Making Communities More Resilient Through Holistic Data Visualization
“Most of this data is publicly available, but it can be difficult to know what to do with it. We have taken these isolated silos of data and meshed them into one holistic picture, where each silo is presented on a different data layer. Through this process, we can enable and empower non-technical users to ‘read between the lines’ of these data to see the bigger picture.”
That’s Alex Gaio, a PhD candidate working with Entuitive’s Transportation sector. Alex sat down with Entuitive’s Ennovation team to discuss the tool he built and how it can play a key role in identifying high-potential new development opportunities while increasing the resilience of underserved communities.
He shares his screen with me to reveal a map highlighted with key elements. As he mouses over different sections of the map, different networks and features pop into view. This map, Alex tells me, has been custom-built to identify high-potential opportunities for transit-oriented development (TOD) projects.
He flips through the various layers – transit networks for all forms of transportation, key amenities, land ownership data, ongoing developments, and zoning data, to list just a few. When Alex starts speaking about the future opportunities of this tool, his passion really comes through.
“Let’s talk about some of the great opportunities we have with this tool,” he says. “On a city scale, let’s say I look at a particular area. I can use the tool to create a heat map of all the things that make a great TOD. We can see a concentration of parks in some spots and the need for amenities in other spots.” The tool allows us to build a comprehensive picture of a community – layer by layer – to unearth important insights about the area. Through this process, we can start to see the existence of service gaps.” Alex zooms in on one Toronto community – known as the Finch West area – to demonstrate this feature. “See – look here. You can really notice the absence of services in the Finch West area. We can see directly within the tool that this is a food desert.”
The Power of Community-Level Insights
Alex goes on to elaborate how developers and planners can use this tool to build resilience into the structure of our municipal communities.
“So, we can use this tool to identify not only where the gaps are with existing services, but also to identify what’s currently permitted to be built in the areas where those gaps exist.”
These big-picture insights are critical for identifying future developments that maximize value for developers, communities, and municipalities alike. Alex’s hope is that by connecting the dots and equipping developers and planners with these insights earlier in the project planning process, we can collectively build more resilient communities that facilitate sustainable growth in our municipal centers.
Using Data to Gain New Perspectives
When I asked Alex how he obtained all the information that powers the tool, I was shocked by the answer.
“Most of it is publicly available data. I’m collecting data from various public sources and then I’m assembling authoritative geospatial data onto our mapping platform.”
Most people don’t understand the breadth and depth of this data that is publicly available. And for those who do know it, it isn’t valuable in its existing format. Alex has addressed this challenge by aggregating and transforming the public data into a format that is visually accessible.
Entuitive’s Transportation team has taken this a step further by combining the insights with Entuitive’s expertise in TOD and transportation planning. Through this combination, Entuitive can apply engineering judgement to the process of identifying high-potential development opportunities. This is an example of Entuitive’s 1+1=3 thinking. By building a tool with these capabilities, Entuitive can support its clients and partners in identifying optimal development opportunities all while bolstering the communities that we serve.
For Alex, his vision extends beyond immediate service gaps to rethinking how we plan and build our communities and our cities.
“Let’s talk less about moving vehicles and talk more about moving people,” he says. “Efficient use of land means efficient movement of people, and vice versa. In our pursuit of building more human-scale communities, this tool is a critical step in that direction.”
To learn more about Entuitive’s innovative site assessment tool, reach out to Alex Gaio.