MassGIS projects showcase

GIS is a powerful tool for analysis. Over its long history, MassGIS has completed a variety of analysis projects for various agencies. These projects -- some highlighted below -- have often supported significant legislative or policy initiatives.

Digital Services and MassGIS Teams Analyze Rideshare Data

Purpose: To analyze the trip origins of Transportation Network Companies (Uber, Lyft and others)

When: 2018

Partners: Department of Public Utilities

On May 1, 2018, the Commonwealth became the first state to launch a website containing data about rideshare companies. Informed by data supplied by the Department of Public Utilities, MassGIS staff worked with colleagues in the EOTSS Digital Services group to create maps and other content for the web page. Informative maps were created using both React-d3 (see graphic below) and ArcGIS On-Line. While rideshare use is, not surprisingly, concentrated in more urban areas, use is both much heavier (65 million rides statewide in 2017) and much more widespread than expected.

Map showing density of TNC ride origins
Density of TNC ride origins

This website has more detailed maps.

Green Line Extension (GLX)

Purpose: To illustrate land parcels in four communities that might be subject to Value Capture to help fund the expansion

When: 2016

Partners: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the Executive Office of Administration and Finance

Value Capture is a method to help fund infrastructure improvements by collecting revenue from those who would benefit from the improvements. This strategy is being considered to help fund the extension of the MBTA’s Green Line northward of its current terminus in Cambridge. MassGIS used current assessor parcel data and buffer areas around the proposed stations to tally current property values. Analysis will be performed on past year’s values to try to project future valuations.

Green Line extension map

Wind Turbine Site Suitability

Purpose: Create a tool for locating sites for new wind turbines

When: 1999-2004

Partners: Department of Energy Resources

The most critical input needed for siting turbines is a map of where the strongest and steadiest winds are. In 2002/2003, Truewind Solutions, LLC produced maps and data displaying mean sustained wind speeds across New England. More technical details about the methodology and data from this project can be found in the final report Wind Resource Maps of Northern New England (5MB PDF) . MassGIS created an online map showing wind speeds at various altitudes.

Modeled wind speeds map


Subsequent work with parcel data and other inputs made it possible to make very specific siting recommendations by screening for setbacks and other site-specific constraints. The image below shows the results of an analysis performed to identify potential wind turbine sites on Cape Cod.

Cape Cod wind site map

Broadband Mapping Project

Purpose: To help provide high speed Internet service to under served areas

Time: 2009>

Partners: Massachusetts Broadband Institute

In 2008, the Governor Patrick administration signed the Broadband Act, which sought to bring high-speed Internet access to underserved areas of the Commonwealth.  One of the first priorities was gaining a better understanding of service territories and gaps in broadband service.  MassGIS created maps of existing infrastructure, and also created an online map using the Google Maps platform and a linked data entry form that prompted users to enter their address, and then answer questions about Internet service providers and speeds at their address.

Online broadband mapping tool


Additionally, MassGIS created several demonstration projects to help illustrate where the concentrations of potential subscribers live by using census data and residential land use data.

Broadband resident concentration


Finally, MassGIS created custom mapping to help illustrate priorities for broadband infrastructure development and its potential economic viability using census data and residential land use data along with existing infrastructure.

DSL population map

Co-location Study

Purpose: Combine State offices into underused facilities

When: 2011

Partners: Executive Office of Administration and Finance and Division of Capital Asset Management

A major cost-saving initiative under Secretary Jay Gonzalez prompted an analysis of the geographic distribution of state facilities and the potential for co-location of programs in different agencies at under-utilized facilities.  MassGIS developed a tool for budget analysts and others to support identification of these opportunities.

Co-location study map

Watershed Protection Act

Purpose: To protect watershed land around the Quabbin and the Wachusett reservoirs

Time: Multi-year, beginning in 1988

Partners: Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Metropolitan District Commission (now DCR), and Department of Environmental Protection.

Waterhsed Protection Act map


The proposed legislation strictly regulated land alterations in buffer areas around the reservoirs and their tributaries in order to maintain the high quality of the metro-area drinking water and avoid EPA-mandated construction of a hugely expensive filtration plant. The analysis was primarily to evaluate the impact of these restrictions on future development, and mitigate concerns about the effect on the local tax base. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (who oversee the protected lands in the watershed area) have replaced the paper maps with an online mapping application that MassGIS helped to create to show the areas affected by the regulations.

Choose Growth

Purpose: Show Legislators what projects would be funded in their districts

When: 2013

Partners: Administration and Finance, Department of Education, and Department of Transportation

One of Governor Patrick’s final initiatives was to propose to the Legislature a long-term program of investment totaling over two billion dollars in Transportation and Education. In an effort to demonstrate to each Legislator the projects that might be funded, MassGIS was tasked with creating two maps for each of the 200 Legislative districts. One map illustrated the potential Chapter 90 transportation projects, and the other showed changes to the Chapter 70 state aid to public schools and the number of wait-listed Early Education applicants. Each map included an analysis of the funding amounts that would be expended within that legislative district.

Choose Growth education map
Choose Growth transportation map


Transportation Modeling and Estimating Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

Purpose: To illustrate the distribution of VMT in relation to population, transit, jobs and other factors

When: 2008

Partners: Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Registry of Motor Vehicles

To support Smart Growth land use policies, with a long-term view towards the development of a Climate Change mitigation strategy, MassGIS produced a very detailed map of the distribution of vehicle miles driven using actual recorded odometer readings from the Registry of Motor Vehicles geocoded to their registration address. This product was then used to validate a very robust model that predicted the VMT for any given location using access to jobs, population density, transit availability and other spatially distributed factors. Neighborhood density turned out to be the best predictor of miles driven.

Vehicle Miles Traveled map

Buildout Mapping Project

Purpose: To support the passage of the Community Preservation Act

When: 1999-2001

Partners: Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Cities and Towns

Under Secretary of Environmental Affairs Robert Durand, MassGIS embarked on a multi-year project to produce a buildout analysis for every community in the Commonwealth. These analyses aggregated mapping of existing land use, zoning and other development constraints such as protected open space to show what potentially could be built in the long-term.

A series of four maps was provided to every community to help illustrate current conditions and then what the city or town might look like at buildout.

Four Buildout maps


In recognition of the effort, MassGIS received an award from Digital Government Magazine in 2002.

MassGIS award


Cape Cod Land Use Time Series

Created as part of the Buildout project, the maps in this time series show the dramatic effects of development on Cape Cod from 1951 to estimated buildout in the future.