William J. Craig Center for Urban & Regional Affairs University of Minnesota Minneapolis MN 55455 (Phone) 612-625-3321 (Fax) 612-6-2-0273 (email) [email protected]
A MASTER ADDRESS FILE FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT Abstract: All units of government need addresses to do their business; the private sector and individual citizens share in that need. The Census Bureau has a Master Address File (MAF) that could meet those needs, but they are prohibited by federal law from sharing that data with others. Local government is given a glimpse of this file to review before each decennial Census, but is required to destroy their copy upon completion. Local government is the authority for creating addresses, but there are numerous problems in that process and in the dissemination of addresses to others. Attempts to create a single complete and coordinated system have been unsuccessful. As a consequence, citizens pay multiple times for duplicate systems and lives are lost as emergency responders lose their way on the way to emergencies. This paper concludes with recommendations to state and local government, including their E911 boards. Those recommendations include adopting URISA’s Address Standard and instituting region-wide cooperative activities that will lead to complete and current address files for that region. With state backup, weaker and stronger regions can be equally served. The nation will have a complete and current address system that will be of use to all citizens, governments and businesses. INTRODUCTION Addresses are important in everyday life, in business, and for all levels of government. We use Google or Yahoo maps to find a location and on-board navigation systems to get there. Businesses use addresses to deliver advertising and to route delivery trucks. Local governments use addresses to connect utility lines and collect taxes. State governments use addresses to determine local sales tax rates and distribute their proceeds. E911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) use addresses to identify the appropriate emergency responder and send help to save lives (NENA, 2006). The US Census Bureau uses addresses to collect data from households in its decennial census. The problem is that each of these organizations has its own system for creating and maintaining address lists. This is both costly and error-prone. It is too easy Reprinted from 2006 URISA Conference Proceedings, with permission
for addresses to be missing from any one system, because there is little crosschecking and verification. Citizens pay multiple times for these multiple address lists, through higher taxes and prices on products and services. They pay more dearly when their own emergency call for assistance goes unanswered because their address is not in the system or is incorrectly located. The numeric address is one important component of locating a home or business. The other important component is a geographic point coordinate. This coordinate locates the structure, either by centroid or by front door. With this kind of information, an emergency responder can quickly reach the problem and a Census enumerator can knock on the right door. Homes needing flood insurance can be identified because their point coordinate is inside the flood plain. Address number and point coordinates are the two critical parts of a good address file. For decades, the Census Bureau has maintained a Master Address File (MAF) of residential units across the nation. For the 2010 Census, it has begun adding point coordinates on each unit. This resource could be of tremendous value to local government and first responders, but Title 13 of the US Code prohibits sharing of any raw Census data. A 1982 Supreme Court decision ruled this prohibition included addresses; the Court saw this was the intent of Congress and left it to that body to make changes if desired. Neither Congress nor the Census Bureau appears interested in making the MAF public – or even sharing it with local or state government. This puts the burden on state and local government to develop their own address files. Municipal governments are usually the authority that assigns addresses, but there are many weaknesses in the distribution and sharing of information across government agencies. Development of standards and region-wide sharing of address files could save money and lives at the local level. The following sections provide greater detail on each of these issues. The next section describes the development of the Census Bureau’s MAF system. Section three documents the legal history prohibiting distribution of the MAF to local government and others. Section four documents the role and weaknesses of addresses in local government systems. Section five outlines the problems of having multiple systems. Section six describes recently aborted efforts to convince the Census Bureau and Congress to modify Title 13, making the MAF available to state and local government. This paper concludes with a summary and recommendations on how state and local government could move forward to develop a master address file that serves their needs. CENSUS ADDRESS ISSUES The US Constitution requires national census be taken every 10 years for the purpose of apportioning seats in Congress. Seats in the lower house are allocated to states in proportion to population, with no state getting fewer than one representative. States allocated more than one representative must develop Reprinted from 2006 URISA Conference Proceedings, with permission
