• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

GIS How much should a local government charge for GIS layer data?

What method for GIS pricing is best?

  • Free - The taxpayers paid for it once already. Put it all on the web.

    Votes: 8 72.7%
  • Charge everyone just for the gov's duplication time and media

    Votes: 1 9.1%
  • Commerical users should pay the market rate, others should pay duplication costs

    Votes: 2 18.2%
  • Whatever price the government wants to charge

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I don't know.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I have a different plan...

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    11
  • Poll closed .

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,993
Points
30
What happens when someone asks a local government in your state for a digital copy of their mapping files? The answer to this question is more complex than you might imagine. You might be thinking that under the sunshine laws that the local government would release the data to you, charging you only for the cost of the media needed to fill your order and for the cost of the public servant’s time consumed in the request. You would be wrong. But then you might ask, well is this data somehow on the list of public information that is restricted, like criminal investigation files, attorney-client communications, or maybe personnel files? No, the government only restricts a very few electronic mapping data files for homeland security reasons. With mapping data files, the answer gets weird; you can’t get them because they have commercial value. And the government sees an opportunity to make a buck. For some reason many state legislatures decided that even though all of the information in these mapping files was gathered at taxpayers’ expense, just like every other document you can get under the sunshine laws of your state, byissuing this data with a end use license the local government might be able to charge a fee in order for the requestor to get the data in electronic format. Without the license the requestor can get the data - on a paper printout in ASCI format.

In some cases the local government will charge a very substantial fee for the data. But, often the data is priced out of proportion to its usefulness to the requestor. This of course opens a massive can of worms regarding the proper role of government and goes to fundamental philosophical issues regarding the reason all 50 states and the federal governments have sunshine laws.

I ask because I am researching the various methods local governments use to price the release of their data files to the public. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this matter.

So, what is your local government's policy about GI data access, licensure, and pricing? Web links are also great.


“Several different kinds of pricing options have been proposed and applied in different jurisdictions. One includes free data for all users while another uses marginal cost price to all users, that is, a price beyond the cost of basic infrastructure collection costs. Other pricing options include market price for all users where the price is the ‘realizable price’ that may be obtained in the market; full price that includes investment costs plus all other costs; two-tier price to allow preferential treatment in financial terms where for example researchers pay a lower price than the market; and, re-balancing government funding price where even researchers pay what the other are paying. In rebalancing government funding price, a government would provide researchers access to grants to offset the extra expenses while at the same time the provider GI agency cab recoup its investment in data collection and production.”

Cho, George. 2005. Geographic Information Science: Mastering the Legal Issues. Sussex, England: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd. (Cho, Pg. 6) 30-31
 
Last edited:

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,434
Points
33
I am on the board for our county GIS. We have an intergovernmental agreement to share data with participating entities. 90% of the data is free and on the web. Utility information like water and sewer lines are not on the web, but we do sell the data to engineering firms. I forget what we charge, but it is fairly substantial.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,993
Points
30
Clairity

Thanks for the thoughts. And just to offer a point of clairity. I'm not asking how much you should charge for making a map. That is a different question.

I'm asking how much a (any) government should be charged for copying all the releasable GIS layers to a DVD, HDD or placing them in an FTP folder for anyone who requests your base layers.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,081
Points
34
It depends somewhat on who is requesting the data. Most of the communities I work with will provide the layers without charge to other governmental units and to the consultants hired to do work for the community (who would simply past the cost on to them anyway). It is also pretty common for them to provide it without charge to schools or universities.
 

Blide

Cyburbian
Messages
1,186
Points
18
I'm kind of mixed on this. Ideally I'd like to see all data be free but given the current financial circumstances local governments are facing, I think charging for data is preferable so it can offset some of the costs associated with getting higher quality and more frequent data updates.

As for charging for data, I think it depends on how much data is being requested and who's asking for it. Like if it can be sent by email, I certainly don't think we need to be charging for it. If you're not working with us and want a bunch of data, I think you should be charged though. In some respects I do think we charge too much for our GIS data but I guess the cost wouldn't be a detriment to those that actually need data of that quality. Joe Citizen can just access it from our webpage or use Google Earth.
 

