Introduction to GIS for Planning and Policy – Fall 2014
Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Times: Monday, 6:10 – 8:40
Civic Square Building 372 (3rd Floor Computer Lab)
Course website on Sakai: https://sakai.rutgers.edu
Course resource directory: s:\591-f14-01
Dataset directory: s:\ArcGISClass
Faculty & Office Hours
GIS Instructors:
Teaching Assistant:
Dan Schned
[email protected]
Mondays @ 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Room 372 (Computer Lab)
(651) 283-3824
Helen Zincavage
[email protected]
[email protected]
Room 371
Wednesdays @ 4:00 – 6:00
Isabel McLoughlin
[email protected]
Lyna Wiggins
[email protected]
Mondays @ 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Tuesdays @ 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Room 359
(848) 932-2802
Sarah Moran
[email protected]
Room 371
Thursdays @ 4:00 – 6:00
Introduction to GIS for Planning and Policy, Fall 2014
Section 01: Mondays @ 6:10 – 8:40
Instructor: Dan Schned
Course Schedule
Sept 8
Lecture Topic
Intro to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and ArcGIS
Basic mapping concepts, spatial representation, spatial
data, generalization, and scale
Projections, coordinate systems, datums and projection
tools in ArcGIS
Thematic mapping, table joins, data classification,
exploration and interpretation
Land Use Classification and Basic Cartographic Principles
More cartography, data visualization
Geodata Discovery, applications and workflows
Intro to Spatial Analysis, Selections and Spatial Joins
Geoprocessing and Spatial Analysis
Address Geocoding
Raster analysis in GIS, Spatial Analyst Extension
Google Fusion Tables, ArcGIS Online
GIS Relational database management systems and more
advanced geodatabase design
Policy issues and trends in GIS/GIScience
Final Presentations
Problem Set
Due on
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Introduction to GIS for Planning and Policy, Fall 2014
Section 01: Mondays @ 6:10 – 8:40
Instructor: Dan Schned
Learning Objectives
Things happen in places. There is a spatial dimension involved with almost all of our everyday activities.
Geographic information systems (GIS) help us organize, manage, analyze and present on maps the
spatial dimension of information. It is an essential tool for planners and policy makers who have special
interests in places and who need this kind of knowledge for decision making.
The purpose of this course is to teach students the foundations of GIS and how it is applied in urban
planning, public policy, and other related disciplines. The learning objectives are to:
 understand the concepts and principles of GIS, including layers, topology, the georelational
model, scale, generalization, and projections;
 select and create appropriate thematic maps for data with different levels of measurement;
 create attractive, readable and useful maps through good cartographic practice;
 understand basic concepts database systems, several different models of GIS data and how to
create and integrate non-spatial attribute data into maps;
 learn and apply basic geoprocessing tools (buffer, intersection, union, spatial join) to address
planning questions;
 provide basic training on Esri ArcGIS Desktop software and other mapping products, such as
Google Fusion Tables and ArcGIS Online; and
 discuss some of the planning and policy issues related to GIS and its implementation.
Course Format
One of the learning objectives is to gain skills in hands-on GIS software. This is accomplished in various
ways: instructor demos and hands-on laboratory exercises completed in class; problem sets completed
outside of class; and completion of the final project. Laboratory exercises and problem sets are integral
parts of the course, and help illuminate the principles and teach the skills that are useful in the planning
and policy job market. To make learning more pertinent to student interests, the lab exercises use real
data from local communities in New Jersey.