districts having an equal number of people in each. All population counts are based on the home addresses of individuals. Since 1970 the Decennial Census has been conducted by mail, starting with urban areas that year and expanding to the entire country in 1980. Census enumerators visit homes that do not respond to the mail solicitation. In support of this effort, the Bureau develops and maintains a Master Address File – MAF. There are four components of the MAF: US Postal Services Delivery Sequence File (DSF). The USPS updates the DSF regularly and periodically provides new versions to the Census Bureau. This was not possible before 1994 and Public Law 103-430. A Memorandum of Understanding implements requirements of that law. Old Census address files; e.g. 1990 used for 2000 Census. Census Bureau field operations. This will be especially important for adding geographic coordinates to the MAF. Local address lists and files. Local and tribal governments have been partners in this effort since PL 103-430 was passed allowing these governments to review Census lists if they sign a confidentiality agreement saying they will not copy or use any of the information in the file. This program has many names, but is best known as LUCA – the Local Update of Census Addresses. In part because of the restrictions on use, only half the potential local and tribal governments participated in the LUCA program. They added about 7 million addresses for the 2000 Census, all but 600,000 of these were also found by Census field staff (Census staff, 2005). Despite these efforts, the MAF has been flawed. A recent GAO (2006) report documents the following flaws in 2000 address lists. The 2000 MAF contained 116 million housing units, but contained significant errors: 2.3 million units incorrectly included in the Census o 0.7 million duplicate addresses o 1.6 million vacant housing units misclassified as occupied 2.7 million missed units o 1.4 million housing units not included o 1.3 million housing units improperly deleted 5.6 million housing units incorrectly located on Bureau maps Partly to correct these flaws, the Bureau initiated a massive effort to modernize its geographic programs, both MAF and TIGER, the program that produces maps of the street network and provides the basis for locating returned Census forms to the correct block, tract, and city. In 2002, the Bureau awarded $200 million to the Harris Corporation to update those files in preparation for the 2010 Census, adding a geographic point coordinate for each address (Census Bureau, 2002). TIGER coordinates will be correct within +7.6 meters (25 feet), MAF coordinates within +3 meters. Business addresses are collected as well to aid the Bureau in its Economic Censuses. In 2006, the Bureau awarded another $600 million to Harris Reprinted from 2006 URISA Conference Proceedings, with permission
for a 5-year contract to support the Field Data Collection Automation Project, a project to supply field staff with mobile computers with GPS that will assist them in finding each address and collecting data there (Census Bureau, 2006). LEGAL BACKGROUND Title 13 of the US Code prohibits Census Bureau employees from publishing or disclosing any information related to individuals or establishments. The penalty for such disclosure can be as high as $5,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both. The focus of Title 13 appears to be on personal responses, not necessarily address lists used as the basis for collecting individual responses. That argument was used by the Essex County Executive (Newark, NJ) who tried to use civil discovery and the Freedom of Information Act to access the address lists used in the 1980 Census; he was hoping to prove that list was faulty and the resulting count flawed. In Baldrige v. Shapiro (1982) the Supreme Court ruled that legislative history shows Congressional intent to preserve confidentiality of all schedules lists, and statements – including address data. In its ruling, the Court noted that Congress could change this at any time with revised legislation. In 1994, Congress looked at Title 13 and decided to modify it with Public Law 103-430 creating the LUCA program: Local Update of Census Addresses. Under LUCA, local governments can review and comment on Census Bureau address lists; noting missed addresses, demolished structures, etc. At the end of the review period, local authorities are obliged to destroy the Census lists. The Bureau is required to respond in writing to all comments. Congress considered opening the address lists to the public during its 1994 deliberations. Two reasons for not making that change are noted in the Congressional Commentary (LaMacchia, 2006): 1. It might be difficult to communicate clearly to the American public that the information in question does not contain names or any other identifying information. Congress did not want to jeopardize the Bureau’s reputation and affect future participation by individuals. 2. The Bureau's definition of a housing unit is necessarily broad and may include information not generally known. If the census address information were misused, an individual might face some adverse result. LOCAL GOVERNMENT USES OF ADDRESSES Individual properties are central to the mission of local government. In the US system, practically all matters of real property are handled by local government. Individual addresses are assigned and maintained by cities, counties in unincorporated places. Ownership records, property appraisal, and property taxes are maintained by county government. Zoning, permits, and other rules controlling the use of the land are defined and enforced by local government.
