Free GIS Resources
By Rob Bigelow, Infrastructure Industry Specialist, ATG West
Geographic Information System (GIS) data is everywhere and is ready to be utilized by engineers and businesses of all sizes and capabilities. Thanks to the enormous popularity of programs like Google Earth and technology like drones and LiDAR, the need for this data keeps growing every day. Fortunately for those of us in the Infrastructure world, the availability is growing even faster.
Whether it’s utilities, structures, raster imagery, or even non-stationary entities like demographics, everything on this planet is begging to be mapped.
Engineers, planners, architects, and surveyors can use this GIS data from the preliminary stages to final design.
But the big question is… where do I find it? An even better question is… where do I find it FOR FREE?
Here’s a list of websites you can go and download a plethora of FREE GIS DATA, ready to use with your Infrastructure software like Civil 3D, Map 3D, and Infraworks! (Please note, these links and the data available may change at any point. There are many more resources available, but this should give you a good start).
USDA NRCS Data Gateway – great resource for high resolution vector and raster layers.
• TIGER Census and Demographic
• TIGER Transportation
• Elevation and Topographic
• Hydrography and Hydrology
• Ortho Imagery
• NAIP Imagery
USGS – The National Map – This is a great hub for national topographic information and associated tools.
• Current and Historical Topo Maps
• Map Services
• GIS Applications and Tools
US Census Bureau – Find geographic data and products that give you valuable demographics to use for detailed analysis and marketing.
• TIGER/Line Shapefiles
• Cartographic boundary files
• Geographic relationship files,
• Thematic Maps
OpenData – Cities and municipalities are compiling their GIS data into various OpenData collections. Just do a Google search for “<your city> OpenData”, and if your city participates in sharing the data, you should find some great free GIS resources. Here are a couple examples…
Albuquerque NM http://data-cabq.opendata.arcgis.com/
Phoenix AZ http://maps-phoenix.opendata.arcgis.com/
• All types of GIS data
• Shapefile format
• KML format
• CSV format
Natural Earth – Free global vector and raster map data, maintained and created by many volunteers.
• Tiff and TFW files
• Various data themes
• Small, Medium & Large scale data
• Community blogs and forums
Other GIS Lists
https://freegisdata.rtwilson.com/ – This page catalogs over 300 links to websites that contain free GIS data.
http://gisgeography.com/best-free-gis-data-sources-raster-vector/ – A weeded-out list of 12 links to popular websites containing free GIS data
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