It’s no small task to add a demographic component to your knowledge base about a particular property or portfolio. Getting “granular” by creating layered demographic maps can be very expensive. The more detail requested, the more expensive the mapping outputs.
Broad mapping outputs are generally free. County and city maps, for example, provided by the U.S. Census Bureau are free and can generate an accurate guide on income, population, and household information at the census tract level. But what if you want bus routes or crime statistics? How about utilities availability or information on pending building permits or road construction?
The good news is that there are free resources that provide this information. The bad news is that the sources are “all over the map.” The following are some places to start the search. Just remember, the more specific your search, the more time and money required to obtain the information you desire.
ESRI “Make a Map.” This company is the “big dog” on campus in the world of GIS (Geographic Information Systems). This link takes to you to their “create a map” or make-a-map web page. Just plug in a city and state to gain access to census tract-level data. You have to “un-check” Hide U.S. demographics for the demographics to be visible. It’s a mapping nerd thing, I think.
ArcGIS Online. This on-line resource has over 100,000 users creating maps for public and private consumption. Cities around the country are using this platform to generate public map galleries. One great example is the City of Salem, Oregon (www.maps.cityofsalem.net). You have to download Microsoft Searchlight to use this resource. I think you will find useful and interesting maps specific to your marketplace.
U.S Geological Survey (USGS). Do you want aerial photos? How about satellite images? How about the information on hazard areas and earthquake and flood zones? Here is the place to start…
Neighborhood Scout. For crime statistics, you would think that the best source is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This is probably true for law enforcement professionals, but for the general public, there are lots and lots of tables of aggregated data and no interactive maps. Neighborhood Scout is all about crime stats at the local level. It’s not the easiest site to navigate, but it delivers crime outputs at the local level. As a test, I selected Conyers, Georgia, with a population of 15,000 persons. This site broke down the city into ten components.
Free Maps for Teachers This post from Richard Byrne provides 21 mapping sites that teachers (and non-teachers) can use to create maps of all kinds, from Google Maps and Google Earth to maps that allow you to measure trips and create animation. Many of the sites allow you (the user) to create custom maps of your own.
Bonus add: http://www.city-data.com/