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Seeing is Believing - CIP Interactive Map Applications

June 27, 2014  by  Byron Katsuyama
Category:  Tools for Planners

Seeing is Believing - CIP Interactive Map Applications

I’m going to take a wild guess and speculate that most local governments do not see long lines of citizens outside of their city halls or county courthouses anxiously waiting to read the latest updates to their capital improvements plan (CIP). That’s understandable really since most such documents aren’t known for being big page-turners. But it’s also unfortunate, because CIP-related information about completed, ongoing, and planned capital projects is just the kind of information that local governments can be most proud of and that citizens should be made more aware of.

The projects that are listed in CIP plans and other related documents offer some of the most “concrete” evidence of how your citizens' tax dollars are being spent in ways that directly benefit them and the community as a whole. However, traditional CIP documents have not been very effective in conveying this good news.

The old adage that “seeing is believing” refers to the fact that we tend to give more credence to those things that we can plainly see. We also know that information presented in a visual format is oftentimes more readily absorbed by viewers.  In today’s graphic-intensive digital world, there are many more tools available that make it easier to incorporate images and other types of graphical elements and even interactive features that can be far more effective at conveying and communicating complex information than traditional publications. So, it’s in local government’s best interest, whenever possible, to take advantage of such tools.

That’s what the cities of Bellevue and Kirkland and King County are doing with their new CIP interactive map applications. Kirkland and Bellevue’s map applications are based on Latitude Geographics’Geocortex” software. King County’s map application has been developed in-house. These CIP interactive maps make it possible to view multiple project locations at a glance and do an effective job of conveying the full scope of a local government’s capital project activities. In doing so, they can present an impressive picture of your citizens' tax dollars at work. They can also be an effective way to engage with citizens about capital projects that they would like to see in the community.


Kirkland map2 Kirkland CIP Map

The city of Kirkland’s capital improvement programs (CIP) interactive map application allows citizens to explore existing and planned projects, to learn about project status and funding, and even to communicate directly with the project’s manager.

Users can easily customize the display by selecting or deselecting the map layers they want to see, such as funded CIP projects, unfunded projects, active projects, and recently completed projects. Other map layers include a street map and neighborhood boundaries.

Once the desired map layers have been selected, users can then access project information simply by clicking on the highlighted project types, which might be a park, water line, sewer main, road section, or some other project type. The displayed project information includes the name of the project, a brief project description, project contacts, associated CIP documents, and a link to the project’s website. A CIP Map - Quick Tutorial offers basic instructions on using the application.

Kirkland adds an extra level of engagement with their “suggest a project idea” feature that gives citizens the ability to add their own project ideas directly to the map. An interactive form invites citizens to describe their project idea and, if they would like someone to follow up with them, provide contact information. New ideas are emailed directly to city staff for review. Since the city launched the site in May 2013, they have collected over 300 suggested project ideas from citizens.

Kirkland hopes to achieve efficiency gains with the new application by reducing the number of telephone and email responses that departments regularly handle in connection with citizen requests for CIP-related information. The city also hopes to encourage more citizen engagement by giving citizens a convenient way to share project-related ideas with city staff and others.

For more information about Kirkland’s experience, contact Xiaoning Jiang, GIS Administrator, 425-587-3070,


bellevue map Bellevue Projects in Your Neighborhood Map

The city of Bellevue launched a similar “Projects in Your Neighborhood” site in March 2014. Bellevue has opted not to include the “suggest a project” feature, although the site offers many of the same interactive tools for citizens wanting to learn more about completed, ongoing, and planned parks, transportation and utility projects.

Bellevue’s project information display also includes the estimated cost data and project start and end dates. A short video offers a demonstration of the application’s main features. The city’s interactive capital projects map is also accessible using mobile devices through the city’s “My Bellevue” app.

For more information about Bellevue’s experience, contact Zorba Conlen, GTS Application Developer, 425-452-6462,

King County

King County map King County Capital Projects Map

King County’s Capital Projects Map (beta) features capital projects that have a total estimated cost at completion of over $1 million. The map adds the additional option of viewing capital projects by council districts. It also provides aerial satellite view options in addition to the regular map view. Like Bellevue, King County’s application does not include a way for citizens to add their own suggestions for capital improvement projects.

King County’s project information pages incorporate a useful color coding system that allows users to quickly determine if a particular project is within budget and on-time (green), up to a 15% increase in duration and budget with potential changes (yellow), or up to a 15% increase in duration and budget requiring significant changes (red).

For more information on King County’s capital projects map, contact Sid Bender, Capital Improvement Program Manager, Performance, Strategy and Budget Office, 206-263-9681,

It’s essential for local governments to find better ways of communicating and engaging with citizens, not only to help them stay better informed, but also as a way to build greater trust and ultimately stronger communities.  Interactive tools like these CIP map applications can do much to help local governments achieve these goals.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Byron Katsuyama

Byron began work at the Center as a Research Assistant in July 1978. He holds a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Washington and an M.P.A. from the University of Washington's Evan’s School of Public Policy and Governance. After completing his M.P.A., Byron joined MRSC's consulting staff as a Public Policy and Management Consultant concentrating on municipal administration and policy analysis. Byron is responsible for research in such areas as emerging local government issues, best practices, strategic planning, performance measurement, and local government management. In addition to his consulting duties, Byron also maintains the "Focus" section of MRSC's website and is editor of our "In Focus" and "Ask MRSC" e-newsletters. He also coordinates our HR, Planning, Finance, Government Performance, and Council/Commission Advisors. In his own community of Kirkland, Byron also served for eight years as a member of the city's planning commission. Byron is a member of the Washington City/County Management Association (WCMA) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

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