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Open Maps?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the community-cartography dept.

United States 278

Chilltowner asks: "I'm trying to get local (US) maps together for a community project. I want to able to modify and annotate the maps and provide them free to the public, creating a derivative open work. They also need to be accurate down to the street level and no more than 10 years out of date. I've been searching around for maps available in the public domain or under open licenses, like the Creative Commons licenses allowing derivative works. I've looked at the National Atlas, but the maps, though interesting, aren't detailed enough with street information. The topographical and aerial image maps available through that site are from Terraserver, which are copyrighted to Microsoft. Plus, I really just need simple vector road maps, not USGS rasters. I tried looking at the Census Bureau's TIGER line data, but I can't make heads or tails of it. Are there maps available through other agencies (national or international)? Are there Free/Open-Source Software projects that are making use of public data to build street-level maps for free (as in speech) use?"

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fp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284878)

fp bitches

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284879)

fuck you

No, fuck you! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284991)

How does it feel to be a fucking failure, faggot! If you are going for the treasured first post, you damn sure better get it. Otherwise, you will be remembered not for your attempt, but for your utter failure to achieve first post.

In conclusion, netcraft now confirms; you fucking fail it!

sad drunk (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285015)

Sometimes I wonder if it is worth reading Slashdot at all in the weekends.

There are plenty of gimps like you who like to get drunk and start picking a fight on-line instead of going out and having fun with real people (and getting perhaps even laid in the process!).

You are a pathetic excuse for a human being.

Freegis? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284881)

FreeGIs project?

The FreeGIS Project provides * software overview on free Geographic Information Systems (this web site)
* communication on developments, plans, infos on free GIS software and free Geo-Data (mailing list)
* software and data prepared for direct use (CD)

Re:Freegis? (0)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284895)

That's a very good source of information!

thanks a lot.

Re:Freegis? (5, Informative)

ruckc (111190) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285073)

good source of information, but doesn't come with maps.

Best place i have found maps is:

1) Tiger data (If you read the infosets long enough you can begin to undersdtand them)

2) Shapefiles from ESRI [] (These shapefiles were generated from Tiger data)

The software i prefer to use is Tiger Map Server [] The author of this software has also figured out a way to convert tiger data into his own shapefiles due to ESRI's license.

Best of luck!

Re:Freegis? (1)

bherzog (132580) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285102)

good source of information, but doesn't come with maps.

Well, they do have links [] to sources of free geographic data. Some of the data is also on the FreeGIS CD-ROM.

PS: I work for the people who run FreeGIS.

No need to re-invent the wheel (4, Informative)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284884)

Maybe it's possible to buy a database of that information and make it your own? I don't think, for example, started from scratch... That would be a hell of a lot of work.

Liberate it! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284886)

Just liberate the proprietary maps.

It's the GNU way!

Re:Liberate it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284900)

No, that is MS's way as told by the extremely large number of successful lawsuits against them. GNU has not had one successfull lawsuit against it.

Maybe it's time (5, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284887)

I've seen several projects where people use their PDA/GPS to map their daily route. Maybe it's time someone organized a collective mapping project, for release cunder the creative commons license.

Re:Maybe it's time (1)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285086)

I've seen several projects where people use their PDA/GPS to map their daily route. Maybe it's time someone organized a collective mapping project, for release cunder the creative commons license

It seems to me that it would take much, much less effort to use satellite pictures with some software that can recognize roads ans streets (and maybe someone manually labeling the streets). Maybe it has been done already.


I'd suggest really old maps (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284891)

They're out of copyright by now, and unless you're in one of those fancy "new" cities like Phoenix, they'll probably be pretty close to how things are now, or at least easy enough to add to.

Wrong. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284940)

copyrights are for a long fucking time in the USA.
Find one of those "old" maps. They're always engineering the roads. You'll find things are quite different now than then. They even change the names of the roads. Your Local "MLK drive" was called something different 30 years ago.

Re:I'd suggest really old maps (3, Interesting) (707997) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285166)

I've seen some old aerial photographs of the city I live in (and I wouldn't be surprised if those photos were as old as webster 1913) but the major roads, rivers, and landmarks still remain in the same place. While we're at it, we could make a digitized map of the past (maybe some historians with grant access would be interested) and edit on top of these maps. The one problem would be the lack of GPS information from old maps, but that could be solved by extracting coordinates from the maps and photos, with probably reasonable accuracy.

The key to a copy-free solution would be maintenance. Just copy how the major map companies update their data. And the public would do a better job of it since as a whole the general public has more itches they want to scratch than the few paid workers who update maps. (e.g. "that road doesn't exist!!") As mentioned on /. way back when, one could drive around with a GPS coordinates recording device.

