Open Source GIS

A Case Study

Matt Yoder
Data and Technology Manager
Champaign County
Regional Planning Commission

IDOT Fall Planning Conference
October 3, 2019

Example web map from a training session

About Me

  • 5 years at CCRPC
  • Background in Python software development
  • Lead a small team of software developers, analysts, and interns that develop and support planning tools
Matt Yoder


  • Staff of ~300
  • ~20 GIS users
  • Wide range of GIS skill levels
Members of the CCRPC team during a recent bike to work day

Open Source Software

  • Source code is made available
  • Developed and supported by a global community
  • Free to use and distribute
Open Source Initiative logo

Previous GIS Tools

  • ArcMap
  • ArcSDE and File Geodatabase
  • ArcGIS Collector
  • ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Online


  • Too few licenses for a growing staff
  • Proprietary data formats
  • Limited ability to customize tools using Python
  • Web map publication workflow too cumbersome
Changing licenses in ArcGIS Administrator

Data Collection

  • Which GIS features do we actually use?
  • Gathered ArcGIS geoprocessing logs
  • Used Python to parse logs and generate statistics
Open source tool equivalence spreadsheet

Data Analysis

Most high and medium priority tools have good open source equivalents.

Geoprocessing Tool Equivalence


  1. Desktop GIS and data management
  2. Data collection and web mapping
Memo outlining implementation plans for open source GIS

Desktop GIS

QGIS: Desktop application
for cartography, data management, and geoprocessing

QGIS displaying a map of sidewalk network data collection


SQL code for sidewalk gap analysis

Data Collection

QField: Android app for field data collection

QField mobile app collecting sidewalk data

Web Maps

Web Map Exporter: QGIS plugin for creating web maps

Web Map Exporter for QGIS and a generated web map

Web Maps

Alternative Fuel Stations: Published using Web Map Exporter

Web Apps

Transportation Improvement Program: Interactive database of regional transportation projects


  • Unlimited GIS users
  • Data interoperability
  • Investment in custom tools
  • Streamlined web map publishing workflow
The Copy Network Attributes geoprocessing tool developed by CCRPC


  • Integrating open source tools with each other
  • Documentation and training
  • Sharing data with users of proprietary software
  • Legacy maps and third-party software
Documentation from a training session entitled Getting Started with Web Maps


  • How well are proprietary tools meeting your needs?
  • How complicated is your current GIS ecosystem?
  • Which GIS features do you currently use?
  • How much technical capacity do you have on your team?
ArcGIS Online map editing interface

Best Practices

  • Identify your needs, and develop a detailed plan.
  • Phase in tools and processes over time.
  • Communicate with users throughout the transition.
  • Share your innovations with the community.
Source code from the subwaytile server is published on GitLab.



Matt Yoder