Member Spotlight: The City of Lakewood

Lakewood GIS

Member Spotlight:
The City of Lakewood

By Carlos Vulgamott, Lakewood GIS coordinator

Back in 2000, the City of Lakewood started using a new web-mapping product from ESRI called ArcIMS. At that point, this was the only customizable web-mapping application available. That same year, the City began creating custom mapping applications for internal customers. The web-based map was revolutionary at the time — for the first time, a user did not need to contact a GIS staff member to answer basic address or land-based questions. 

After three years of learning and testing, the City felt comfortable moving forward with a public facing application. The first public web-based mapping application was published in 2003 using IMS and Adobe Flash Player. 

The result was Lakewood EzMaps, a web-based mapping tool that not only shows maps of the area, but also presents information associated with the property such as address, city council ward, and links to Jefferson County’s Assessor’s Office databases, which provides real estate and tax information. 

Value estimates done in 2005 determined that the ezMaps tool provided the services equivalent to nearly three-quarters of a staff person. Since then, the cost to maintain the application has been a fraction of the cost of an extra staff person, while the functionality gained has simultaneously increased.

Lakewood ezMaps was designed as a building block for an evolutionary web-based municipal service of providing land-based data to the public, founded on the concept of simplicity and efficiency. 

The City continued to use IMS and Adobe Flash Player until 2008, when it migrated to a new platform using ArcGIS Server and Microsoft Silverlight player. Developing a new application using the newest technology caught the eyes of some peers, and, in 2005, the City of Lakewood signed an agreement with the City of Golden to create Golden ezMaps. In 2010, ezMaps Lone Tree was developed for the City of Lone Tree. This is a great relationship for all agencies involved — it helps subsidize the development cost and web services for ezMaps, and gives each agency a custom-mapping application at a low cost. 

In 2010, as smart phone and tablet visits to the website started to increase, the City began to position the product for cross-platform use. In 2012, Lakewood created its first cross-platform application with an iPhone emphasis. 

The City also noticed that new user segments were starting to emerge within its customer segmentation model of general users — power users and GIS pros. This new segment of mobile/field users, known to Lakewood as “GIS Shooting Stars,” require not only the basic data viewing access but also the ability to edit GIS data wherever they are, at least in a lightweight fashion. These shooting stars are making such an impact that the City has now turned its attention to creating a whole new desktop web-based application using the latest web development standards. 

Looking at the road ahead, the City of Lakewood plans to improve mobile searching and to provide additional services. It also plans to release a new JavaScript/HTML5 web-based desktop application to its internal customers soon, with the new web-based desktop ezMaps application out to the general public during 2014. Furthermore, the City plans to work on authentication using active directory and data scaling and improving map sharing and collaboration. 

Since the creation of Lakewood ezMaps, the Lakewood Planning Department has heard from a number of residents, developers, and realtors expressing their gratitude for the online, accurate, and accessible zoning and property information — reducing the need to make phone calls or trips to City offices. The use of this application has furthered the City’s goal of providing excellent customer service, with reduced call volumes to the “Planner of the Day” phone line resulting in quicker response times to requests for information. The Lakewood GIS staff also spends less time on common map requests, as these are now handled by Lakewood staff members directly through the application, giving GIS staff members more time for more complex mapping or analytical requests.