Making maps is not an esoteric science (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284894)

People have been making maps for hundreds of years, maybe thousands of years.

Hell a Japanese guy [] with no formal mathematical training was able to figure out how to make very accurate maps (especially considering the poor accuracy of the maps of Europe) using no more than 300 men, several teams of horses, and large sextants and compasses.

Why don't you start up a mapping project on your own and put a subproject idea under the main banner encouraging people to implement whatever harebrained scheme you are talking about. The community will enjoy your work and you will gain notoriety as the guy who opened maps to the world.

Re:Making maps is not an esoteric science (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284912)

He's basically asking if someone else has already done this. Mapping is a lot of work and there would not be much of a point in duplicating the effort.

Re:Making maps is not an esoteric science (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284919)

Someone's already written Unix, but it doesn't stop people from trying to reinvent it every day.

Re:Making maps is not an esoteric science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284938)

That's their choice. This Ask Slashdot is by someone who specifically asks for existing data.

Re:Making maps is not an esoteric science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285025)

Yeah really, he is asking for maps that already exist, to organize them digitally and make the catalogue available to the public. In what sense do you get the notion his desire is to create maps? Your response was an answer to a question that was not asked. Are you George Bush?

Re:Making maps is not an esoteric science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285094)

Are you George Bush?

No, I'm not.

I'm George W. Bush, and I approved this post.

Answer. (1)

IchBinDasWalross (720916) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284896)

Are there maps available through other agencies (national or international)? Are there Free/Open-Source Software projects that are making use of public data to build street-level maps for free (as in speech) use?


USGS (5, Informative)

glass_window (207262) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284902)

The USGS has this really cool thing they call the 'national map' ( that will display all sorts of information down to the street level and it allows you to download and print the maps you display along with the information. But enough of that, go check it out for yourself, enjoy!

For a more direct link:

MOD PARENT DOWN! (0, Offtopic)

IchBinDasWalross (720916) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284909)


HOLY CRAP (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284937)

That's the coolest thing I've ever seen.

Yeah, there's definitely no point to Chilltowner's project--which is now nothing more than a hyperlink to the National Map.

As hyperlinks for the copy-and-paste impaired:

National Map []
Direct link to viewer []

Re:HOLY CRAP (2, Interesting)

timothv (730957) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285096)

If you thought that was cool, wait till you see []

Re:HOLY CRAP (1) (707997) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285205)

What's so great about map24? are map24 maps "open"?


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285155)

Yeah, it's pretty sexy. If you want to feel like you are leet and all that, hit F11 and make it fullscreen on one of your computers. Makes your computer room look like a war room.

PostGIS (3, Interesting)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284907)

First, look at PostGIS. It is a geographic extension to PostgreSQL. That gives you a single place to store your data.

Then look for "TIGER PostGIS" to find tools which support both formats, and find something to read TIGER into PostGIS. Then look at editing and display tools to find one which supports PostGIS.

Re:PostGIS (4, Informative)

po8 (187055) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285196)

Yeah, this is the kind of /. question that drives me nuts. "I want some map data, with a whole bunch of constraints on what kind it is, and I want it to be free. Oh, by the way, I found exactly that from the USGS. However, in spite of the fact that there are tens or maybe hundreds of open source projects that use it just fine, I can't figure out how. So that's no good."

The first page of after searching for "tiger" contains a link to this open source TIGER map server [] . Maybe that would be a good starting point. Further down the page are getmap [] and geotools [] , which also support TIGER.

I wish submitters and especially editors would realize that when they don't do their homework, they're wasting the time of literally hundreds of thousands of people. Sometimes a lot of time, like when the idiots actually waste extra time writing a long-winded reply.

*scratches head* (4, Informative)

Akardam (186995) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284908)

Maybe I've missed something, but I was under the impression that the arial and topo maps presented via terraserver were copyrighted/owned by the people that put them together in the first place. I don't think Microsoft, as much as we may think otherwise, has mapping sats in orbit. Last time I checked, the data itself belonged to people like the USGS.

Re:*scratches head* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284939)

as much as we may think otherwise, has mapping sats in orbit.

Yes. That is what they want us to believe. The truth, however, is much, much worse. Believe me when I say that Microsoft does have satellites up there and that they're not for mapping. All I can say about it here are two words: Project Thor.

Re:*scratches head* (4, Interesting)

ericspinder (146776) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284984)

Yes, you have "missed something" the National Atlas (a service of the USGS) [] is clearly public domain material. As is (I think) all published government sources. In fact, most of what the map makers do is based on government surveys and publications. The companies do some fact checking(some better than others), add "features", and consolidate information, but the 'base' work is often public domain.

