New city map shows it all

November 6, 2009
By

John Ruch

The City of Boston has quietly started using a remarkable new online map that shows residents a vast array of information about their neighborhoods: everything from police districts to public libraries, snow emergency routes to polling places.

It’s all part of the City’s sophisticated new Geographic Information System (GIS) Data Hub program. But it appears the City is holding off on an announcement. The Gazette was unable to get GIS officials to comment, despite repeated attempts, and a city spokesperson was unaware that the Assessing Department is already making great use of the GIS map until the Gazette asked about it in September.

Mayor’s Office spokesperson Christopher Loh did note that the mapping program is “the newest and coolest thing. It’s like a reporter’s dream.”

It’s actually a dream for anyone who wants quick and easy info about their neighborhood. The best place to use it, surprisingly, is the Assessing Department’s web site (CityofBoston.gov/assessing/search). Home to the city’s property tax information, the site now features the new map and a surprising array of extras.

The Assessing Department site already featured a useful, searchable map of Boston real estate. But now the map has two new features—labeled “Neighborhood” and “Capital Projects”—that turns it into a turbo-charged version. To access it, you have to search for a specific address.

Clicking the “Neighborhood” tab on the map automatically shows the locations of polling places, public libraries, community centers, hospitals/clinics and fire and police stations—including their exact distance from the address in question.

By clicking extra boxes, the user also can view: snow emergency parking restriction areas; Boston City Council district boundaries (and the name of the district councilor); voting ward and precinct boundaries; and Boston Police Department district boundaries.

Clicking the “Capital Projects” tab reveals the locations and details about city development projects that are included in the capital budget.

The Assessing Department map works by plugging into a much larger map program at the GIS Data Hub. That citywide map is even more detailed and includes supposedly live data about service requests from the Mayor’s Hotline. The Data Hub map can be viewed at Hubmaps1.CityOfBoston.gov/datahub.

The Data Hub site also features a document that shows several basic maps of the city with different sorts of information. The map document, which can be printed out, includes maps of: wards and precincts; Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services districts; Public Works Department districts; ZIP Code areas; City Council districts; Police Department districts; and “Districts,” apparently meaning neighborhoods.