Data Consortium Newsletter     

January 15, 2014 

In this Issue
DRAPP 2014 update
DRCOG Partners with FEMA and USGS for LiDAR
The Location of Disaster
Not Just Civic Idealism: The Dollars and Cents of Open Data
DRCOG Models for Scenario Planning
Community Profiles
Articles of Interest
Contact us
The Data Consortium consists of DRCOG members and regional partners with an interest in geospatial data and collaboration. The Data Consortium Newsletter is designed to improve communication among local GIS professionals and features updates from all levels of government as they relate to data and geospatial initiatives in our region. This newsletter is published quarterly.
DRAPP 2014 update

The 2014 Denver Regional Aerial Photography Project (DRAPP) is officially underway! In early November, a group of partners interviewed and selected Kucera International, Inc. and IntraSearch/MapMart as the 2014 DRAPP vendors to recommend for DRCOG Board approval. This is the same vendor team as in 2012. The vendors were officially approved Nov. 20 and a kickoff meeting was held at DRCOG Dec. 9. Contracts are being drafted currently and we expect them to be fully executed by Feb. 1.


DRCOG will be contacting potential partners through the end of January to provide quotes and gauge interest in project participation. If interested, the partner will receive a Letter of Intent (LOI), which is the method of solidifying the contract between DRCOG and partners and clarifies the amount due. If you are not contacted by DRCOG and wish to participate in DRAPP 2014, please contact Ashley Summers at 303-480-6746 or [email protected]

LOIs are due to DRCOG by Feb. 1, 2014.  

DRCOG Partners with FEMA and USGS for LiDAR
Article provided by Ashley Summers, GIS Manager, DRCOG. Ashley can be reached at 303-480-6746 or [email protected]

In October 2013, FEMA/USGS initiated a project to collect LiDAR in response to the Colorado flood disaster. Their project extent overlapped in part with the DRCOG region. Since DRAPP members had previously expressed interest in LiDAR data, DRCOG pursued partnership on this federal project and was able to pass on significant cost savings to its partners.

DRCOG and its partners are scheduled to receive deliverables covering 3,600 square miles. Those deliverables include a classified point cloud, a hydro-flattened digital elevation model (2.5' pixel), and 1ft. contours.

All the data in the DRCOG region was collected before the snowstorm hit in early December. A couple of re-flights may need to occur in a small section of the mountainous terrain once conditions improve.

The data will be finalized and in the public domain by late spring 2014. This delivery is well aligned with the DRAPP schedule and will enable this data to inform a more accurate imagery product 

The Location of Disaster

Article provided by Victoria Smith-Campbell, GIS Specialist. Victoria can be reached at 720-515-6277 or [email protected]

There have been numerous stories on the 2013 Colorado Floods. Press releases have summarized the amazing numbers. Reporters have documented the heartbreaking stories of fatalities and people losing their worldly possessions. Our state has risen to the challenge and is recovering from this horrific disaster.

During a disaster, there are at least three separate areas to consider:

  • Crisis Communications- external to organization
  • Planning and Operations- internal to organization
  • Interagency Coordination- typically internal to government and partners

Crisis Communications is a different type of map making. The goal is to quickly communicate only the essential information. Typically this information includes: evacuation areas, human and animal shelter locations, information centers, and the affected area (fire perimeter, flood extent, rockfall, etc.). Focus on areas you want people to receive services at or stay away from. Generally, this will be a subset of the operational data with friendlier icons in an interactive format. As a member of the Jefferson County Incident Management Team (IMT) we used Google Maps to deliver simple interactive maps during the 2013 Flood. The JeffCo IMT map received over 1.8 million direct hits and positive feedback. aggregated multiple-county information into a single map including Boulder, Jefferson, Larimer, Weld, and Adams County data. The crisis map also integrated incident information with Civil Air Patrol photos and national data with Red Cross shelters, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) US Significant River Flood Outlook, and Watches, Warnings and Advisories.
Goal- Provide for safety through information.

Planning and Operations for Incident Management Teams (IMT) or Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) at the local or state level is a much more formal process with a regimented set of products and timelines. At the IMT level there are standardized symbols, directory structures, naming conventions, and transition guidelines. In the EOCs dozens of GIS staff across the state conducted queries on enterprise parcel databases, analyzed road networks for detours, and consolidated damage assessment information to support the disaster declaration process (bits and bytes = additional support).
Goal- Provide information informing decision-making and operations in order to provide resources to the affected communities.

Interagency Coordination enables everyone to understand what resources are available, ensure the tasking of resources includes all needs, and data gathering efforts are not duplicated. Thousands of staff gather information and data that is combined and sorted into a systematic picture. Twitter was an essential form of communicating between agencies both to amplify messages and to communicate privately through direct messages. During the floods, the State of Colorado created a Google Group just for GIS communication. This allowed government and partner organizations to share information, ask questions, and answers were found.
Goal- Create data once for many uses. Everyone has access to relevant resources

During the Colorado floods, numerous tools and platforms were used to communicate location both internally and externally. There were many successes and challenges that continue to help us develop as a community.
Questions for reflection:

  • What is your strategy to get geospatial information out to the public? If you post PDFs will you also share the data?
  • Do you know how the data you are collecting is being used up the chain for situational awareness or the disaster declaration process?
  • If a disaster happened in your jurisdiction, how would you reach your GIS neighbors? How will they reach you? Do they know who to call? Are you at a different phone number? On Twitter?

