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Grantee Blog 2020

Navigating Around Roadblocks in Online Mapping Tool Development

As we keep moving forward with our interactive, online food & transportation mapping tool during the COVID-19 pandemic new challenges arise. Sometimes they can be overcome with a little help from friends, and other times they can be more challenging to find a solution for.

Case in point: In order to add the City of Elizabeth’s bus route data into our online mapping tool, PolicyMap (the mapping tool developer) needed Elizabeth’s bus route data in a shapefile format.

Now when this project was first planned pre-pandemic, all of our coalition partners were very communicative and meeting monthly to share updates and resources. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic many organizations have had to change how they are structured (staffing available, the days/hours they operate, etc.). Despite our efforts and efforts by other coalition partners, we couldn’t get in touch with the contact in our coalition who has access to transportation related files.

Although this was a setback, we were able to resolve it with the help of NJHCN’s very own director Janet Heroux! After reaching out to her and explaining the situation, she was able to use her own contacts to put us in touch with someone who gave us access to the shapefiles. The shapefiles PolicyMap received because of Janet’s help worked without a problem . . . but brought up a new dilemma we couldn’t have foreseen when we began this project.

On PolicyMap’s end, the mapping tool we are creating is known as a widget. When PolicyMap uploads bus routes into any type of widget (including our mapping tool) the routes show up in the form of black dashes. In the past PolicyMap only had reason to include a few bus routes into a single widget, so it was easy to tell the different bus routes apart. But with the number of bus routes Elizabeth has, and the way some of them overlap, it may make it challenging for viewers to figure out which bus route is which. That functionality is necessary for our mapping tool so that viewers can figure out which bus route they need to take to get to a specific food provider site showcased on the map.

PolicyMap is currently working on the situation on their end to see what, if any, solutions can be found before telling us what our options are. While we don’t know what the final result will be at this time, we’ll share it with you in the next blog so that any of you who would also like to create a mapping tool/widget with PolicyMap knows what is (or isn’t) possible for this type of project.

About the Grantee

The Gateway Family YMCA

The Gateway Family YMCA (TGFY) is a community-based organization rooted in Christian principles and committed to building healthy lives through programs that strengthen spirits, minds, and bodies for people of all ages, religions, and cultures. A leader in the Shaping Elizabeth coalition, TGFY is committed towards supporting the health, nutrition, and physical activity of all Elizabeth residents.