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Property is a key part of America’s sense of identity and self-determination; we would not trust control over land to be handled at higher units of government. Public safety responses depend on addresses and coordinates to send help quickly (NENA, 2006). Land-line originating 911 emergency calls are routed to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) by the 9-1-1 Control Office depending on address of the phone. The PSAP call taker uses an ALI (Automatic Location Identification) database to see the name, address, and Emergency Service Number (ESN) of the call. The ESN identifies the appropriate fire, police, or ambulance for that correct address. This is our E911 response system as based on address. It has a developing system for locating the coordinates for wireless phone calls not attached to addresses. A few places are already developing a unified address system covering E911 and multiple jurisdictions. MetroGIS, a consortium of regional and local government in the Twin Cities area, is working in partnership with the Metropolitan Emergency Services Board on one such effort (MetroGIS, 2006). In their vision, a cooperative effort will lead to a region-wide list of occupiable addresses (residential and non-residential), complete with point geography, and a link to local parcel data. Within each locale, a single official authority will be charged with maintenance, but the various authorities will all use a standard approach. Addresses will become part of the system at the time a building permit is granted. The Metropolitan Emergency Services Board has expressed interest in being the regional custodian, merging data from many locales and providing access to all. Of course local government uses addresses in many other ways in the course of operations. Water and sewer lines connect to individual addresses. All sorts of licenses and permits are issued to addresses. Health and building inspectors note violations at these addresses. Notices are mailed to addresses affected by street closings, plan modifications, or zoning variances. Local governments have the best address lists available, because those addresses are local and changes are monitored daily. Nevertheless, there are numerous flaws: Lack of standardization in addressing makes data sharing difficult across departments within any given jurisdiction. Sharing is also difficult with other jurisdictions and levels of government. Cities only care about building addresses. As a result, they have little or no information about the number of housing units within a building – let alone the actual labels on the individual apartments. The same is true for individual residences within mobile home parks. Yet that information is critical for first responders. Counties first concern is with ownership and taxation, not addresses. They have the address of the taxpayer, but not necessarily the situs address, the address of the actual property.
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Many units of government operate across city and county borders. Examples include school districts, watershed districts, and state government. These organizations have extraordinary problems obtaining standard addresses from their various components and often end up developing their own address lists. E911 authorities invest significant effort to maintain their own address system, their Automatic Location Identification (ALI) database. The ALI includes the following information for each phone number: caller name, address, and the Emergency Service Number (ESN) of the address: appropriate police, fire and ambulance service. This database is compiled by combining 1) phone company customer records with 2) address lists provided by address authorities, and 3) Master Street Address Guides (MSAG) showing breakpoints in the ESNs for the streets. E911 systems in many areas have only rudimentary coordinate information to guide response teams, sometimes nothing more than an address. A few rural counties have coordinates for driveway turn-offs from the public road. The most modern 911 systems are now using address point systems and cascading geocoders; i.e., start with address points, if no match, then go to parcels, if no match then go to street centerlines. No part of local government maintains addresses or coordinates of buildings under construction. Yet construction sites generate a disproportionate number of emergencies. Responders have little good information to use in finding those sites, let alone buildings within the site. Many local governments have no information on the geographic coordinates of buildings. When Hurricane Katrina blew down homes and street signs, emergency responders had no references when looking for home-sites in devastated areas. GISCorps co-founder Shoreh Elhami talked about desperate calls to her volunteer staff, “[T]he Coast Guard would come in with addresses in their hands and say, ‘I need a latitude and longitude for this address.’ So the GIS professionals would do a geocoding, give it to the Coast Guard who got on helicopters and saved lives.” (CNN, 2005).
