[Editor's note: Local interest to DC but promising in sharing of public GIS data.]
The District of Columbia government has submitted more than 84,000 3D models to Google Earth via the Cities in 3D program. But why would a city, let alone one that is known as a horizontal city because of a strictly enforced height limit, be so eager to participate? Here’s a glimpse into our thinking in the District’s GIS department.
1. It is the right thing to do. Fundamentally, the District Government believes that data created with public funds should be available to the public. Making this data now available via Google Earth is an important step in making our data truly accessible to the public at large.
2. Because every neighborhood can benefit from 3D. Instead of modeling just a select few landmarks in exquisite detail, we wanted to model every building in every neighborhood. Economic development was a primary driver behind development of the dataset. The buildings provide the context in which to plan and debate proposed new developments. Despite our aforementioned reputation as a horizontal city, we are also a city of spires, penthouses and domes, as you can now see. As public sector mappers, we put the entire city on Google Earth, not just downtown, because every neighborhood needs planning and development. We hope that the private sector will follow suit and create rich 3D models of proposed developments as KML downloads in the future.
3. We get better 3D performance from the cloud and we don’t pay for it. Some GIS users in the DC government, have made excellent use of the data, but with the city’s current technology, the 3D data had to be used locally on high-end desktops. Frankly, the District did not have the technical capabilities for distributing nearly 100,000 3D building across the enterprise. With the data now hosted on Google Earth 4.3, we expect DC Government users to turn to Google Earth just like the public. And using the same tools as our citizens is another powerful way to connect with them and ensure the quality of their experience.
4. We want to communicate with our residents. It is important to us that citizens, particularly DC taxpayers, understand what we do. We posted the “coolest” data set DC GIS has, because now that we have your attention we want to show you all of the other stuff we do. As part of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s drive for transparency, the DC government now makes more than 200 geospatial data sets publically available. So admire the thousands of 3D buildings, but also extend your virtual tour. You can add these datasets as layers on Google Earth, and view things like wards, trails, parks, museums, building permits, fire hydrants, zoning and even things the city isn’t proud of, like calls for rodent abatement.