Preprint / Version 1

Enterprise GIS in a Commuter Rail Environment

State-of-Practice at a Major Northeastern Carrier


  • Xiaojing Wei
  • Alex Lu P.O. Box 684
  • John E. Kennard
  • David Fogel



Geographic Information Systems (GIS), commuter rail, Business process management, Business Strategy, staffing, Standards., policy study


Triggered by both Superstorm Sandy aftermath and a minor operational incident—where accurate and rapid mapping would have been tremendously helpful—Metro-North Commuter Railroad deployed its first Enterprise Geographic Information System (GIS) in 2012 by federating existing departmental systems, creating a companywide Office of GIS Coordination, promulgating GIS policies and standards, and developing and marketing a uniform set of web mapping viewers designed for all employees. This paper describes state-of-practice and a checklist of strategies utilized to promote a new technology that, by its very nature, requires interdisciplinary collaboration and coordination within a proud organization steeped in rich tradition of craft-based engineering excellence. From early beginnings of companywide survey and finding an organizational home for GIS, to later phases of training, holding project managers responsible for consultant data deliverables, refreshing marketing campaigns and monitoring usage, this case study offers a glimpse of how creeping incrementalism and a web-based rapid deployment strategy can overcome institutional inertia, culminating in an ongoing culture transformation where GIS became a common acronym understood by many functional groups and managerial levels within the organization. While there will always be different degree of GIS readiness across departments, many employees at Metro-North now see the value of GIS and proactively seek it out as a resource to improve their daily workflow where circumstances warrant. Mobile device accessibility is the next logical phase of Enterprise GIS development, allowing field forces to reference and share information without printing out hardcopy maps or calling-in to office.



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Author Biography

Alex Lu, P.O. Box 684

Alex Lu had been a management analyst in the rail and transit industries for more than twenty years. He joined the railway industry in 1999 with Railtrack PLC (the former British Rail’s Infrastructure Division) in Capital and Strategic planning, and later got his first Operations job as a scheduling clerk at ScotRail Railways Limited, responsible for the short-term timetabling of the Glasgow “Blue Train” electric suburban network. Since then, he has worked with many railroads from Maine Central to Florida East Coast to Central Japan Railway to the New York City subway system, in a variety of roles including planning, management, infrastructure, big data analytics, international benchmarking, technology, and industrial engineering. Alex is a Member of the Chartered Institution of Railway Operators (MCIRO).