Re:*scratches head* (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285006)

Usually if a company funds a satalite photo it will retain the ownership of that photo. i'm not completly sure about what kind of deal microsoft and others had with putting the terra server in place but, if they funnded the photography then they could own it. (think along the lines of construction. the owner of the buldozer and the road grader doesn't own the roads they make when the city pays them to make the roads)

Now on the other hand, if all they did was take government information that was freely availible (maybe even for a fee) and asemble it, i think they would only own the way it was being presented.

Re:*scratches head* (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285016)

Likewise, I thought USGS data (including aerial photos) was public domain, and only Terraserver's *presentation* was copyrighted. Maybe that's why Terraserver backed off being paid-sub-access only??

Re:*scratches head* (2, Interesting)

jamestedrick (681552) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285018)

Map data produced by the US government is generally available royalty-free for reuse; once Microsoft/Delorme/RandMcnally modify/refine it, they can then apply their copyright to the derived product. In the UK, national mapping data is kept under crown copyright.

Re:*scratches head* (1)

mikeboone (163222) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285052)

You're right in this can use the Terraserver their FAQ [] .

But I think another poster is correct in saying that some copyright their presentation of the data. See TopoZone [] for example.

Maps and accessories baby... (5, Interesting)

chamilto0516 (675640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284910)

I was suprised when I bought my GPS unit. The maps (or unlocking the maps that we shipped with it) were almost as expesive as the unit itself. I have a Garmin eTrex Venture and between the Garmin US and DeLorme TOPO USA, I have paid more for this data than the hardware.

The maps are where the GPS device companies make their profit. That and accessories ($35USD for an AC car adapter!).

If I were to ever start my own Open/Free project, it would most likely be a call to all us GPS hobbyist out there to create our own Open/Free maps and GPS coordinates of useful landmarks.

Excellent Ask Slashdot question...

Re:Maps and accessories baby... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284952)

what you could do is just record your gps coordinates. Then as hundreds of people move about, all recording it, then you'll build a map. What's better is the popular routes will be strengthened.

Re:Maps and accessories baby... (4, Interesting)

cosmol (143886) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285050)

Then as hundreds of people move about, all recording it, then you'll build a map.
That's sort of like the strategy ant colonies use to establish paths. It's interesting, but such a brute force method would duplicate much effort, and miss many routes. The data is out there, we just need to convert it into a usable format.

Re:Maps and accessories baby... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285239)

It would duplicate effort but that just means that you have a greater rate of accuracy. And it may miss some routes but those are the ones that are never used...are there roads that are never used? Whats the purpose of mapping them?

Re:Maps and accessories baby... (1)

cosmol (143886) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285012)

I too discovered this. It's a shame because garmin has the sexiest hardware, but they charge an arm and a leg for data which they obviously had to get from somewhere else.

Re:Maps and accessories baby... (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285099)

They get it, at least the street maps, from NavTech. NavTech is the same people that supply auto makers with software for the DVD navigation systems. It's not cheap for sure. I've also found it to be pretty outdated. I've had my Garmin GPS V+, which I love, for a while and have never seen the map software updated.

Figure out the TIGER data. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284911)

That's the best your going to do for free.

Try FEMA (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284916)

You could check the FEMA site. I'm not sure what license they use and the maps might just be from USGS.
The maps are intended for flood plain information and I recall some difficulty in finding my street back when I needed to use their system. You can't just enter an address and get a map with a red X. You need to figure out what part of the grid your in and select your panel.

TIGER -- look again (4, Informative)

pb (1020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284920)

Go to freshmeat and search for "tiger maps"; check out the Tiger Map Server project.

Note that they don't have labels rendered on the streets yet, but plan to add this. However, all the code is there, and the data is available, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel here.

Re:TIGER -- look again (4, Informative)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285008)

I think he's needing datasets & not predrawn maps. His best & cheapest bet would be to get the Free TIGER line files & read thru the 436pg manual on how to use them. That's what we did. I guess if time is a problem, then he's going to pay out the nose. Other resources include MapInfo Streetworks (not too expensive for the level of detail) & ESRI.


Tiger Files (5, Informative)

aef123 (113763) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284923)

Take another look at the Tiger Files, they really are one of the best sources of data you can use. In fact, I have found that the tiger files are even more accurate than MapQuest for rural Utah towns. (However, MapQuest has them beat for more populous areas.)

Not only do the files include streets, but it also covers bodies of water, railways, etc.. You can even retrieve additional information such as school districts and voting districts, which you can overlay on your maps.

