, the deadline to apply for the funding most likely would have passed.
In another example, the utilities division was able to save as much as $50,000 by providing an engineering consulting firm with accurate land base maps that it could use as it evaluated a proposed seven-mile-long transmission corridor.
In addition, many staff hours have been saved in notifying customers affected by large projects such as new transmission lines or voltage conversions. With CADME, staff query the project area and generate the appropriate mailing lists.
CADME has completely eliminated redundancies in drawing and updating maps. In the past, maps were kept independently by Public Works, Utilities, Public Safety, and so on. Inconsistencies were a frequent and ongoing issue. With CADME in place, only one agency, Public Works, is responsible for maintaining the base maps. This eliminates virtually all question as to which map is accurate.
CADME is on schedule to be fully implemented later this year. Projections point to a full project payback within three to four years after full implementation.
CADME represents a complete shift in how the Riverside Public Utilities Department does its business, making it much more than just a hardware and software expenditure. As a result, plans call for a regular and ongoing strategy of investment not only to keep the system current but to expand its range of functions. For example, the city plans to spend roughly $500,000 this year for advanced software applications development to further the use of CADME by the city's water and electric utility operations.
Riverside doesn't measure the success of its CADME project from a strict dollars and cents point of view. Instead, it figures into the equation intangibles such as customer service improvements and heightened staff productivity, both of which have enjoyed marked improvement. At Riverside, the horse and cart era is gone for good. Riverside's sleek new rig, known as CADME, is in the fast lane for the future.
John Kelly is a senior consultant with UGC Consulting, and served as the on-site project manager for the CADME project.
Between 1989 and 1996, the city of Riverside spent roughly $15 million on what it called "core" CADME functions, including data conversion, hardware and software procurements and application development. The expenses break down as follows:
(fiscal year begins July 1)