The initial “S” in GIS can be used for both “Systems” and “Science.” A major learning objective for this
course is gaining familiarity with GIScience concepts and theories. Software platforms change quickly,
but understanding these basic concepts will carry a user through those changes. They are also essential
knowledge for correctly conducting spatial analyses and cartographic tools. In addition, learning correct
GIS terminology (and there is quite a lot of GIS jargon) will allow students to communicate clearly with
GIS professionals and decision makers. To accomplish this learning objective, the lectures include many
of these concepts and terms and are reinforced in the hands-on exercises and problem sets whenever
The word “Systems” in GIS involves not only software and hardware, but also the people who create,
maintain and use GIS. Therefore, it is also a course objective to discuss policy and organizational issues
involved in GIS, and the institutional frameworks that supports them. How is spatial data created? Who
creates and maintains them? How are GISystems currently used in the organizations that are concerned
with our physical environment? What are some of the ethical issues involved in the practice of GIS? Are
there legal issues (for example, privacy) that we need to think about? These questions and more will be
integrated into the lectures, discussions, and problem sets throughout the course and in the final
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Introduction to GIS for Planning and Policy, Fall 2014
Section 01: Mondays @ 6:10 – 8:40
Instructor: Dan Schned
Our lecture topics are divided into three major themes. The first is Data Display, where we introduce
subjects such as data models, projections, map types, and cartography, and discuss many of the other
GIS components that influence how spatial data are displayed on maps. Next, we move on to Data
Collection and Management, where you will learn about the sources of spatial data, and ways of
managing spatial datasets. The last theme is Data Analysis, where we will explore the tools and
techniques available in Esri ArcGIS software to create and edit spatial data, and process and analyze the
The course combines lectures, discussion of readings, and hands-on exercises in the computer lab. You
will learn how to use the software mainly via the problem sets and final project, completed on your own
time. Learning a large and complex computer application requires hours of practice. Your final course
grade will be based on your performance in three areas: the twelve problem sets assigned throughout
the course (40%), a midterm quiz (10%), the final project (40%), and your overall participation (10%). See
below for details.
Course Grading
Problem Sets ---------Final Project ----------Mid-term Quiz -------Class Participation ----
(Scale: A=100-90, B+=90-85, B=85-80, C+=80-75, C=75-70, F=70-0)
Course Requirements
1. Problem Sets – 40%
There will be 12 problem sets assigned throughout the course – one per week, except for the week of
the quiz. Perfect problem sets receive 10 points. You will learn how to use the ArcGIS software mainly
via these problem sets and they are collectively worth 40 percent of your grade, so make sure to budget
enough time to complete them to the best of your ability. Each one will take several hours, so plan your
time accordingly. The problem sets for each week will be posted on Sakai (and S: drive) in the afternoon
on Mondays. You will have one week to complete them. You will have a chance to ask questions during
office hours and the following class meeting.
The problem sets will be due the following Tuesday by 11:55 PM. Late problem sets are accepted with a
10% deduction (1 point) per day. Exceptions will be granted only with the instructor’s permission ahead
of the deadline. If you are seeking an extension, send the instructor an email (and copy all of the TAs)
explaining why you need extra time. Late problem sets will not be accepted after the set has been
graded and returned to the rest of the class.
2. Final Project – 40%
The final project will require you to collect and prepare various GIS datasets for a municipality in New
Jersey. You will pick a municipality that you are interested in studying, and use that municipality to
produce maps and conduct spatial analyses for a particular theme (e.g., recreation, education,
redevelopment, transit-oriented development, land use change). The purpose of the final project is to
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Introduction to GIS for Planning and Policy, Fall 2014
Section 01: Mondays @ 6:10 – 8:40
Instructor: Dan Schned
give you a chance to apply all of the tools you learn in the class to an area of your interest. You should
start collecting the datasets you will need and creating some of the maps for the final project while
completing the problem sets. We will begin discussing the details of the project around the middle of
the semester (around Problem Set 6). Soon after learning the tools each week, you will start
incrementally preparing your final project through in-class, hands-on exercises. You will submit a
PowerPoint of original maps and a brief memo describing a spatial analysis. During the presentation
days, you will present your maps in front of the class (15 minute presentation) and we will critique your
results. More details about this project will be provided later in another document called “Final Project
3. Mid-term Quiz – 10%
There will be one mid-term quiz that you will have a week to complete. The quiz will cover the required
weekly readings and material covered in lectures and problem sets. It will be a combination of multiple
choice and short answer questions. The quiz will be administered through Sakai. It is a two-hour online
quiz. You must complete the quiz on your own without the help of others (university honor code
4. Participation – 10%
In order to encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas with the class, 10% of your course grade will
be determined by the quality and quantity of your participation in various course activities. You can earn
participation credit by answering questions, asking questions, or commenting in class; by seeking help
during office hours; or by posting discussions or articles on Sakai. As a result, attendance will have an
impact on your grade, however we will not take attendance at each class meeting.