Along with the files, you can download a 300 page PDF document fully detailing all the table structures and how to interpret the data.

Don't discount them just because it will take a bit of work to figure them out.

Maporama (3, Interesting)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284925)

I actually prefer using Maporama [] , which allows you to generate maps up to 999x999 pixels.

You can choose a number of color styles, and you can save the generated map as a gif file, which is can then edit with common software. Very configurable, and an account is not needed.

They also provide street numbers when you are zoomed in close enough.

Overall, worth a bookmark.

1000x1000 - woo. (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284972)

You can actually gain a pixel both ways by URL-modification. Might be easier to work with.

Either way - awesome site, definitely bookmarked.

Re:Maporama (2, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284978)

I don't know about this - according to MapORama, my house in located in the middle of a giant body of water. It rains a lot around here, but not that much...

Re:Maporama (3, Informative)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285021)

There are a few oddities I've noticed, often due to the boundaries for bodies of water being defined at the province or stare level, and not being detailed enough at the local level. But often they are quite good.

Re:Maporama (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285042)

according to MapORama, my house in located in the middle of a giant body of water.

Wait until the weekend is over; you'll be praising their accuracy. ;-)

Re:Maporama (1)

wildjim (7801) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285113)

I'd never heard of Maporama before.
I'm from New Zealand, but left for Britain 5 years ago. In that time, this is the first mapping web-site that even knew NZ existed, let alone could map street names -> map locations...
Obviously I've just been using the wrong web-site, as I notice the maps are from NavTech, and I believe that's one of the more popular providers to Mapping web-sites.

Property Appraisal Maps (3, Interesting)

webber1 (191906) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284926)

Why not check with the property appraisers in the area for which you seek a map. Most are to street level and are pretty up to date since the taxation depends on their accuracy?

maps on ontario (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284928)

I am from ontario and our ministry of transportation has detailed maps of the entire province on thier web site, I dont know how detailed they are at the city level but since they are owned by the province they would be public domain.

Re:maps on ontario (1)

colinemckay (610522) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285037)

1. Major streets, not residential. 2. Copyright by the Queen's Printers

Re:maps on ontario (1)

mumblestheclown (569987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285162)

Umm, Canada, unlike the United States, claims "government copyright" on many items and thus items that are owned by the government are NOT necessarily in the public domain.

For example, have a look at some of the small print on Transport-Canada published aviation maps.

Try the County Assessor yet? (2, Informative)

dankney (631226) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284933)

Local municipalities and county government will definitely have maps that are owned by the public. They will, for the most part, be very up to date and extremely accurate - right down to the blueprints and floor plans of buildings appearing on them.

If your project is focused on one local area, they're probably adaptable. If you're trying to put together a national database, it will be difficult. Each municipality will have very different maps in terms of scale, style and detail (is the utility map the same as the county assessor map? Or does each department keep its own maps?).

Unifying all of this data is what keeps map companies in business. It's a lot of work.

Re:Try the County Assessor yet? (2, Informative)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285023)

They may have maps, but not in a format that's ready to import into a computer and start cracking.

I work writing and installig public safety software (dispatching, police/fire/ems records, etc). Mapping is a big thing these days, especially for rural communities that are sprawled out over a huge area, yet have finite resources.

911 call from lot 12, rural route 15 - whos closest, Jeb or Clem? Or a fire engine pulls up to a fire, there's a hydrant next door, and one 6 houses up. Which one to use? Look at the map which gives the known flow rates for each - if the one six houses up can supply 10 times more water, that's what you want. Sex offenders can't live within a mile of a school or church.. Thematically mapping incidents by reporting district or beat, etc, etc, etc...

Most have paper maps that are 50 years old, and a stack of addendum paper maps. These are useless for my purpose, and you can't just sit there with a ruler and try and convert the various lots into lats/longs - it's not accurate enough. You need to the precise lat/long for 102 Main St to pinmap it, and whether decidegrees or HMS, a slight difference in the least significant digit puts the pin in the next county.

You'd be surprised how innacurate the older maps are. The courts are still clogged with suits over who owns this fence/tree/driveway because the old maps were so arbitrarily drawn.

Creating a good set of geolocation data really means a small army of guys with expensive GPS equipment pounding pavement, walking down the center of the roads as the computer plots it, walking to the vertices of the various polygons (school districts, beats, etc) while the GPS creates the data.

It's expensive and time consuming. Most smaller counties/cities dont have the budget for it. There's been a boom in it lately, I'm getting tons and tons of "homegrown" gps data from municipalites (of which the resulting maps look like dogshit, please if you're a city IS guy - contract it out, you aren't up to the task). Alot of depts are spending their cut of the Homesec dollars on this type of thing.