Tide

Cyburbian
Messages
2,718
Points
23
I believe basic GIS info should be downloadable on the web. This includes, streets, lot lines, zoning, wetlands, open space, water ways, TIGER files, land cover, and recent aerials. Anything beyond that or any layers that your GIS department have developed with in house analysis should be available for sale, at a nominal price, through an FTP or hard copy to consultants. I'm thinking $50-$500 depending on the type of analysis involved. Also, custom maps should be sold at a nominal price to cover the employees' time and printing expenses.
 

btoy

Member
Messages
16
Points
1
We currently do not charge for GIS data. However, we do not have layers on our website. I think GIS data should be available to the public on our website, if someone wants a specifially layer that we have to copy on a CD or USB drive the layer and metadata, there should be a charge.
 

Brocktoon

Cyburbian
Messages
3,728
Points
22
I just had this conversation with a journalist who was charged $25 for a simple shape file my a neighboring community. I agreed that seemed a bit silly since the GIS department did not have to create the shape file all they had to do was email it to him. (On a side note I was impressed with a journalist that had GIS skills.)
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Messages
18,313
Points
44
Here is our GIS fee schedule:

Standard Map Fees:
(Sparse and dense shading)
8.5x11 A........................................................................................................................$1.00
8.5x14............................................................................................................................$1.00
11x17 B.........................................................................................................................$1.00
17x24 C.........................................................................................................................$5.00
24x36 D.......................................................................................................................$10.00
34x44 E .......................................................................................................................$15.00
Custom Fees:
Staff rate hourly plus media........................................................................................$25.00
(Calculated in 15-minute increments; no charge for first 15 minutes)
CD/DVD data................................................................................................................$1.00
Map book ......................................................................................................................$5.00
Standard aerials (2010 MrSids) ..................................................................................$10.00
Wall Maps (60x60) ...................................................................................................$104.00
Laminated Wall Maps (60x60) .................................................................................$142.00
 

terraplnr

Cyburbian
Messages
2,342
Points
27
About 1.5 years ago I worked on a big GIS data gathering project for over 100 counties in CA, NV, AZ, UT, NM, and CO. For the project we were typically in search of whatever GIS data was available for the entire county, but if it was too expensive we’d try to get the areas of each county that we absolutely needed. It was for a military project (so we weren’t reselling the data).

I don’t have my project notes right now so am going off of memory, but there were distinct themes within each state. For example, typically the counties in Colorado and Nevada charged a LOT for their data (as in, more than $1,000, in some cases more than $5,000), and I don’t recall any interagency agreements (maybe there was one or two but I’m not remembering any). They seemed to either charge commercial rates (even though the county maintained the data), or they subbed out their GIS to a private firm so if you wanted the data you had to pay commercial rates. There were some rural Colorado counties who were kind enough to charge by the township/section, which made it reasonable. In their defense, some of their counties are huge (in land area). New Mexico was cheaper (on the order of $50 - $250 for a county’s data). For Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, it seemed like the counties who gave their data away for free were the ones that didn’t have the staff to keep on top of the data maintenance, so it was outdated or had errors. For Utah, I think Salt Lake County provided theirs free on their website or if we paid it was reasonable (less than $250), and some of the rural counties didn’t have any GIS data at all (same for some of the NM counties, one of them could only offer for us to come to their office and copy their parcel map books). Arizona had interagency agreements; otherwise the data would have been expensive (on the order of $1,000 or more). California counties either gave the data for free through their websites / online GIS programs or charged anywhere from $50 - $250 to send it by email or on a CD. Except for Orange County, they charged some crazy amount (more than $10,000). For some of the regions we were able to get free data through the MPOs.

Hope this helps. If you want any more specifics I can dredge up the emails and see what I can find.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,434
Points
33
Thanks for the thoughts. And just to offer a point of clairity. I'm not asking how much you should charge for making a map. That is a different question.

I'm asking how much a (any) government should be charged for copying all the releasable GIS layers to a DVD, HDD or placing them in an FTP folder for anyone who requests your base layers.
In that case we do exactly what Cardinal suggests. Governments and non profits free, consultants working for a member entity free, others we charge.
 
Top