This page provides important information on how to use and interpret the Plan Visualization using Google Earth. Please read through this before continuing on to the visualization. The projects shown in this visualization reflect only those approved as part of the the 2007-2010 updates to the CLRP. Check back later for the updated visualization of projects included in the 2011 CLRP update.
Google Earth is a free-of-charge downloadable virtual Earth program. It constructs this virtual Earth by dynamically piecing together a series of aerial and satellite photographs. Google Earth allows users to zoom in and out, and pan across the Earth's surface. It also allows information providers of all kinds to publish geo-spatial information that overlays with the virtual Earth background of aerial and satellite photographs.
Google Earth is NOT real-time. The photography presented by Google Earth is static. Depending on what part of the Earth you are viewing, the aerial photography may be several years old.
SAFETEA-LU specifies that MPOs such as the TPB must use enhanced visualization techniques in their planning and outreach efforts. TPB staff has recommended using Google Earth as one tool in its efforts towards better visualization of the Plan as well as other planning activities, such as the scenario study.
One Google Earth feature that is not described in the tour is how to use a scroll-wheel mouse with Google Earth. When using Google Earth with a scroll-wheel mouse, one can use the scroll-wheel to easily zoom in and out of the Earth.
It is very important to note that project shapes are represented in Google Earth as stylized lines and do not represent actual alignments. The lines have been made semi-transparent with exaggerated widths. The information windows display project descriptions also contain a reminder of this fact.
Each Plan project and study that is displayed in Google Earth has four components. The first is the project's shape, which is a stylized representation of the project. Each shape also has an "info" icon which is generally located at the line's mid-point. Pointing the cursor at this "info" icon makes the icon increase in size, makes the shape turn opaque, and makes the project's name label become visible. This highlighting and labeling allows users to know which project is being selected, and see the extent of the project shape when it overlaps with other shapes. Finally, clicking in the "info" icon calls up the project's Info Window. This window contains information about each project and provides links (where available) to other online resources for project information, such as a project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The animated image below illustrates how to click on a project shape to identify it and see its Info Window.
Google Earth has a series of built-in layers which allow users to add other pre-defined layers to the Earth. These layers include geographic features, jurisdictional boundaries, points of interest, etc.
Some of these built-in layers may be turned on by default. While viewing the CLRP Visualization, it may be desirable to turn off unwanted layers. Layers can be turned off by unchecking the box next to them in the Layers panel.
One built-in layer which is very useful for purposes of visualizing the Plan is the "roads" layer. Google Earth represents existing roads with yellow lines. (See the image to the right.) Highways are labeled with shields identifying the highway route numbers, and other roads (which appear when zoomed in) are labeled with the road names.
The Plan's shapes are presented above (on top of) the pre-defined roads in Google Earth. Because the Plan's shapes are semi-transparent, the yellow roads can show through the Plan shapes.
Users can turn on the Roads layer and other pre-defined layers using the layers sidebar, which is located in the lower-left corner of the Google Earth window.
Another useful built-in layer is the "borders" layer. This layer will show the jurisdictional boundaries of cities, counties and states. As with roads, this layer is built-in to Google Earth and can be turned on and off by checking and unchecking the "borders" checkbox in the Layers panel. An animation showing the boarders layer is presented to the right.
The Plan visualization contains layers which can be independently toggled on and off. These layers are described below.
The Plan layers are visible in the Places sidebar at the left-hand side of the Google Earth window, above the Layers sidebar. Each layer (Highways, Studies, etc.) can be toggled off and on by clicking the check-box next to the name of the layer. Please note that clicking the check boxes next to the feature types (Major Studies, Other Studies, New Road, etc.) does not currently have any effect within Google Earth.
This layers list also acts as a legend, illustrating which color relates to which project type. It should be noted that the lines on the map are semi-transparent, yet the color samples in the layers list (legend) are opaque. Therefore, the colors in the layers list will not match up exactly with the colors of the project shapes on the map.
It should be noted that Transit, HOV and HOT lane projects are grouped into a single layer. TPB staff has historically grouped Transit, HOV and (now) HOT lane projects onto one map because each of these three facility types promotes the movement of non-Single-Occupancy-Vehicles.
In order to provide some context, other layers have been included in the CLRP Google Earth Visualization. These suplementary layers are grouped together at the bottom of the 2006 CLRP tree in a folder called "Other TPB Layers" which contains the following layers:
TPB Boundary: the extent of the TPB jurisdiction.
Existing Metrorail: a line layer showing the current extent of the Metrorail system.
Existing Commuter Rail: All existing MARC and VRE lines are represented by the layers in this subfolder.
As discussed above, Transit, HOV and HOT projects are listed on a single layer. It is natural to group these types of projects, because they are all intended to provide capacity for vehicles other than single-occupancy vehicles.
