People from around the world come to Portland, Oregon, to study the city’s successful model for growth management and comprehensive land-use planning. Few, however, know that this success is enabled by a regional land information system (RLIS) that was conceived and implemented 20 years ago by Metro, the first elected regional government in the United States, along with cooperating local jurisdictions, to help meet state planning requirements. RLIS has since been the key tool used to plan, evaluate policy, and formulate development models in the Portland area.
Metro, which comprises three counties and 25 cities, secured the funding and political support required for the system, covering 544 square miles, through two visionary arrangements. First, it convinced the region’s electric utility company, PGE, to share its CAD file of tax lot boundaries. In return, Metro would return the file to PGE in GIS format and produce quarterly updates.
Second, Metro offered to share its system with the cities and counties in its jurisdiction in exchange for their agreement to maintain the data and give Metro periodic updates. To gain support from Metro’s leadership, the project team quickly produced a map to demonstrate the system’s capabilities.