New TIGER, Old Polygons

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As those of you who are die-hard GIS types know, the Census Bureau recently released a new set of their map data. One great new aspect of this data is that it now comes in shapefile format! It also appears that they have updated several counties worth of streets for improved alignment. Unfortunately, for their ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (the U.S. Census Bureau's ZIP Code proxy) they have attributed everything to the 2000 release (which was compiled in 1998-1999). Since that's 10 yrs old now, it's more important than ever to recognize that ZCTAs are not ZIP Codes. For other boundaries they use the adjective "current", but it is hard to know exactly what that means (or if it means the same thing for every dataset). Nonetheless, it's amazing to see how much value there is in this government-funded dataset. We'll be looking into their polygonal map layers to see if there is some benefit there that we can pass on to our customers.

By the way, the Canadian government has a similar program for Canadian geography, although they issue releases less frequently. They do not, however, have a proxy for postal boundaries. That data is tightly controlled by Canada Post (though some commercial providers have access).