New TIGER/Line Shapefiles & Geodatabases

On Thursday, August 22, 2013, the 2013 TIGER/Line Shapefiles will be released along with a new product, the TIGER Geodatabases.

The TIGER/Line Shapefiles will include a coastline feature starting this year.  The coastline was delineated by the Census Bureau in the MAF/TIGER database based on water measurement class for display of statistical information only; its depiction and designation for statistical purposes does not constitute a determination of jurisdictional authority or rights of ownership or entitlement and it is not a legal land description.

The TIGER Geodatabases will include:

  • National Edges file (14.5 GB)
  • National Roads file (3.6 GB)
  • National Blocks file
  • National Linear Hydrography file
  • National Aeral Hydrography file
  • National Sub-State Geography file (includes state, county, incorporated place, census designated place, consolidated city, county subdivision, census tract, and block group geography)
  • National Nation-Level Geography file
  • National Legislative Areas file
  • National School Districts file
  • National American Indian Area Related file
  • National Rails file
  • National Address Ranges file
  • State-based files (one per state)

Please direct questions to or (301) 763-1128.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics Webinar

Introducing BTS’ Geographic Information Services, Thursday, August 22, 2013, 1:30pm to 2:30pm (Eastern Time), .  BTS GIS Team member Derald Dudley will be presenting details about issues surrounding BTS’s Web Mapping development, the latest functionality of current web mapping applications, and applications under development.  Mr. Dudley will also talk about other efforts, by the BTS GIS Team, to further GIS within the US DOT.

Mr. Dudley has a bachelor’s degree in Geography from Towson University, a master’s degree in Computer Science from Hood College, was a Cartographer with the Marine Chart Division at NOAA from 1996 to 2001, and has been a Geographer with BTS from 2001 to the present.  His Presentation will provide information about Windows Foundation Services, REST Services, the Structurally Deficient Bridges application, the State Facts application, and future efforts.

To participate in the webinar, please visit and click on “Enter as Guest”, type your name, and enter the room.  A 1-800 number will be provided on the website.  Please make requests for special accommodations at least 3 days in advance.  Webinar is closed captioned.  For more information, contact or 1-800-853-1351.

Before accessing the webinar check your computer for compatibility by clicking on the link: .

The Longitude Problem

Many of us use our global coordinate system everyday.  Latitude and longitude are here for us to pinpoint our location on earth.  However, there was a time when latitude and longitude were not around … someone had to invent them.  Latitude came first, however, longitude was more difficult to determine.  Longitude was the conundrum that baffled some of the greatest and most eccentric experts of the 18th century – and captivated the British public during an era of unprecedented scientific and technical transformation.

In July 1714 an act of British parliament established a £20,000 prize, worth about £1.5 million today (2.3 million US), for the discovery of longitude at sea: determining a ship’s position east and west from a fixed meridian line.

Cambridge historian Professor Simon Schaffer said: “The problem of longitude could be a lethal one. The act of parliament established the Board of Longitude – think the X Factor, only much more money and much more important – that would reward anyone who could solve the problem of longitude.  The longitude story is a spectacular example of expert disagreement and public participation. As well as attracting the greatest scientific minds of the day, the board enticed people who belong to one of the most important traditions in British society; the extreme eccentric.”

Now, for the first time, the full story of attempts to solve the longitude problem – unravelling the lone genius myth popularised in film and literature – will be made freely available to everyone via Cambridge University’s Digital Library.  Here is a brief introduction to the Board of Longitude:

Treasures of the Longitude archive, available to view in high-resolution for the first time, include accounts of bitter rivalries, wild proposals and first encounters between Europeans and Pacific peoples. This includes logbooks of Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery, the naming of Australia and even a letter from Captain Bligh of HMS Bounty, who writes to apologise for the loss of a timekeeper after his ship was ‘pirated from my command’.

The hugely significant archive preserves detailed minutes from the first recorded meeting in 1737 right through to the Board of Longitude’s dissolution in 1828.

As the schemes for longitude needed to be tested on long voyages, the archive includes much detail on Britain’s maritime interests, explorations and encounters with other cultures. It also played a major role in plans for voyages by James Cook and successors into the Pacific in the 1770s – and into the Arctic in the opening decades of the 19th century. The archive includes four eyewitness accounts of Cook’s Second Voyage and contains the first Western maps and descriptions of many Pacific places and peoples.

The Board’s work continued long after longitude was effectively solved and its many interests and long duration makes the archive a hugely important primary source on the development of science and technology in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It also provides valuable insight into the social history of the era with thousands of names featuring in its files; from Isaac Newton, to eccentric inventors who berated the Board for not following up on their ideas.

Indeed, the archive contains two volumes of ‘impractical’ schemes submitted in the hope of finding a reward. They were later bound and prefaced with title pages such as ‘wild proposals resulting from dreams’. They came via a diverse cross-section of society, from prisoners seeking release in return for their ‘solutions’ to citizens like Mr William Lester, who proposed solar experiments to find longitude that involved igniting points on a globe with a lens. The board underlined his statement that if the globe is correct and properly adjusted ‘you will set fire to London’.

The Longitude collection has much to tell us about the effects of scientific discovery on society and many of its themes and concerns are still relevant today.

… Something to think about while you Google your next address!

NSDI Strategic Plan Available for Public Comment


I am pleased to announce that the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is seeking public comment on the draft strategic plan for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).  The draft plan, which has been developed through collaboration with partners and stakeholders in the geospatial community, describes a broad national vision for the NSDI and includes goals and objectives for the Federal government’s role in continued sustainable development of the NSDI.

I encourage you to review the plan and offer any comments for improvement.  The strategic plan, along with instructions for providing comments, is posted at the following address:  Comments may be submitted electronically to:  Comments are due by August 21, 2013.

The new NSDI plan is important and timely for several reasons.  First, while the FGDC community has engaged in a series of strategic initiatives over the past several years, including the Geospatial Line of Business and Geospatial Platform initiatives, the current NSDI strategic plan has not been revised for a number of years.  Second, geospatial technologies, industries, and applications have seen tremendous growth and change over the past several years, and our strategies need to be modernized to align with and leverage these changes.  In addition, the recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “OMB and Agencies Need to Make Coordination a Priority to Reduce Duplication” (GAO-13-94), reaffirmed the importance of improving coordination and reducing potential duplication and recommended the development of an updated NSDI strategy.

As we have developed the plan, we have provided multiple opportunities for participation and input. These opportunities have included forums for leaders of key geospatial organizations, workshops for Federal leaders, sessions at geospatial professional conferences, and public meetings of the FGDC Coordination Group, the FGDC Steering Committee, and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC). Our goal has been to engage leaders of key geospatial organizations in the early stages of the planning process, gather initial input, and seek continuing involvement. The input and suggestions we received from our partners, both within and outside of the Federal government, has been instrumental in shaping the new plan.  The NGAC, in particular, has provided extensive and thoughtful input into the plan.

Following the public comment period, a revised draft of the plan will be prepared for final review and adoption by the FGDC Steering Committee.  Following completion of the strategic plan, the FGDC community will develop more detailed project plans for the goals and objectives in the strategic plan.

We appreciate your long-standing involvement and support for the NSDI, and we look forward to working with you and your organizations as we finalize and implement the new NSDI strategic plan.  Additional information about the NSDI planning process is posted at:  We will post additional information on the webpage as the planning process advances.

Please contact Ivan DeLoatch (, 703-648-5752) or John Mahoney (, 206-220-4621) if you have any questions about the plan.


Anne J. Castle
Chair, Federal Geographic Data Committee
Assistant Secretary for Water and Science
U.S. Department of the Interior