What is MetroGIS?
Who is MetroGIS?
How is MetroGIS Organized?
Principles Guide MetroGIS?
What is MetroGIS's
How is MetroGIS Funded?
MetroGIS is a voluntary collaboration of organizations in the
Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area that use geographic information systems technology to
carry out their business functions. The discussions that resulted in the
establishment of MetroGIS began in the fall of 1995. See the
History section for more information about
the projects used to define the desired form and function of MetroGIS.
Short Facts About the Region (Minneapolis-St. Paul
- Population: 2.8 million
- Area: 3000 square miles
- Land Parcels: 937,000 as of May 2005
- Local Units of Government: 187 cities and townships, 59 school
districts, 39 watershed districts, 7 counties
MetroGIS's primary purpose is to promote and facilitate widespread
sharing of commonly needed geospatial data and information among organizations
that serve the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area. More specifically, the
goal is to institutionalize sharing of accurate and reliable geospatial data
and information so that MetroGIS's data user and producer communities can both
share in the efficiencies of users being able to effortlessly obtain data
needed from others, in the form needed, and when it is needed. Click
here for a listing of MetroGIS governance
characteristics which create public value in three distinct areas:
- Outcome/Value Proposition
- Authorizing Environment
- Operating Capacity
The vision for the result of MetroGIS’s efforts, or destination expected to be attained, is “organizations serving the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area are successfully collaborating to use geographic information technology to solve real world problems”.
The efficient use of geospatial information and shared knowledge of best practices benefit the region’s citizens and their leaders:
- They are better able to solve real-world problems.
- In solving these problems, they make better decisions.
- Because better decisions are made, regional economies are strengthened.
- Citizens are better informed regarding geophysical and geopolitical objects and events.
- Because of all these factors, citizens and their leaders are more likely to reach community goals.
And, ultimately these outcomes play a substantive role in providing citizens a safe place to live and work; enhancing environmental systems and green space; improving housing and transportation systems.
MetroGIS exists to enhance the capacities of its principal stakeholders to carry out their responsibilities in the most effective and economical way possible”. Specifically, “to expand stakeholders' capacity to address shared geographic information technology needs and maximize investments in existing resources through widespread collaboration of organizations that serve the Twin Cities metropolitan area”.
In other words, as stakeholders use the enhanced capabilities available to them through MetroGIS, they better serve society’s needs and, in the course of doing so, achieve effective cross-jurisdictional collaboration and substantive improvements to operational effectiveness and efficiency for their respective organizations.
Core Services and Desired Outcomes
1) Foster GIS Coordination Among Stakeholders
- Provide an inclusive, trusted forum to collaboratively resolve
geospatial data and GIS technology-related issues and opportunities of common
- Improve trust and mutual understanding within the GIS community
through frequent opportunities to communicate with colleagues and peers.
- Build sustainable solutions to common geospatial data-related needs through
the use of collaborative and consensus-based processes that seek to
institutionalize custodian roles and responsibilities pertaining to data
capture, maintenance, documentation and distribution of commonly needed
- Enhance individual stakeholder GIS programs and capabilities through
sharing technology and proven practices with colleagues and peers.
2) Oversee Solutions To Shared Information Needs
- Increase access to, and use of, trusted, reliable and current data
needed to support business needs through sharing data and creating
community-endorsed regional data solutions and related applications.
Build once and share many times.
- Improve decision support for its entire stakeholder community through
the use of minimal data standards
pertaining to assembly of data produced by multiple organizations into regional
datasets. These datasets work together horizontally within a given geospatial
data theme and vertically among themes.
- Facilitate use of data standards and best practices.
3) Support Internet-based mechanisms for discovery and ready access to geospatial data, web services and applications.
- Support MetroGIS DataFinder (www.datafinder.org) as a node of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure
- Advance GeoServices Finder as the go-to means to discover and leverage existing GIS web services and applications of value to the MetroGIS community.
The primary stakeholders of MetroGIS are the Metropolitan Council,
other regional agencies, and nearly 300 counties, cities, school districts and
water management organizations. State and federal agencies also participate in
the activities of MetroGIS. The
Metropolitan Council -
the regional planning and operating agency for the Twin Cities area - agreed in
1996 to serve as the primary financial sponsor of MetroGIS, and also houses the
staff responsible for fostering collaboration and supporting MetroGIS's
MetroGIS comprises a diverse group of stakeholders in the seven-county
Twin Cities region who use GIS as a tool to effectively perform their business
functions. MetroGIS recognize three classes of stakeholders in its Operating
- Essential participant: Organizations whose participation is
vital to the existence of MetroGIS. They produce essential framework data
and/or provide essential functions or resources (equipment, staff and/or
funds). Examples include the seven metropolitan area counties and the
Metropolitan Council. Other organizations could become essential participants
if they choose to support a vital function.
