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Relighting the City of Detroit

In 2016, POWER Engineers, Incorporated worked with the Public Lighting Authority of Detroit to help in their efforts to relight and revamp the streets of Detroit. The Public Lighting Authority needed project management assistance to execute the work they wanted to carry out. After years of leaving the city’s lights in disrepair, they created a plan that aimed to replace the aging lighting infrastructure. That meant replacing more than 40 percent of the city’s streetlights that didn’t work at the time due to either outdated technology, lack of repairs, or theft. For students pursuing a GIS degree online, this situation presents an interesting case study on how organizations can utilize GIS technology to improve utility systems.

With the help of Cityworks’ GIS-centric asset management system, the Public Lighting Authority and POWER Engineers created a detailed map of Detroit and an entire system that aided in inspecting every light in the city, performing the construction work to build new lights and replace old ones, and planning the continued maintenance that will be required for years to come.

Who Are POWER Engineers, Incorporated and Cityworks?

POWER Engineers, Incorporated is a global consulting engineering firm that specializes in delivering integrated solutions to companies and government organizations worldwide. POWER Engineers, Incorporated gives its clients multidiscipline engineering, project management, and architectural instruction. The company was in charge of this project for these very reasons.

Cityworks is an organization that maintains safe GIS-centric communities for public infrastructure, property, and permitting. Cityworks, which maintains its systems in the cloud, builds exclusively on Esri ArcGIS technology to combine asset inventory in a geodatabase with workflow management, scheduling resources, and prioritizing activities.

How They Did It

The Public Lighting Authority of Detroit received $185 million in bond funding from both the city and state governments to overhaul the lighting system around Detroit. When the Public Lighting Authority began its initial construction of installing LED lights, POWER Engineers, Incorporated got involved.

POWER proposed that it collaborate with Cityworks, the leading GIS asset management company in the country, on the project. POWER felt it was particularly important to have a geographic information system in place as it moved from the construction and inspection phases into the maintenance phase.

The Public Lighting Authority changed its business processes and was able to easily manage more than 400 contractors and their information during the construction phase, thanks to the help of Cityworks.

When each of the 400 contractors entered inspection information in the GIS, Cityworks’ system was able to add location information and details about each light’s condition and make recommendations on replacing the lights.

POWER Engineers enlisted geospatial and asset management specialists to work alongside the Public Lighting Authority to determine what key business processes needed to be tracked. Thanks to the work of POWER and Cityworks, the Public Lighting Authority was able to create reports that provided performance metrics and real-time feedback from the city’s residents.

Using Cityworks’ GIS-centric programs, the Public Lighting Authority was able to increase its efficiency and provide more transparency to its constituents. As the project finished, POWER helped the Public Lighting Authority move into the full-time maintenance phase. The company can now maintain the new streetlight infrastructure through its Cityworks-designed GIS.

Cityworks continues to work with the Public Lighting Authority to offer support, updated training on new features that become available, and maintenance.

Detroit residents now have what was promised to them: 65,000 new, energy-efficient LED streetlights. Residents have cited increased feelings of safety and better business thanks to the ever-present light available to shoppers day and night throughout the city.

Not only can residents of Detroit enjoy their streets being lit to national standards, they can also rest easy knowing that if a light goes out, the Public Lighting Authority will know about it immediately and replace it within five days.

Why Is This Case Study Important?

The work that the Public Lighting Authority, POWER, and Cityworks have done shows the importance and capabilities of GIS-centric management systems. The system created by Cityworks and POWER has given the Public Lighting Authority the ability to know more about their city and exactly how to execute maintenance in the case of a problem.

This case study highlights how asset management can be best maintained through Geographic Information Science and Technology and opens up the discussion to a wider audience than simply scientists and engineers. It also demonstrates the importance of GIS in urban planning programs.

Why Study GIS?

Studying Geographic Information Science in a graduate program exposes students to the fundamentals of geographic innovation and science and offers insights into real-world GIS applications.

The GIST graduate programs at the University of Southern California (USC) are offered at the USC Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI), within the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. These graduate programs promote spatial thinking, modeling, and visualization across several other USC disciplines, so GIST students get a well-rounded understanding of the uses of GIS.