Outdoors Magazine

Free Data Sets for the City of Toronto

Posted on the 01 December 2011 by T_mackinnon @tedmackinnon

The City of Toronto has recently celebrated two years of online Open Data service and they have full intention on continuing to build on that success, by stating that they intend to add more data layers and will further develop their site. There are many data sets currently available to the general public that can be downloaded from the City of Toronto’s web site [http://www.toronto.ca/open] through their online data catalog. They do not require Developers to get permission to create applications with the data, instead permission is provided for all data sets as long as users abide by the terms of agreement for the service.

logo city Toronto
Their goal is to offer all the data that they can provide (all data that is allowable by law – e.g. except data that contains privacy or confidentiality issues) through the data catalog and even go as far as claiming that they know that the site is no where complete to their satisfaction and it will be an on going project that will evolve as data sets are created and changed over time. They encourage feedback to help make the service better through a twitter account [@Open_TO] as well as a separate user discussion forum [dataTO.org] managed and supported by the developer community to allow end users to talk openly about existing data sets and to help provide ideas for new data and to further develop the Open Data service.

Data sets are provided in various standard downloadable file formats such as XLS, CSV, DGN & SHP. All data set contains basic meta info associated with them such as who created the data, date, format, projection, attributes, contact info etc.

People will want to keep in mind that this is a data portal and not an online web map application, so users are not spoon fed here and instead they provide various data sets that allow end users to be creative and generate interesting cartographic products from. Therefore users must download the data sets with intentions to use it with other GIS applications such as desktop GIS software (ArcGIS, MapInfo etc.), ArcGIS.com or Google Earth.

When you look through the data catalog you will find that there a wide range of various data sets available and the majority of them are pretty interesting and not just collections of typical base layers (although base layers do exist as well) allowing users to be creative and make great end products. Some of the layers found in the Toronto data catalog include TTC routes & Schedules, Police locations, festival and events, day care locations, bike paths and more.

Even though their site does not include any online mapping tools, I think the city does a great job of providing a wide variety of interesting data sets that will allow many great creative cartographic products.  The bottom line here is the City of Toronto has granted the GIS community a royalty free, non exclusive license to use, modify, and distribute any of their data sets that they continue to make available via their data catalog.

So I encourage you download some of the data and start generating great GIS products for the citizens of Toronto.

To show how easy it is to make a quick online map with data from  the City of Toronto, I went to the city data portal, downloaded some data sets and then went to ArcGIS.com to create an online map (all in less then a ten minutes) showing the locations of police stations in Toronto. [View Larger Map]

The City of Toronto also offers three different web mapping services that can be used with any GIS software that supports “OGC compliant WMS image services”. To use these data sets, simple enter the URL listed below into your GIS software package.

City Geospatial Web Service – includes parks, school board boundaries, various Police Service boundaries, property parcels, concession blocks, provincial ridings, address points, street centrelines and ortho imagery

CitySPAR Web Service – includes faith organizations, dissemination areas, census tracts, city wards, neighbourhoods, priority neighbourhoods and many more

Ortho Imagery Web Service – provides access to orthorectified aerial photography for the City of Toronto

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