Sakai and the Online Classroom
This course is designed to be paper-free, which means you should not print anything. We have an online
classroom, called “Sakai,” where you will be able to access course materials, submit problem sets, ask
questions, and post content anywhere you can connect to the Internet. The Sakai site is where you will
receive grades and feedback, and communicate with your classmates and the course staff. We will go
over each section of the Sakai site and its tools on the first day of class. To access Sakai, first go to
http://www.sakai.rutgers.edu and log on using your Rutgers NetID and password.
Academic Integrity
You are encouraged to work in groups on your problem sets. However, the written answers and maps
that you turn in must be your own work. The final project must also be your own work and have proper
citations. The Rutgers policies can be found at http://academicintegrity.rutgers.edu/academic-integrityat-rutgers.
Required readings can be downloaded on the Sakai site. You are not required to purchase any
textbooks. Some of the readings are excerpts from the following textbooks:
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Introduction to GIS for Planning and Policy, Fall 2014
Section 01: Mondays @ 6:10 – 8:40
Instructor: Dan Schned
J. Maantay & J. Ziegler. 2006. GIS for the Urban Environment.1
P. Longley, M. Goodchild, D. Maguire, D. Rhind. 2011. Geographic Information Systems and Science.2
C. Brewer, 2005. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users.3
Other recommended textbooks:
 M. Kennedy. 2006. Introducing Geographic Information Systems with ArcGIS.4
 C. Brewer, 2008. Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users.5
 H. MacDonald & A. Peters. 2011. Urban Policy and the Census.6
GIS Software
We will be using ArcGIS 10.2.2 for this course. The software is available in the computer labs on the 3rd
and 5th floor of the Civic Square Building and the studio classrooms. It is available in various other labs
around campus, but not all. You will receive a complimentary one-year educational license for ArcGIS
10.2 as part of our university site license. You will be able to use the license on your home computer.
However, your home computer should be a Windows-based machine (we will talk about issues with
Macs in class) and have sufficient RAM (at least 2GB) and disk space for this program. See specifications
at http://resources.arcgis.com/en/help/system-requirements/10.2/index.html#
GIS Data
There are two main folders that contain the data and documents you will need with this semester:
o s:\ArcGISClass – All of the data you will need for the problem sets.
o s:\591-f14-01 – All of the course material, including the lectures, readings, problem sets, handson exercises, and other course documents. Course material is also available on Sakai (see
You can copy the data folder and other course material to use on your home computer. The computers
in the Bloustein lab have CD/DVD write drives, but it is most useful to have a flash drive (as large as you
can afford) for transferring files and holding data for your final project. You probably want a second
flash drive for a backup! The personal workspace on the Bloustein server (U: drive) will not have enough
space for all of the GIS data that you will download and use for your problem sets and final project. The
data folder is available on the s: drive. You can also download the data folder from
1. This is a very good introductory book of GIS for urban planning. The book is divided into 3 parts: (1) basic text (theory and
concepts); (2) case studies; and (3) laboratory exercises with ArcGIS.
2. An excellent reference book for your library, as it covers the theory and concepts in more detail and with broader coverage
than the Maantay and Ziegler text. Make sure that you purchase the Third Edition, as significant changes were made.
3. An excellent reference on basic cartography for GIS users.
4. Provides basic concepts and detailed lab exercises using ArcGIS 9.x. Good reference book if you use ArcGIS for your job.
5. A great cartographic reference book that focuses on the idea of learning cartography from the study of excellent maps.
6. Helps you navigate the census data and summarize how to use census variables and GIS for the following areas of analysis:
(1) demographic/social; (2) economic; (3) housing; and (4) transportation.
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