Stylized shapes are used to represent transit and HOV/HOT projects and are not alignments.
The Plan contains three types of transit projects: New Transit, Transit Improvements and New Transit Stations. Where available, planned transit stations that are part of a larger project are indicated as smaller white markers along the line representing the transit project. New transit stations that are stand-alone projects are represnted as full-sized white markers. Both of these are ilustrated below.
New Transit (white line) with related transit station (smaller white marker)
Transit Improvement (gray line)
New Transit Station (full-sized white marker)
Additionally, this layer contains the HOV lane projects as well as the new High-Occupancy/Toll (HOT) lane projects.
TPB Staff is actively working on adding other planning layers to the Google Earth Plan Visualization. One of these layers is the Activity Centers layer . The activity centers as determined by the Round 7.0a DRAFT Cooperative Forecast (Feb 26, 2007) are currently displayed, and are denoted with a diamond-shaped icon that contains three blue buildings. Moving the mouse pointer to the icon causes the activity cluster's name to appear. Clicking on the icon activates its Info Window, which displays land use statistics and projections for each activity center.
Please note that the shapes are stylized and conceptual representations of development.
By clicking the above link, you confirm that you have read the above instructions and caveats. You are also acknowledging that this is a test/beta version of the TPB Plan Visualization. If you have problems launching Google Earth after clicking the above link, see the section below.
I clicked the link but Google Earth didn't launch.
Clicking the above link prompts your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) to download a special Google Earth data file, called a "KMZ" file. This file is a data file for Google Earth. Your web browser is supposed to launch Google Earth and pass to it the KMZ file you just downloaded.
Often, your web browser does not know what to do with a particular type of file. If this happens when you click the link to download the KMZ file, you should see a window which looks like that shown to the below:
The two options are "Open" or "Save." Choose "Open." If "Google Earth" is not listed as an option, click on the drop-down list, choose "other" and then browse to the location where Google Earth is installed on your computer. This is most-likely C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth.
To prevent having to do this every time you view Google Earth data, click the "Do this automatically for flies like this from now on" check-box.
If you are unable to open the Google Earth visualization using the above instructions, try the following steps:
Right-click on the link above to bring up the pop-up menu
Choose "Save Target As..." (Microsoft Internet Explorer) or "Save Link As..." (Firefox)
When prompted, choose to save the file on your Desktop. Make sure the file name ends in ".kmz"
Open Google Earth. Choose "File > Open" and navigate to your desktop. Find the file you saved, select it, then click the "Open" button.
If you continue to have problems opening the Google Earth visualization, please Email Us.
I can't see the CLRP road/transit/HOV/HOT/studies lines.
It has been reported that at least one user has had problems seeing the CLRP project lines presented in Google Earth. This may be a problem with the "rendering engine" used on an individual computer. The lines are actually there, but are just very thin. There is currently no work-around for this problem. If you experience this problem, please Email Us.
Some versions of Google Earth on some computers have problems showing the Activity Centers, described above. If you are successfully able to start Google Earth, but then receive an error message, try using this file that has the Activity Centers removed.
As mentioned above, the visualization only displays "major" projects with "regional significance". Therefore, many current and upcoming projects may not be included.
Also, many projects and programs cannot be easily mapped: this could be because they do not have a specific geographic location (such as the Commuter Connections program) or because their geographic location has yet to be determined.
When you first download the CLRP Visualization, Google Earth places it in the Temporary Places section of the Places sidebar. These "places" are removed every time you quit Google Earth. However, Google Earth prompts you to save your Temporary Places into a section called My Places. Places saved to My Places will reappear next time Google Earth is loaded.
If you don't want the CLRP Visualization to reappear, make sure to choose "No" when prompted to save it into My Places. If you have already saved the CLRP Visualization into My Places and you wish to remove it, you have two options:
Uncheck the box in the Places sidebar next to the "2006 CLRP" entry.
Right-click on "2006 CLRP" in the Places sidebar, choose "Delete" from the pop-up menu.
As mentioned above, the CLRP Visualization displays the Regional Activity Centers. These areas are displayed as translucent orange polygons. Some computers do not have video cards capable of displaying these translucent polygons superimposed against the Earth background. If you have an older computer, you may not be able to see the activity centers.
As mentioned above, Google Earth contains a series of built-in layers which can be turned on and off. A few of these layers are turned on by default. This may include the Geographic Web and Featured Content layers. If you do not wish to view these layers, uncheck the boxes next to their names in the Layers panel.
Why do the map symbols get smaller when I zoom in?
The symbols in the visualization, including lines and markers (point symbols), do not change size when you zoom in or out, but instead stay the same size. The appearance of them growing larger or smaller is an optical illusion. This is a built-in feature of Google Earth.
If you have any additional questions, please Email Us.