- System enhancer: Organizations that produce data or
possess resources that, although not essential to the existence of MetroGIS,
enhance its functionality and/or the benefits received from it. These
organizations influence MetroGIS to varying degrees based on the importance of
their data or resources and the degree of their participation. Examples include
cities, school districts/TIES, utilities, watershed districts, and state and
- Secondary beneficiary: Organizations that are solely
users of MetroGIS data or services. They neither produce data nor contribute
resources. They are not among the targeted beneficiaries. Examples include the
general public, businesses, and nonprofits.
All are welcome to participate in MetroGIS, which implements its
policies on behalf of all 300+ local and regional government interests
represented by the Policy Board members, regardless of whether a particular
organization is active. Click here for a
schematic that illustrates varied institutional relationships that comprise the
Generally, any organization involved in geospatial activities within the
Twin Cities area is encouraged to participate in MetroGIS through ad hoc work
groups and the Technical Advisory Team.
Membership on the Coordinating Committee
and Policy Board are governed by the
MetroGIS Operating Guidelines, which are designed to insure a balance among
data users and data producers, as well as among the stakeholder classes.
The MetroGIS Policy Board, since
it was created in January 1997, provides policy direction for the MetroGIS
Organization. The Board, comprised of twelve elected officials each
representing a core stakeholder or core stakeholder community, provides policy
guidance and, as importantly, a political reality check for all actions
fundamental to the MetroGIS's success-- each of the seven metropolitan
counties, Association of Metropolitan Municipalities (AMM), Metropolitan
Chapter of the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts (MAWD), Technology
Information Educational Services (TIES - school districts), and the
Metropolitan Council. The governing body for each organization represented on
the MetroGIS Policy Board formally endorsed the MetroGIS mission
statement and appointed one of its members to serve on the Board.
The Board is supported by a Coordinating Committee and a
Technical Advisory Team that reports to
the Coordinating Committee. The Coordinating Committee, comprised of 25+
managers and administrators from a cross section of interests and
organizations, recommends courses of action to the Policy Board concerning
design, implementation, and operation of MetroGIS. The Coordinating Committee
is supported by the Technical Advisory Team. The Coordinating Committee and the
Technical Advisory Team are composed of persons with broad expertise and
perspective, including GIS and other relevant organizational policy, data
access, data content, and data standards. MetroGIS
Operating Guidelines govern the
responsibilities and composition of the Board and its supporting structure.
Click here for a tabular summary of the
key roles of the Policy Board, Coordinating Committee and Technical Advisory
Team. Click here for a diagram of MetroGIS's
organizational structure. (Additional advisory teams have been operative at
various times during MetroGIS's evolution. Please see the Dissolved Teams page for
more information about them.).
Council provides the primary staff support, in accordance with its role as
primary sponsor of the MetroGIS initiative. Click
here for a diagram of MetroGIS's organizational structure.
MetroGIS makes a practical assumption that organizations cooperate out
of self-interest. Very early, participants agreed to support the "data sharing"
ideal only if it met their own business needs. In other words, MetroGIS must
serve a diverse collection of functional ends, not data sharing for its own
sake. For MetroGIS, the principal stakeholders are the Metropolitan Council,
other regional agencies, and local units of government - counties, cities,
school districts, and watershed districts - few of which need geodata for the
same purpose or use it in the same form. The principal challenge for MetroGIS
is to meet the shared geospatial needs of these organizations without costing them
more in resources or time than would otherwise be the case if they developed or
assembled the data they need from others on their own.
Based on this "self-interest" assumption, MetroGIS is guided by several
fundamental principles, including the following, which operate in concert with its vision and mission statements to guide MetroGIS decision-making and operations.
- Pursue collaborative, efficient solutions of greatest importance to the region when choosing among options.
- Ensure that actively involved policy makers set policy direction.
- Pursue comprehensive and sustainable solutions that coordinate and leverage resources: i.e., build once, make available for use by many.
- Leverage the Internet and related technology capabilities.
- Value knowledge sharing as highly as data sharing.
- Seek cross-sector (public, non-profit, academic, utility and for-profit) solutions, including data enhancements from many sources to serve shared geographic information needs when in the public interest.
- Pursue interoperability with jurisdictions which adjoin the Twin Cities metropolitan area, seeking consistency with standards endorsed by state and national authorities.