Anyhow, they dont exist for free - at least not at the level of detail that I need.

Re:Try the County Assessor yet? (2, Interesting)

winwar (114053) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285145)

Do you really need the accuracy and precision you are talking about? For 911 dispatch, who cares which property the tree is in. That level of precision and accuracy would be nice but is it needed or would the money be better spent elsewhere. Hell, USGS 7.5minute quads combined with Tiger, orthophoto, parcel data, and other info is probably good enough. I mean, how accurate is that water main map anyway.... After all, the responders have brains and in theory have at least a passing knowledge of the area...
Finally, in theory property lines used to create parcel maps were surveyed and you could just digitize them. Then georeference them. It should be good enough. If it isn't, then I doubt any amount of GPS is going to help at anything resembling a reasonable cost (if the maps are good enougth for people to find hydrants, water mains, property-then that can be transferred to the computer). Granted, it isn't easy. It's boring. It's tedious. It's time consuming. And the surveys and maps aren't always correct. But don't assume guys pounding pavement with a gps will do any better for anything resembling the same cost. Survey grade gps does not equal absolute gps accuracy. More correctly, you would need guys driving a van with differential gps to do better for roads at least(Navtech comes to mind)...

Re:Try the County Assessor yet? (1)

NormanEinstein (660175) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285076)

Your local government (town/city/county) is definitely the quickest and best way to find out what's available for the area if you don't want to use TIGER data.

Something like a single line road network (slrn) for a city is pretty common and easy to create. Most city's will give you this data if you sign some papers adn agree not to sell or use it for a commercial endeavour. Failing that, you can grab a laptop and gps and drive around the city yourself easily (unless you live in a huge city).

Getting someone to give you aerial photos or satellite imagery can be extremely difficult because the agency that originally took those photos almost always retains exclusive rights to distribute.

Give your local city hall a shot. I manage the GIS system at a mid-sized Canadian city and deal with this stuff daily. The only information requests we regularly deny are those from businesses that will make money from the data or if the requests seem to have no purpose (other than they want the data).

I'm looking too. (3, Informative)

Kent Swanson (764578) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284935)

I'm trying to set up a similar to mapquest, but specifically to find bike friendly routes. I have searched around an the best data I have found is the tiger map data. The file naming scheme in not friendly but once you are past that it isn't so bad. Lood for opengis ( a cd of gis tools) to help process the data. Grass is a good tool, and mapserver from the university of Minnesota is a good web tool for displaying maps. The one downside of TIGER data is that it doesn't tell you if roads are connected or just pass over or under each other, and nothing about if a road is a one-way or not. My project if I get it off the ground will have a tool to gather that info with a handheld (zaurus) and a gps.

Remember Mr Perens (4, Informative)

platypus (18156) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284967)

Bruce Perens once bought a data set of AFAIK exactly what you want from his own money and put it on his server for free use. Look here
Though I didn't get into the ftp server, I'm sure the files are still out there.

Very nice and forthlooking of him.

NO WAY! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9284968)

Above is troll.Re:NO WAY! (2, Informative)

rthille (8526) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284987)

The above link is a redirect to a page which hijacks your browser.

MOD PARENT UP Re:NO WAY! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285024)


Terrorist (-1, Flamebait)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284969)

Close all maps, ban them all, think of the childeren etc etc.

Tiger, county assessor, postgis, and map server (2, Informative)

dunham (35989) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284973)

Postgis, an add-on to postgres is a nice way to store map data. It does R-tree indexing, can store polygons, lines, and points, and can do coordinate system converison.

Tiger works quite well for me. I read the docs and wrote a simple perl script that took a sorted list of the road segments and intermediate points file, and inserted polylines into postgis. Tiger is off in a few places, which can be seen by overlaying it with more accurate data.

Another good source of data is the county assesors office. e.g. Clark County, Nevada, which builds a lot of new roads, has data available for free download in ARC/Info shape file format. (There exist converters to Postgis.)

Search for GIS, shape files, county assessor (+ your county name), etc.

The minnesota map server is a nice way to build maps images from shape files or postgis databases.

And GRASS, available in Debian, is a more complex database system for manipulating GIS data. It handles import, export, transform, mapping image files, and so forth.

NTAD (1)

Xthlc (20317) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284990)

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics [] maintains a lot of street data in its National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD). It doesn't have all the streets, but it does have major routes &etc. They'll send you a CD for free if you're a US resident. Look under "Geospatial Information" in the above link.

You won't find free, alleyway-level data for the US. It's simply too much of a burden to keep such data updated, without doing so as a commercial enterprise.

