Boston shows what GIS-driven storytelling can do

Boston shows what GIS-driven storytelling can do

Boston’s Snow Journal uses maps, narrative text, images and multimedia to tell the story of how Boston handled its historically snowiest winter earlier this year.

Created by Joyce John, a member of Boston’s Geographic Information Systems team, Snow Journal uses Esri’s ArcGIS platform and JavaScript APIs to incorporate data-heavy maps, photos and videos, statistics, text and narrative to share the city’s story. The interactive interface allows users to explore the data according to their interests.

The story map describes how Boston – hit with seven feet of snow between Jan.  26 and Feb. 18  from four major snowstorms – managed traffic, closures, cancellations and hazards.

The Snow Journal maps originally appeared on the city’s website and showed residents where snow emergency parking is located around the city, where it is banned and which locations were nearest to the user. Also displayed are the district yards where necessary snow removal equipment is stored (like plows and salt), reconfigured traffic patterns caused by snow accumulation and removal, and the locations of the city’s many catch basins, which are used to prevent post-melt flooding.  Users also could find exact locations of fire hydrants, restricted parking and alternative parking garages, enhancing public safety and citizen awareness during weather emergencies.

Snow Journal was named the grand prize winner of the recent worldwide Esri Storytelling with Maps contest, among a few other public sector winners. Along with grand prize, the program won first place under the category for “Best Infrastructure, Planning and Government.”

The San Diego Association of Government and developer Pat Landrum took third place in the same category for LOSSAN: Coastal Rail Corridor, a map story showing a strong visual of improvements being made to San Diego County’s Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo, the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the country.

The Santa Clara County Fire Department in Los Gatos, Calif., took first place for “Best Culture, History and Events” with Chris Ingram’s story map, The San Francisco 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The site uses maps to show where the events of the tragic the incident took place.

A full list of winners and projects can be found here.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a Reporter/Producer for GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media, Ziadeh was a contributing journalist for USA Today Travel's Experience Food and Wine site. She's also held a communications assistant position with the University of Maryland Office of the Comptroller, and has reported for the American Journalism Review, Capitol File Magazine and DC Magazine.

Ziadeh is a graduate of the University of Maryland where her emphasis was multimedia journalism and French studies.

Click here for previous articles by Ms. Ziadeh or connect with her on Twitter: @aziadeh610.


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