Developing a Web-Based GIS for Hajj Traffic Plan

Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

Developing a Web-Based GIS for Hajj Traffic Plan
(HajjGIS.Net)

Dr. Nabeel A. Koshak

Hajj Research Institute
Umm Al-Qura University
Makkah, Saudi Arabia
n@cad-gis.com

Abstract

A major challenge facing urban planners and designers in the city
of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, is planning the movement of vehicles and
mass transit during the period of Hajj (Islamic Pilgrimage) when a
huge number of people come from all over the world for religious
activities. Every year, local authorities need to provide a traffic
awareness plan that can be implemented during Hajj to avoid traffic
congestion. A traditional means to distribute awareness of the
traffic plan is to publish hard copy maps and distribute them to local
authorities and the public before each Hajj season. This method
requires extensive time and resources. This paper demonstrates
how the web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) can be
utilized to provide broader and easier distribution of the traffic plan.
Such a system will facilitate understanding and ease the following
of the traffic plan. Awareness of the plan will help implementation
and reduce traffic congestion due to unawareness. In addition,
urban planners and urban designers can easily access the annual
Hajj traffic plans to support research and investigation.

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

1. Background
Hajj is one of the five pillars (central duties) of Islam. It is a set of
acts of worship to be performed in and around Makkah at least
once in a lifetime by every Muslim satisfying certain conditions.
The nature of today’s Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) requires substantial
planning and effort to provide support and infrastructure (Al-Yafi,
1993). Hajj is considered as one of the world\'s largest mass
movements. Over two million pilgrims converge every year at the
same time to perform their religious duty (Seliaman, 2001). An
important problem facing the city of Makkah during this time is
managing the movement of vehicles and mass transit.

The huge number of people (more than two million) and the nature
of their activities in Makkah and the Holy Environs (called as
Mashaer) further complicate the problem. Local authorities have
worked on various solutions to resolve the problems. For example,
small cars are not allowed to enter Makkah and the Holy Environs
during peak periods. Although some solutions have been
implemented and work, with the increasing number of pilgrims
more problems continually arise.

During the last season of Hajj 1424H (2004), more than thirteen
thousand (13,000) buses were used to transfer pilgrims from one
place to another. Traffic congestion during Hajj is a phenomenal
and serious problem in the city of Makkah and the Mashaer areas
(see Figures 1 and 2). The Mashaer areas include Arafat,
Muzdalifah, and Muna. Congestion is more severe during two
periods: Taseid and Nafrah. Taseid is the movement of pilgrims
from Makkah and Muna to Arafat during the 9th day of the twelfth
month of the lunar year named Thul Hijjah. Nafrah is defined as the
movement of pilgrims from Arafat to Muzdalifah and Muna during
the 10th night of Thul Hijjah (Seliaman, 2001).

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

Figure 1. Traffic congestion at an intersection in Arafat
(Source: Hajj Research Institute)

Figure 2. Traffic congestion on a main road in Arafat
(Source: Hajj Research Institute)

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

2. Research Problem
One approach to solving the problem of congestion during Hajj is
to have a careful plan for traffic movement. Different local
authorities participate in planning and managing the movement of
pilgrims. Part of their duties is to provide awareness of a traffic plan
during Hajj in Makkah and Mashaer each year. The more people
that are aware about the plan before Hajj, the more easily and
effectively the plan can be implemented. Main participants in plan
implementation during Hajj should include: Traffic Police (General
Security), the Ministry of Hajj, the Ministry of Transportation,
Tewafah Establishments, bus drivers, and individual pilgrims.

A traditional means of providing awareness of the traffic plan is to
publish hard copy maps and then distribute them to local
authorities and the public before each Hajj season. This method
has several problems. First, the plan has to be distributed
physically to each public and private entity participating in Hajj, a
time consuming process that requires human resources. Second,
the plan often changes and requires a reprinting and distributing of
the maps when changes do occur. Third, reprinting these maps is
a cost for local authorities.

3. Research Goals
The Internet has not changed the main functions and applications
of GIS and the value of spatial information. However, the Internet
does make spatial information available for everybody via
electronic connections. Every day, millions of people access
geographic information via the Internet (Harder, 1998). This new
technology offers governmental and private entities the possibility
of providing information to a wider base of users. The technology is
called \"Distributed Geographic Information\". It includes software
and services that utilize the Internet to allow people to access
geographic information in various useful forms, such as maps,
photos, and attribute (textual) data (Greene, 2001), (Plewe, 1997)
and (Tang, 2003).

This merger of GIS and the Internet provides a viable solution for
the different problems related to hard copy traffic plan maps for

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

traffic control during Hijj. In addition, since GIS integrates spatial
and attribute data, the Internet adds the possibility of offering
integrated maps and data by using a web interface. Any person
around the world can access and navigate spatial and attribute
data via a web browser without the need for additional software
(Peng, 2003).

4. Scientific Contribution and Research Hypothesis
Given the problems of paper-based maps for traffic plans, web-
based GIS can offer a promising means for distributing traffic plan
maps. With web-based GIS, the distribution of geographic
information becomes wider and easer. Updating information does
not require continual reprinting and redistributing maps as is
necessary with hard copy maps. Any update on the web server
that hosts the geographic information will be reflected immediately
on the web browsers of users.

A traffic plan that is web-based using GIS facilitates the distribution
of the traffic plan to different participants involved in the traffic
movement of pilgrims during Hijj (Figure 3).