Find the offsping of Tiger (5, Informative)

thogard (43403) | more than 10 years ago | (#9284995)

Tiger is the format of the census files and they list every road where people live or work in theory. They are also only accurate for time of the census (1990,2000,2010) and some of the pre/post processing checks (1989,1992,1999,2002,2005,...) and are accurate relitive to the local map datum which may or may not be anywhere close to WGS-84 (which is what your GPS will most likly default to). A while back a new group was set up to prevent the duplication of work between the Census dept and others that also need the same data (USPS, Dept of Interior, USDA). I'm not sure what that dept is called.

There are plenty of resources on the net about how to parse Tiger line data and most of the main mapping programs that do street level views where based on that data with many corrections. For example its common that older streets will be on a state map datum and improperly adjusted to NAD27 and/or WGS85 or something else. You can find roads that aren't parallel even though they all are directly north or you can get some interesting results when one township was on one datum and the next township over was in a different one which results in the streets appearing to be in the order of 1st, 3rd, 2nd. You also have things like auto placement where one road is just so out of place, auto placement aginst sat photos puts the wrong name on it and somehow it bounces the correctly named road someplace else. The plan was to clean that up for the 2000 census data but I think the task was just too large.

There is a programm called "Grass" that will read in these files. It might be a place to start.

You might want to do a google groups search in the newsgroup sci.geo.cartography as well.

Terraserver copyright (3, Informative)

cr@ckwhore (165454) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285000)

Just a quick FYI... terraserver images are not copyright of Microsoft ... the technical name for the images are "Digital Ortho Quadrangle" and their supplied by the USGS. Microsoft can claim copyright on the interface, etc., but not the images.

You can obtain more information about DOQs on the USGS web site. Start by searching google...

Mod Parent Up (1)

mikeboone (163222) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285029)

As I discovered in March, you can use the Terraserver images copyright-free.

See the FAQ [] .

(I mistakenly believed you couldn't use the Terraserver images either when I wrote my blog [] in January)

Maps with mousover links and pop up data (1)

Gnaythan1 (214245) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285004)

I've been wanting this for a while, but lack the technical skills. I tried looking it up on, where I posted the idea in the first place, but it's down at the moment... here's the google cache. J: ra+map&hl=en

Communtiy Event? (1)

shadowkoder (707230) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285005)

I've had thoughts about this before, but why not have cities/towns/municipilities/ect which already have maps detailed down to the street level digitize these maps in a way that allows easy modification? That way, say a new housing development is brought into a section of town. It would be easy to just mark off houses ans street positions. If whoever would handle the mapping service for the town could integrate with the departments that handles zoning permits and other related topics, wouldn't this be feasible?

NIMA vmap0 data (1)

Ivop (537475) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285013)

See: The vmap0 data contains roads, railways, cities, shorelines, et cetera. It's used by Terragear and FlightGear, so it has a GPL compatible license.

Keyhole -not free, but the BEST GLOBAL mapping/3d. (1)

ayeco (301053) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285017)

Keyhole [] isn't free, but it's worth looking at - if you're into flying over a 3d model and zooming into practically anywhere!

It streams the data, 3d and 2d, while you moved around the globe.

Re:Keyhole -not free, but the BEST GLOBAL mapping/ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285142)

Windows only crap? what are u doing posting this on slashdot?

TerraServer-USA is not copyright! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285026)

Jeeze, it's amazing the level of stupidity seen in the average Slashdot article nowadays.

TerraServer-USA data is not copyright by Microsoft or anyone else, as is very clearly stated on their FAQ [] page:

Are there any restrictions on what I can do with the images that I download?

The images from the U.S. Geological Survey, and are freely available for you to download, use and re-distribute. The TerraServer team and the USGS appreciate credit for their work on this project by displaying the message "Image courtesy of the USGS".

Jeeze. 1/2 second of research and we wouldn't have to deal with stupid crap.

Maps and software (1)

Daa (9883) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285032)

the map data is available from the USGS for free: you are looking for the DLG/SDTS datasets to view and edit you need a GIS package: is a simple win32 viewer from USGS GRASS/GIS is a common cross platform full featured GIS system ( pretty steep learning curve)

Upload GPS path and direction (1)

anandpur (303114) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285039)

Now a days most of ppl have handheld GPS device or car fited with it. If there is any site where some one can upload all trip path and direction that is saved in GPS. this way it is easy to draw map. 2nd if lot of ppl drive same route again and again then it can be refined to even up +/- couple of feets

Be prepared to modify, a lot (1)

Mr. Piddle (567882) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285048)

Even commercial map software is, in my experience, quite inaccurate. I was looking at a certain area lately, and I picked out many errors in my county and some of the surrounding counties (blatent errors, too...). Trying to use mapping software for giving driving directions to other people is frustrating.