For information during emergencies you can find information at: or on Twitter @coemergency

Locate information on your local emergency management office: 

Not Just Civic Idealism: The Dollars and Cents of Open Data 
Article provided by Brian Timoney, Principal, The Timoney Group. Brian can be reached at 303-929-3722 or [email protected].
It's an accomplishment of sorts that the open data movement has been around long enough to acquire its own outdated stereotype of being strictly the domain of youthful idealism among tech-savvy hacker types.  And like many stereotypes, there's a grain of truth in it:  yes, we still have hackathons and references are made to a new type of "digital government"--more responsive, more transparent, etc. But to a long-time observer, what's most interesting is the argument for the economic benefits of open data are fast becoming conventional wisdom.

The management consultancy McKinsey recently released a study estimating a potential $3-5 trillion (yes, that's a "t") global economic impact among seven economic sectors. The case of Climate Corporation is instructive: combining decades of U.S. weather, soil, and crop yield information freely available from the government, it was able to craft a new type of crop insurance product for farmers. Monsanto recently purchased the company for $930M.
So what's changed?  Obviously the rise of cloud-based server and database infrastructure has driven the cost of storing and publishing data down to pennies per gigabyte.  But equally important has been the growing adoption of analytics or "data science" to uncover more sophisticated insights than what's traditionally been revealed by standard statistics.  The haystacks of data are only getting larger; and tools such as R and Hadoop are being deployed to help find the valuable needles.
But this strikes most of you as very big picture.  So let's talk about financial benefits of open data your organization may not have considered.  In transitioning from a data sales model to an open data model, the City of Denver saw a 75 percent reduction in phone calls seeking data acquisition. Less quantifiable but very real were the efficiency gains in interdepartmental data flows as communication friction is removed when information requests can be fulfilled immediately with a simple URL link.
The barriers to opening your data continue to get lower.  CKAN, the platform that powers,, and our homegrown is free, open source software.  Even easier for getting started is using Github as your publishing platform as the city of Chicago has done with some of its most popular datasets (

In the current environment of frozen budgets and stretched resources, it's becoming clear that stewards of government information can no longer afford not to enjoy the variety of economic benefits created by open data.

DRCOG Models for Scenario Planning

Article provided by Gabrielle Voeller, Planner, DRCOG. Gabrielle can be reached at 303-480-6765 or [email protected].

DRCOG staff is working hard on Metro Vision 2040, the next iteration of the regional long-range plan. As part of this process, the planning team is engaged in scenario planning to test different future outcomes that will inform the plan's goals and policies. Scenario planning is complex, but it basically goes like this: "If we did X starting now, what would our region's land use and transportation patterns look like in 2040?"

In the near future at DRCOG, a cutting-edge new land use model (UrbanSim) and sophisticated transportation model (FOCUS) will work together to make detailed predictions for each scenario. Because UrbanSim is in the final stages of calibration, DRCOG's modelers have created an interim tool called PointSim to begin the scenario planning process.

PointSim takes the zone-level quantities of households and jobs (specified by the land use model) and intelligently places them at specific points inside each zone. Many of the built environment datasets created for UrbanSim were use to this point-level placement, such as parcels, buildings, and establishment locations.

Using PostGIS tools, staff created a script that ranks each parcel in a zone by how attractive it is for development based on factors such as distance to transit, highways, schools, parks, retail, and civic institutions. Each parcel also was given a capacity for households and jobs, depending on its land use. For example, a parcel with an apartment building would have a larger capacity for households than a parcel containing a single-family home; a school parcel would have a larger capacity for education jobs than entertainment jobs. Taking both the parcel ranking and its capacity into consideration, PointSim creates a certain number of points in each parcel within the zone, up to the total number of points specified by the land use model.

Some scenarios require different numbers of households and jobs in each zone (e.g. changes to the zone-level totals), while other scenarios require changing how the points are allocated within the zone (e.g. changing the parcel capacities and parcel-ranking algorithm). This tool has helped bridge the divide between old and new models, and provided point-level detail to use in the regional planning process.

This picture of Sloan's Lake shows household points in blue, education jobs in red, service jobs in yellow, and retail jobs in green. PointSim was designed to exclude the lake and park, ensuring no future development was allowed in these types of areas.  


PointSim has served as a critical stopgap tool to forecast population and employment at a parcel level for the Denver region's travel model. DRCOG is excited to announce the UrbanSim rollout this spring.

The new land use model will be used for future land use runs, providing for more realistic socioeconomic results in locational patterns and related traffic impacts. DRCOG will be holding meetings in early spring 2014 with its member governments to share information and data from UrbanSim.


For more information, please contact Gabrielle Voeller at [email protected] or 303-480-6765.


Community Profiles

Article provided by Robin Reilley, Planner, DRCOG. Robin can be reached at 303-480-6739 or [email protected]

Community Profiles are a popular product that DRCOG provides for member governments and the public at large. The Profiles represent a statistical snapshot of Census, in this case the 2010 Census, American Community Survey (ACS), and DRCOG data sets representing demographic, travel, planning and transportation information.

With 56 member governments there is a great deal of data to distill. Each document possesses 5 graphs, 4 tables and one map. The new Community Profiles are available in the Regional Data Catalog here:

For more information on the Community Profiles, contact Dan Jerrett, DRCOG Regional Economist, at [email protected] or 303-480-5644.
Articles of Interest
a.  Materials from the 8/29 DRDC meeting
b.  Next DRDC meeting is 2/27/14
Contact us
For more information on any of the topics mentioned in this newsletter or if you have an idea for an article, please contact DRCOG GIS Manager Ashley Summers at 303-480-6746 or [email protected]
Disclaimer: The information provided in this newsletter is compiled from multiple sources and is intended for informational purposes only.  DRCOG assumes no responsibility or legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information in this newsletter.