Tewafah
Establishments
Bus Drivers
Pilgrims
Traffic Police
Traffic Police
Web-based GIS
for
Hajj Traffic Plan
Ministry of Hajj
Urban Planners
Figure 3. A web-based GIS traffic plan facilitates the distribution of the plan to
different participants involved in the movement of pilgrims

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

5. Applied Study
To implement a web-based GIS of a traffic plan, several steps
were followed:

First, a geodatabase has been established to capture the
representation of different kinds of traffic network components such
as highways, ring roads, primary roads, and pedestrian walkways.
Then, using survey CAD files and satellite images were used to
draw polygons representing each segment of the traffic network.
Attribute data are integrated with each traffic network segment
such as street name. The locations and attributes of main features
and land marks are also represented in other layers, such as public
services, mountains, hotels, and valleys. On top of these layers, a
layer of arrows (see Figure 4) representing allowed traffic direction
at each road during two main periods (Taseid and Nafrah) has
been drawn.

Figure 4. Arrows represent permitted traffic directions

Second, software called HTML Image Mapper was used to convert
maps from ArcView to html files. This software transforms ArcView
maps and data into interactive maps for use on the internet. It
allows for the configuration of the quality and interactions that
users should get. Having the maps as HTML files allows the user
to navigate thorough the maps without any need to download
additional software. The user will only need typical web browser
software for access of the data.

Third, a domain name has been reserved for this website. Its
address is . A website has also been designed

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

to provide an interface to the traffic plan GIS. Figure 4 shows the
main page of the web site. It provides two kinds of maps
(described below) of the traffic plan during Hajj in Makkah and
Mashaer. In addition, the site provides general information on how
to learn about the project and how to contact the project team.

Figure 4. The main page of the Hajj traffic plan GIS web site

4.1 Static Maps
The first kind of map that the website provides is static maps
(offline) available in both JPG and PDF formats (Figure 4). The
user can download these maps on a PC and then use them without
an Internet connection.

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

Figure 5. The interface to download the 12 static maps of the traffic plan
in JPG or PDF formats from the web site

4.2 Dynamic Maps
The other kind of maps that the website provides is interactive
maps (online) that allow the user to interact with maps via the web
interface (Figure 6). These maps were generated using HTML
Image Mapper software as described above. Through this
interface, the user can navigate through maps by zooming in and
out (Figure 7) and search the traffic network segment using
attribute data such as street names (Figures 8).

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

Figure 6. Traffic plan of the city of Makkah and the Holy Environs
(Arafat, Muzdalefah, and Muna)

Figure 7. Traffic plan in Muna, allowing the user to zoom
in and out and navigate through maps

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

Figure 8. Traffic plan GIS of the central area of the city of Makkah, allowing
the user to search for a particular road by name

6. Results
This paper demonstrates how web-based GIS can be utilized to
distribute a workable traffic plan during Hajj. Web-based GIS
makes the distribution of the plan easier, wider, and cheaper. The
web-interface offers both static and dynamic digital maps that can
be used by urban planners and designer, different local authorities,
and private entities who are participating in managing and
operating the movement of pilgrims. Internet interfaces can also
help individual pilgrims gain knowledge about the traffic plan from
their own countries before even arriving in Saudi Arabia. This
access will facilitate understanding and following specific traffic
plans. Earlier and more precise awareness of the plan will help in
its implementation and reduce further traffic congestion due to
unawareness. In addition, urban planners and urban designers can
easily access the annual Hajj traffic plans to support research and
investigation.

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

Acknowledgements

My thanks go to Dr. Osamah Al-Bar (Dean of the Hajj Research
Institute) and General Mansour Al-Turkey (from Hajj Traffic Police)
for their support and supervision of this work. I would like to thank
my colleagues Eng. Abullah Foudah and Dr. Ahmad Shehatah for
helping me to manage the work of building the geodatabase for the
traffic plan. I also would like to thank Akram Noor, Mustafa
Sabagh, Aatif Kurdi, and Mazen Milibary for their significant
participation in this work.

References

Al-Yafi, A. (1993). Management of Hajj Mobility Systems. Joh.
Enschede, Amsterdam, Holland.

Greene, R. W. (2001). Open Access: GIS in e-Government.
Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc., Redlands, CA,
USA.

Harder, Christian. (1998). Serving Maps on the Internet:
Geographic Information on the World Wide Web. Environmental
Systems Research Institute, Inc., Redlands, CA, USA.

Peng, Zhong-Ren and Tsou, Ming-Hsiang. (2003). Internet GIS:
Distributed Geographic Information Services for the Internet and
Wireless Networks. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey, USA.

Plewe, Bardon. (1997). GIS Online: Information Retrieval,
Mapping, and the Internet. On Word Press, Santa Fe, NM, USA.

Seliaman, Mohamed Elhassan. (2001). A Simulation Model for the
Shuttle Bus Traffic During the Nafrah Period. Masters thesis
submitted to the Department of Systems Engineering, King Fahad
University of Petroleum and Minerals.

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006

Tang, Winnie and Selwood, Jan. (2003). Connecting Our World:
GIS Web Services. Environmental Systems Research Institute,
Inc., Redlands, CA, USA.

Tomlinson, Roger F. (2003). Thinking About GIS: Geographic
Information System Planning for Managers. Environmental
Systems Research Institute, Inc., Redlands, CA, USA.

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Published in the Journal of Urban Planning Research, Cairo University, Vol. 6, Issue 6, May 2006