Watch out who you ask for information ... (3, Insightful)

auburnate (755235) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285054)

In this present day and age, you may have officials from HLS or FBI come knocking wondering what on earth you need maps for ...

National security (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285065)

Actually, maps are classified as sensitive material. The fact that you are compiling them indicates that you are probably a terrorist. Under the PATRIOT Act you can be sent to prison for 50-500 years. Expect a visit from your friendly local SWAT team in the near future.

GPS calibration (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285066)

Where can I find GPS-calibrated maps? Or just GPS calibrations for these other standard map formats? And while we're at it, how about a GPS points exchange, for swapping points, paths and tracks? has USGS maps (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285068)

I wonder if the USGS maps at are the starting point you're looking for. take a look: here. []

WiGLE (2, Informative)

bryanthompson (627923) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285077)

Take a look at WiGLE [] (Wireless Geographic Logging Engine)

I'm using it just for the maps, but it has GPS and wifi capabilities (People use it for wardriving). I'm pretty suprised at how accurate the maps are, even for the middle of nowhere Nebraska.

Manitoba Land Initiative Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285079)

After what was once a reprehensible double-taxation scheme (paying taxes to collect data, paying taxes to receive data), the Manitoba Land Initiative [] (that's Manitoba, Canada) now offers almost all publically available data sets free and online. MLI + GRASS [] = free GIS base

Avoid Tiger (1)

vlakkies (107642) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285093)

Avoid using the TIGER data. It is topologically correct (junctions are correct), but the absolute position location is poor. The USGS Digital Line Graphs (DLGs) are much better. The DLG-3 Optional format is quite easy to decode and has the entire USA at 1:100,000 scale. This is accurate to about 100 feet but a bit dated (80s and 90s). The 1:24,000 (quadrangle) scale maps are also available but in SDTS format which is pretty hard to decode, but open source code is available to decode it. Accuracy is about 50' or better, more detail, but coverage is often spotty. The EROS data center is your best source:

Re:Avoid Tiger (2, Informative)

MoonChildCY (581211) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285238)

TIGER data are as accurate as any commercial data source you will use, as there is a single provider of road data for everyone.

Apparently, GDT Inc. is the provider of street network for all major GIS Software corporations (including MapInfo, ESRI, Intergraph and others) and government entities. Perhaps the most important information on this company is the Department of Commerce publication CB96-194 of 1996, which announces that the US Census Bureau would acquire data from GDT Inc. in a long term cooperation effort to have an up-to-date TIGER database.

The question from where GDT Inc. acquired their data is further hidden, apart from the fact that they used USGS data. A hint towards the answer is found in meta data from the USGS (specifically, clearly indicating that the data were derived from TIGER/Line files. This means that GDT Inc. did not provide the data for the US Census, rather, it provided updates to the existing data. Therefore the source goes back to the US Census Bureau, that actually provides information on their data in a more straightforward way.

To compile the TIGER data, 1:100,000 USGS topographic maps were digitized by USGS on behalf of the Census Bureau. For urban regions, GBF/DIME files created in the 70's were used, that were updated in 1981 and 1985. Therefore one of the originating sources has been traced back to the Census Bureau (the urban area data). The other originator, USGS has a longer history. The attempts to map the USA started in 1879, on a scale of 1:24,000. Therefore the 1:100,000 maps used to create the US Census maps are derivations of 1:24,000 maps that started being compiled in 1879 and update since then by planetable surveying. After the 1930's, aerial photographs were used. The original purpose on creating these very first maps was a mandate by Congress to "classify public lands" ( po.html), therefore the original sponsor of the data was the US Government itself. You can't get any better than that I think.

Others have mentioned but... (2, Informative)

MrIcee (550834) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285107)

I know other posts here have mentioned the NATIONAL MAP VIEWER [] but I thought I'd give my two cents on it and some more details.

I too, was looking for a public domain mapping system to assist in a site we are doing about the Big Island of Hawai'i ( After scouring for sources the National Map Viewer was the best bet. All their data is in the public domain and can be used in a variety of ways.

Once you go to the site you will receive a very nice GUI interface with selections on the left and right and in the middle a map of the US including Hawai'i.

Using your cursor, click and drag a rectangle around the area you are interested in and it will zoom in on your screen. You can continue to zoom in using the same technique (or just clicking in the center of where you want to zoom) but don't zoom past the SCALE=1 graph on the upper right corner (scales below 1 pixelate). At a scale of one the map shows very detailed information - roads are visible, etc.

