Data can help planners "tell the story" of the community transportation system and needs. Planners can use software that can combine different types of data and display it on maps or other visual format that is easy to understand. Maps and visualization techniques help "paint the picture" for an audience and show them information about their transportation system and what needs to be done to achieve the vision and goals set out in the LRTP.
Geographic information systems (GIS) use computer software, hardware, and data to link data to its geographic location, creating maps and other visual displays that show how certain characteristics vary across different locations. GIS information is often displayed in "layers" so that a map can show a single characteristic (e.g., type of roadway surface) or multiple characteristics at the same time (e.g., type of roadway surface, number of lanes, and traffic volume). Tribe transportation planners can use GIS to combine data that shows the location of transportation projects with other data that shows local land characteristics to produce a map that identifies land parcels and environmentally sensitive areas that might be affected by a proposed transportation project.
To strengthen public participation and help the public and decisionmakers understand proposed transportation projects, Tribes are encouraged to use visualization techniques such as drawings, animations, GIS maps, and computer models. These visual tools create displays that are easy to understand. They communicate a lot of information quickly and clearly to viewers, allowing them to get a good understanding of proposed policies and plans. Examples of visualization techniques include drawings, maps, photos, videos, GIS maps, and computer simulations.