SEPTA Uses Esri® Platform to Collaborate, Plan for Papal Visit to City of Brotherly Love (Part Two)

Featured during the Esri® Mid-Atlantic Users Group (MUC) conference in National Harbor, Maryland, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) successfully used Esri’s ArcGIS Online platform to help overcome logistics challenges involved with Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Fall 2015, as reviewed in our Part One blog

Data Security

Photo: Example of field data collection using ESRI Collector Application.

Photo: Example of field data collection using ESRI Collector Application.

In addition to providing a quick, accessible, and easy-to-understand GIS strategy, SEPTA’s GIS solution accounted for highly-sensitive station planning maps and data  shared between project team members. For security, SEPTA did not want station information made public until they were ready to coordinate a comprehensive release. Because of these strict requirements, there were three layers of security implemented on the data:

  1. Oracle database access was only available with Oracle users credentials.
  2. Web services published through ArcGIS server were secured.
  3. A special group was created on ArcGIS Online for the team where published data and maps were only shared through invitations.

Field Data Collection

To verify the different elements of the stations’ plan, GeoDecisions coordinated with team members, and assigned field data collection activities to individuals equipped with iPads to access published ArcGIS Online web-maps through Esri’s Collector application. During field work, the project team was able to add, change, and update data in real time. Additionally, the team took notes and added images for different train station locations.

Lessons Learned

During the project, the Gannett Fleming and GeoDecisions team required to attach images and edit data on-the-fly while onsite. Here are a few lessons learned about the field work:

  • To enable editing and adding attachment onsite using the Esri Collector application, all editable features must have Global IDs. Enabling the attachment is not enough when editing on mobile services.
  • Due to weak internet signal on some field locations, there was a need to enable editing and attaching images offline. Our team did not know that requirement beforehand when we created the Geodatabase. We figured out later that we also needed to enable archiving on the editable features. Not knowing beforehand resulted in lots of data that we could not sync.
  • Even with a strong internet signal, large images (more than 1.5 MB) sometimes did not attach,  especially if the data collector is using HD files. To compensate, we re-sampled images to a lower resolution.


Implementing an integrated and secure ArcGIS Online solution provided the project team with required data fluidity, and team members did not have to wait on others to finish before  they could start. As a result, everyone worked simultaneously at a fast pace supported by facts collected directly from the field.