Now the real fun begins... using the options on the RIGHT SIDE, click each one and look at what they offer. The offerings will change depending on the scale (at a scale of 1, all offerings that are available will be allowed) - some offerings disappear at higher resolutions). THese options act like overlays - you can get street maps, water usage, historical maps, topographical maps, etc. Some of the layers will overwrite other layers so if you want a more complex map you might have to take a number of snapshots.

The selections on the left side are rarely used - except to rezoom the map and scroll the map side to side.

Using this system I was able to generate at a scale of 1, the entire Big Island as a series of over 80 screen shots that I remerged in photoshop to create on HUGE (over 200 megabytes) map that includes all topographical information, roads and rivers and streams. Since this is a volcanic island the map shows most of the craters (anything deeper than about 250 to 300 feet) and quite a few craters I didn't know existed.

This is one of the best tools out there - is a bit tedious to use but once you get the hang of it - it is invaluable.

Re:Others have mentioned but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285133)

Using this system I was able to generate at a scale of 1, the entire Big Island as a series of over 80 screen shots

Jesus, you've got some serious resolution on that monitor.

MARPLOT (2, Interesting)

Big Sean O (317186) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285110)

The US EPA and NOAA have a free (as in beer) computer program called MARPLOT [] .

It was initially meant to be used by emergency responders as part of the "Computer Aided-Management of Emergency Operations" or CAMEO. It was so popular that the US Census Bureau made it part of the Landview software program.

It's not as nice as a professional program, but there are lots of basic features and the price is right. (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285112)

At our website [] the maps we use are based on TIGER 2002, and we're homogenizing TIGER 2003 as I type this. It's not easy to parse TIGER, but there are tools out there to do this for you. We had to integrate some features to fix some of the errors in the TIGER format, and a few other things.

Also, we're starting to publish our data (maps and other) -- just trying to figure it all out, and determine the best way to do this (suggestions are welcome!). Currently, our map engine [] supports some form of XML output, so we're experimenting with this at this stage.

Vector map data for the U.S. (1)

WingNut (664) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285128)

Here are the two places where I get all my map data:

Bureau of transportation statistics. [] Detailed data, but only down to the highway/interstate level, no residential roads.(Shapefile format)
Tiger/Line data converted into shapefiles for easy use. [] Down to the residential street level, very detailed!

County records (2, Interesting)

LuxFX (220822) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285137)

I live in Johnson County, Kansas, and they have a very impressive mapping system [] available online. (it is most functional in IE, but Mozilla etc. will let you do the basics)

You can find individual properties (complete with tax appraisal information, square footage, room count, etc. -- did you know this is all public information?), property lines, estimates acreage, building outlines, etc. You can map water pipes, power lines, fire hydrants -- even many trees are included. Fire stations, parks, museums, streams, neighborhoods (plats), cities, etc. It's all there.

Very impressive! Check and see if your county does the same! I can't tell you how valuable this tool was as we were shopping for a house (we closed yesterday!)

SourceForge Project and US Government Map Products (5, Informative)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285143)

Project: RoadMap: Summary
http:/ /
http://ww htm
http://fsffrance.o rg/news/news.en.html om p_ap plication_poly_server.html

GI -

A navigation system that displays US street maps (from the US Census Bureau) and tracks a vehicule using GPS. Specific areas can be displayed by selecting a street address (street number & name, city, and state). RoadMap can run on iPAQ and Zaurus.

Developer Info
Project Admins:
Personal Information
User ID: 11734
Login Name: pascmartin
Publicly Displayed Name: Pascal F Martin
Email Address: pascmartin at
Site Member Since: 2000-02-06 13:19 :Vector Graphics

* Development Status: 5 - Production/Stable
* Environment: Handhelds/PDA's, X11 Applications
* Intended Audience: End Users/Desktop
* License: GNU General Public License (GPL)
* Natural Language: English
* Operating System: POSIX
* Programming Language: C
* Topic: Viewers, GIS

I hope this helps - OldHawk777

Sounds dangerous (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9285231)

I question whether we should allow information about the locations of things to be released freely, where terrorists might get them. It just doesn't make sense in the post-911 world.

Maps are not copyrighted (4, Interesting)

tiltowait (306189) | more than 10 years ago | (#9285240)

so go nuts with whatever you can get your hands on. At least that's what the law was the last time I checked: you can't copyright a fact (or a made up fact for that matter), although some people are trying to change this [] .

I had a the pleasure of once working for a map company, for example, that at a time (before I worked there of course) traced a competitor's maps when drafting their products. An ensuing lawsuit, during which the judge actually acknowledged this practice, resulted in a verdict [] in favor of allowing such infringements.
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