PROBLEMS OF SEPARATE SYSTEMS This section documents the problems of maintaining two separate address systems. Some of these problems would be addressed by allowing local government access to the Bureau’s MAF data. Others can only be resolved by merging the two systems into one. The most obvious problem of having these separate systems, local and Census is cost to the taxpayer. The Census Bureau will be spending an estimated $536 million to improve the geographic information backbone of Census operations (GAO, 2006). Much of that information is already sitting in local government offices and could be shared at minimal cost. The Bureau is making a substantial effort to incorporate that information or costs would be even higher. Some have Reprinted from 2006 URISA Conference Proceedings, with permission
argued that paying some of that money to local government to improve their local geographic information would have paid higher long term dividends to Bureau and the nation. Access to the MAF would help many smaller and less affluent local governments who have no or limited GIS capabilities. They usually have address lists, but almost never have digital parcel maps, let alone geographic coordinates of buildings. Access to the Bureau’s MAF data would provide equity to these less fortunate cities and counties. For many places, this will be the best tool they have for ensuring that all properties are on the tax rolls and all its citizens are treated equally. The MAF could help first responders in emergencies. The MAF is the only complete source of data about residences across the nation. When a natural disaster hits, it often impacts multiple jurisdictions. Emergency responders need to know the locations of all residences, not just those with an operational GIS, not just those who have an off-site backup system. MAF could provide data in a single format for the entire area. Even for emergency response within a single jurisdiction, local governments are likely to have no good address information for apartments, especially those within small, multi-unit structures. Access to MAF by local government would lead to increased participation in LUCA and, eventually, to a higher quality Census. Because the LUCA program prohibits local government from gaining access to any MAF data, less than half the local governments in the US participate in that program. In 2000, participating local governments added about 7 million addresses to the MAF (many of these addresses were also found independently by Bureau field staff). More missed addresses would have found if all local governments participated in LUCA. The quality of the Census would have been better. Local governments need more incentive to participate in LUCA. Participating in LUCA requires a significant effort for local governments. Vanderschaaf (2006) estimated that the City of St. Paul invested 1000 staff hours in its LUCA review for the 2000 Census. Some of that effort was caused by internal problems; the city had not required its various departments to standardize addresses, so multiple checks were required. For 2010, the Bureau hopes to make LUCA participation easier and is offering multiple options for local government, including submitting local address lists and letting Bureau staff look for anomalies. The National Research Council (NRC) has studied the LUCA program and criticized it for being a one-sided partnership (National Research Council 2004). Local government invests a huge amount of effort reviewing the Bureau’s MAF with the hope that this will lead to a more complete count within their jurisdictions. The NRC said, “We believe that a successful federal-state cooperative program involving the level of LUCA must be a two-way street in Reprinted from 2006 URISA Conference Proceedings, with permission
which there are direct benefits not only to the Census Bureau but also to participating localities” (National Research Council, 2004, 148-149). Recognizing the limitations imposed by Title 13, the NRC nevertheless says, “The Bureau should also give serious consideration to providing localities with updated MAF files…. [O]ur view is that the confidentiality issues could be resolved; street addresses do not, of themselves, identify information about individual residents or even indicate whether an address is occupied” (National Research Council 2004, 149). The private sector is duplicating the work of the public sector, because it cannot get access to addresses from the public sector. TeleAtlas has created a database of 300+ million residential and other addresses in North America (TeleAtlas, 2006). They do this because there is a demand for this information, one that government cannot supply. Don Cooke of TeleAtlas argues, “The laws basically say the intellectual property that’s generated by the government belongs to citizens, so I’d like to get it because I don’t want to spend the money to go out and compile it.” (NPR, 2006). TeleAtlas’ markets include federal, state, and local governments. Its costs are paid by the public, now paying for the third time for this same data. At the same time that Congress is worrying about privacy, the gates are opening on different ways to access addresses around the country. Phone books are online. TeleAtlas is supplying a huge number of addresses. Zillow provides price information for over 67 million homes, all accessible by address. Zillow.com currently attracts 2-3 million unique users per month, each spending 10-12 minutes on the site (Clark, 2006). Buyers, sellers, and Realtors are all users of the site. No uproar has been heard about invasion of privacy. EFFORTS TO CHANGE TITLE 13 NSGIC, the National States Geographic Information