June 95

Level of Govt.: City

Function: Public access.

Problem/situation: Creating maps manually was time consuming and expensive, and the results were unsatisfactory for different users.

Solution: Custom GIS mapping from public service counters.

Jurisdiction: Scarborough, Ontario.

Vendors: Oracle, IBM, ESRI, Intergraph, Autocad.

Contact: Raphael Sussman, GIS manager. 416/396-4141.

Not a "real" GIS

By Raphael Sussman

Scarborough GIS Manager

A new public access mapping application in Scarborough, Ontario, is cutting both city costs and customer queues while raising the city's pride. Scarborough's new system, called the User-Defined Mapping Application system (UMAP) is an extremely effective use of readily available technology running on an enterprisewide database.

UMAP is available through public access terminals at the Works and Environment Department counter, representing a huge addition to customer service by reducing costs and response time dramatically. The system has also enabled the city to drop several steps and several days from the old mapping methods.


UMAP allows city employees to view maps on computer screens or to print areas of the city, located in the eastern Toronto metropolitan area. A map can be produced in any of a number of scales and can include particular features, such as roads, buildings, sidewalks, trees or watercourses as well as other information available from the city's geographic databases including property lines, municipal addresses and the names of public buildings. A hard copy, done while a customer waits at the counter, costs between $5 and $20 depending on the size of paper selected. Digitized maps are not now provided to the public.

Scarborough is not selling data, but is simply automating a service traditionally provided at this counter. The system could be expanded, however, to computers in public libraries or at public information kiosks in the future.


Other UMAP access points have been designated for city staff. In the past, staff members who used maps have had to retrieve the pieces from many sources, photographically enlarge or reduce them, then cut and paste them together to get the combination of data required for a job.

The new system eliminates such tedious exercises and allows employees to produce far more attractive images than before. Typical users now create maps for inclusion in the agenda of council or committee meetings, for public display at open houses, for planning purposes or for the design of public parks or roads.

People who previously viewed buildings or walkways as descriptions or as lists, now "see" these objects on maps or in aerial views. Maps can be created in whatever format is desired, allowing them to be, for example, inserted as images into written documents.

Other benefits of UMAP include:

- Elimination of hard-copy maps. Maps previously maintained in various departments of the city for the purpose of whiteprint reproduction were very expensive to produce and cumbersome to extract and replace. These maps have now been replaced by computers at both the public counters and at the desks of employees who create maps.

- Simplicity. Maps can now be easily created of the area desired. It is unnecessary to use either drafting staff or graphic artists for most requirements.

- Clarity. Maps can now be created with only the objects of interest shown, highlighting exactly what is desired, rather than using maps already created for other purposes.

- Efficiency. Staff is freed to do more sophisticated graphic or mapping work requiring their special expertise.


Interestingly enough, UMAP was not a major objective of Scarborough's GIS development project. Very few municipalities in North America have set up