Last year, TU’s Center for GIS used ArcGIS Field Maps to update environmental and safety data at the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) 19 maintenance facilities. These are the facilities where the MTA’s fleet of buses and trains are serviced. This data feeds the MTA’s internal mapping system, which is jointly maintained by the MTA, AECOM, and the TU Center for GIS. The internal maps provide access to 60+ spatial data layers across the agency, with layers such as fire extinguishers, spill kits, emergency shutoffs, first aid kits, and storage tanks.

ArcGIS Field Maps is a mobile app that allows users to perform data collection and editing in the field using web maps stored in ArcGIS Online. Field Maps updates in real-time, so any changes made through the mobile app automatically sync to the ArcGIS Online cloud. The app can also be configured for offline mode to enable fieldwork in areas with limited internet access. See this previous post for more on Field Maps.

Out at the MTA maintenance facilities, we used Field Maps to verify and update the locations and associated information for safety equipment, environmental features and maintenance equipment that was already on our map. We also added data points to capture new features. For new and existing features, we collected associated information like type, model and manufacturer, and used the Field Maps app to take photos.

Based on our experience with Field Maps, we’ve come up with a few recommendations when undertaking a process of verifying and updating asset inventories.

  • Safety first! Whenever possible work in pairs or groups, and always avoid walking while looking at your mobile device.
  • When verifying/updating existing features, symbolize on the status, such as unverified, verified and new. As you verify a feature, change the status to verified and the symbol will change on the map, thus helping to visually keep track of which areas have been covered. For large outdoor spaces, generating a spatial grid and symbolizing based on status may be helpful to keep track of which areas have been covered.
  • Set up domains/attribute lists for as many fields as possible. This saves time on user input as well as data cleanup by reducing the potential for typos and input error. For numeric fields, acceptable ranges can be set to validate data.
  • As we were working with a large number of data layers, we opted to use the new Map Viewer to create layer groups. This allowed us to keep our editable and non-editable reference layers separate, as well as group editable features by category to be able to find layers and turn them on and off in bulk.
  • We found that we could save time in the field by utilizing Field Maps’ markup tool to sketch in edits to floorplans.
  • We found that being out in the heat reduced battery life for our iPads, necessitating the use of a pocket-sized power bank when out in the field for most of the day.
  • Finally, test Field Maps before going out in the field! Ensure that you’re able to edit any of the layers that require editing, use Field Maps to take photos, and sync your offline areas (if in use). If you encounter issues, you may need to republish your data layers or create a new web map to resolve them.

Happy data collecting!

Accessing ArcGIS Online and Field Maps

ArcGIS Field Maps are part of the ArcGIS Online mapping platform, a browser-based mapping platform for creating, sharing, and collaborating on interactive maps. An ArcGIS Online organizational account is required to use Field Maps.

TU students, faculty and staff are eligible for TU-affiliated ArcGIS Online accounts. Contact to request an account. More information about the GIS resources and tools available to the TU community can be found here.