Council, represents the GIS coordinating bodies in the 50 states. Its mission includes strengthening coordination within the states, as outlined in its Fifty States Initiative (NSGIC, 2005). It also provides a unified voice from the states to federal agencies. In 2004 NSGIC began an effort to change Title 13, so local governments across the country could have access to the Bureau’s MAF. At a minimum, NSGIC wanted local governments who cooperated in the LUCA program to be able to keep any new address they discovered while reviewing the MAF. It was expected that these would be few in number. The addition of this information would simply be helping local government do its job better, just as their assistance to the Bureau helps it do its jobs better. Access to the local addresses would be subject to existing rules of each government. A broader vision was that the Bureau would partner with state and local government in developing and maintaining a single Master Address File. Both sides would use their resources to keep this database current and correct. A central Reprinted from 2006 URISA Conference Proceedings, with permission
theme of many NSGIC initiatives is that data should be created once and used many times. Perhaps the MAF could be opened to broader public access. The Bureau’s TIGER files created the basis for dozens of new firms and thousands of jobs when they became public. There is no reason to believe that the economic benefits would be any less for making MAF public. NSGIC tabled its efforts in June 2006 (Craig, 2006). National concern over privacy and identity theft appear to override the benefits of changing Title 13. NSGIC representative met or contacted staff from the appropriate committees of both the House and the Senate. No one wanted to discuss this issue, given the current climate. NSGIC spoke with other organizations interested in more efficient government and found no interest in burning political capital to achieve this goal; other issues were more pressing and less controversial. In tabling this initiative, NSGIC did not abandon it completely. The last paragraph of the article about tabling the effort reads, “NSGIC may look for other ways to get this data. Geographic coordinates and addresses of buildings are needed by others, but are both considered non-sharable under Title 13. The coordinates could be very vital for First Responders, especially when addresses have obliterated by a disaster. Counties have many uses for site addresses…. Coordination among various units of government could be started now, even if the federal government cannot participate.” (Craig, 2006). CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Two things are clear from the research behind this article. First, there are enormous benefits to be gained by having a nation-wide address file, complete with geographic coordinates on those addresses. There would be significant cost savings from creating one list, rather than the three or more sets now in existence; local government, private sector, and the Census Bureau. A single list updated by all participants would be more complete and accurate than any one is by itself. Having geographic coordinates on those addresses would help first responders save lives, help local government levy taxes equitably, delivery trucks be on time, and the Census Bureau enumerate all households. Second, there is little hope of the Census Bureau being able to share its MAF data anytime soon. Despite widespread access to address data from other public and private sources, neither Congress nor the Bureau has any inclination to change Title 13, which prohibits sharing the MAF. Not even the stories of the value of address and coordinate data in Hurricane Katrina rescue operations can convince our federal leaders of the need to cooperate. Therefore, it falls to state and local government to develop good address files to meet their own needs. There are weaknesses in this approach. Without the US Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File, they do not have a base that is updated regularly. Without Bureau participation, the cost savings will be substantially less. But good address files are something state and local government need to do Reprinted from 2006 URISA Conference Proceedings, with permission
their work, especially for their E911 work. It is clearly worth their effort to create and maintain this file. Adopting URISA’s Draft Street Address Data Standard is a necessary start (URISA, 2006). St. Paul’s experience in its 2000 LUCA work provides a lesson on the cost of not maintaining addresses in a standard manner, and this was within a single city. Imagine the additional problems of merging data from the school district or E911 Board. NENA (the National Emergency Number Association) and the Census Bureau were strong partners in developing this standard. The standard is currently under review and will soon be available for use. Organizing this work will not be easy. Individual jurisdictions must agree to cooperate within a regional or statewide framework. Typically addresses originate with the municipal government, but their flow to school districts and others is not systematic. The MetroGIS model may be helpful, where the regional E911 oversight authority operates as a regional custodian. The ability and willingness of those authorities to handle this task will vary from place to place, so backup systems at the state level will be required to fill any gaps. NSGIC could take the lead in pushing such a system, but would want to work closely with NENA the National Association of Counties, URISA, and other stakeholders to ensure a system that works smoothly and meets all critical needs.