- Acknowledge that the term “stakeholder” has multiple participation characteristics: contributor of resources, consumer of the services, active knowledge sharer, potential future contributor, potential future user, continuous participant, infrequent participant.
- Acknowledge that funding is not the only way to contribute: data, equipment and people are also valuable partnership assets.
- Rely upon voluntary compliance for all aspects of participation.
- Rely upon a consensus-based process for making decisions critical to sustainability.
- Ensure that all relevant and affected perspectives are involved in the exploration of needs and options.
- Enlist champions with diverse perspectives when implementing policies and carrying out activities.
At its core, MetroGIS's efforts involve bundling of operational capacity
across numerous organizations to achieve together what no single organization
is capable of itself. The decision-making process used to implement sustainable
policies needed to achieve this bundling of capacity is broadly inclusive and
consensus-based, in particular for decisions important to MetroGIS's long-term
effectiveness. Several guiding principles underpin MetroGIS's decision-making
process, principles that have been honored since MetroGIS began in 1996. Click
here for an explanation of the process and
the underlying principles.
The costs to support MetroGIS's efforts can be
divided into two main categories, those involving the "fostering collaboration"
function and those involving custodial-related responsibilities related to
support of endorsed regional data solutions (http://www.metrogis.org/data/about/index.shtml#whatis
) and MetroGIS DataFinder (www.datafinder.org) and GeoServices Finder. MetroGIS DataFinder
is an Internet-based mechanism for discovery and access to geospatial data for
the seven-county, Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area. GeoServices Finder is an Internet-based mechanism for discovery and access to existing GUIS Web Services and applications.
Council accepted responsibility for supporting the "foster collaboration"
function and has continued to support this function since the initial
exploratory efforts in 1995 that launched MetroGIS. The Council has also
accepted custodial responsibility for support of several endorsed regional data
solutions and MetroGIS DataFinder. Nine other organizations, as of April 2006,
have also accepted custodian responsibilities related to endorsed regional data
solutions. More information is provided below about these roles
It is important to note that organizations are not pursued to support
regional solutions unless they have an internal business need for the
particular function involved. Since the responsibilities associated with
support of the endorsed regional solutions generally comprise a minor extension
of an internal need, a separate accounting of the costs these functions is not
maintained. This is not the case for MetroGIS's "fostering collaboration"
function, for which no single organization possesses an internal business need,
although the fostering collaboration function is critical to leveraging
existing investments and minimizing duplication of effort - build once and
share many times. The Metropolitan Council recognized the substantial
efficiencies that could be gained by obtaining the data it needs from others
through MetroGIS's collaborative process verses attempting to secure these data
on their own. As such, the Council has accepted the expense of supporting
MetroGIS's "fostering collaboration function".
1995 to 2007
From 1995 through 2007, the Council had invested over $2.7 million in support of MetroGIS’s “foster collaboration” function. This investment accounts for 77 percent of the $3.8 million total investment or an average annual investment of approximately $225,000.
The average annual cost to support MetroGIS's
"fostering collaboration" function has dropped over 40 percent since the
earlier years. The average annual cost from 1996 to 1998 was $382,100, whereas,
the average annual cost for 2003-2005 was $295,900. This reduction is due to
the need for fewer studies and leveraging of lessons learned. As importantly as
the Council's investment in the support of "fostering collaboration", the
sought after collaboration could not have been achieved without the substantial
investment of time and resources of hundreds of individuals representing all
facets of the MetroGIS stakeholder community. Implementation of the endorsed
regional solutions also involves substantial resources from a number of
stakeholder organizations working in concert with one another to minimize
duplication of effort and leverage existing investments. Click
here for detailed
information about the data content specifications and custodian roles and
responsibilities for each of the MetroGIS community's endorsed regional
solutions to common information needs.
Major non-staff project expenses
included: $700,000 for
agreements with the seven metro area counties, $200,000 for
DataFinder, $200,000 for
planning activities, and $100,000 for
common information needs
identification and follow-up forums.
In addition to the funding provided by the
Council, the Minnesota Department of Transportation invested over $300,000 to
assist the Council acquire a license and quarterly updates for the regional
street centerline dataset. Three grants were also received via the
National Spatial Data
Infrastructure (NSDI) program totaling $166,000, and approximately $22,000
was donated to MetroGIS by the Metropolitan Council and
The Lawrence Group. The donated
funds were generated by sales of their orthoimagery and street centerline
datasets, respectively. As importantly, the time volunteered by representatives
of the stakeholder organizations made the vision possible.
History of MetroGIS
Technical Advisory Team