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REFERENCES Baldridge v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345 (1982). Craig, Will, 2006. “NSGIC’s Bureau of the Census Title 13 Initiative Tabled,” NSGIC News, Summer 2006, page 4. Census Bureau, 2002. “Harris Corporation Awarded Contract for U.S. Census Bureau's MAF/TIGER Accuracy Improvement Project,” http://www.census.gov/geo/mod/maftiger.html, accessed August 4, 2006. Census Bureau, 2006. “Census Bureau Awards $600 Million Contract to Support Automation Project,” http://www.census.gov/PressRelease/www/releases/archives/census_2010/006676.html, accessed August 4, 2006. Census staff, 2005. Countdown to the 2010 Redistricting Data Program, Meeting at MN State Office Building, St. Paul, November 9, 2005. Clark, Ben, 2006. Presentation at Land Parcel Databases: A National Vision, National Research Council, Washington DC, May 23, 2006. CNN, 2005. “‘Geocoding’ used to locate Katrina survivors,” November 10, 2005, http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/11/10/gis.technology/index.html, accessed August 4, 2006. GAO, 2006. 2010 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Take Prompt Actions to Resolve Long-standing and Emerging Address and Mapping Challenges, GAO06-272, Washington DC: General Accountability Office. LaMacchia, Robert, 2006. Text from Congressional Commentary presented at NSGIC Midyear Meeting, Annapolis MD, March 20, 2006. MetroGIS, 2006. Street Addresses, Address Workgroup, http://www.metrogis.org/data/info_needs/street_addresses/add_wkgp.shtml, accessed August 5, 2006. National Research Council, 2004. The 2000 Census: Counting Under Adversity. Panel to Review to the 2000 Census. Constance F. Citro, Daniel L. Cork, and Janet L. Norwood, eds. Committee on National Statistics, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. NENA, 2006. NENA Master Glossary of 9-1-1 Terminology, National Emergency Number Association, http://www.nena.org/media/files/NENA00001April2006_1_1.pdf, accessed August 17, 2006.
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NPR, 2006. “Census Bureau Adopts GPS to Find American Homes,” All Things Considered, National Public Radio, July 31, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5590541, accessed August 3, 2006. TeleAtlas, 2006. Fact Sheet, http://www.teleatlas.com/stellent/groups/public/documents/content/ta_d_009623. pdf accessed on August 4, 2006. Title 13 US Code. http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title13/title13.html accessed August 2, 2006. URISA, 2006. Draft Street Address Data Standard, http://urisa.org/about/initiatives/addressstandard, accessed August 4, 2006. VanderSchaaf, Mark, 2006. Former employee of St. Paul Department of Planning and Development, personal conversation, March 29, 2006. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thanks to Mark Kotz, GIS Database Administrator at the Metropolitan Council and staff to the MetroGIS Address Workgroup. Mark helped me understand how addresses are assigned by local governments and the problems they have in sharing them. And thanks to Gordon Chinander, Regional GIS Coordinator for the Metropolitan Emergency Services Board. Gordy helped me better understand the 911 system and work that is needed to connect their Computer Aided Dispatch systems with GIS centerlines, parcels, and addresses.
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