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MARGIS is a technical advisory group to the Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies (MARPA)
An important example of collaboration among the Massachusetts RPAs can be seen in the area of geographic information system (GIS) technology. The GIS professionals of the 13 RPAs collectively promote, support, coordinate, and encourage the efficient delivery of geographic and environmental information to commonwealth communities, and also provide a technical forum open for discussions about GIS service-related issues. Furthermore, they serve in an advisory capacity to MARPA in the application of GIS technology and promote successful GIS operations through coordination among member communities, state agencies, and other interested parties at the local, state, and federal levels of government.
Regional Planning Agencies Providing GIS Service
In 1999, the Massachusetts General Court passed enabling legislation to create an office of geographic and environmental information. Through this initiative, Massachusetts’ RPAs gained designation as “regional service centers.” This network of service providers helps the commonwealth, its municipalities, and the public to develop and use GIS technology and data. Massachusetts RPAs
- Foster cooperation among local, state, and regional interests in order to improve the quality, access, cost-effectiveness, and utility of geographical information as a strategic resource statewide.
- Coordinate data sharing by creating regional depositories for digital spatial data and developing effective distribution methods for this data, thereby improving its application to land-based decisions.
- Promote establishment and use of standards for acquisition and management of geographical data, enhancing understanding and general utility of GIS-generated products and analyses.
- Support statewide efforts to promote and execute a multi-jurisdictional network of GIS systems that serve to improve stewardship of natural resources and the environment and to guide economic development and land use planning, risk assessment, emergency response, and pollution control.
- Provide local technical assistance to member communities with inexpensive or free technical assistance with system implementation, data development, and practical solutions to spatial analytical routines.
Taking a Coordinated Approach
The Massachusetts Alliance of Regional Geographic Information Systems (MARGIS) is an alliance of GIS professionals representing each of Massachusetts’ 13 regional planning agencies. MARGIS actively engages in the evaluation of an ever-changing GIS technology and, through MARPA, supports a coordinated approach toward development of a truly integrated, multipurpose, statewide GIS.
The regional approach is comprehensive, ensuring that spatial data is fully and correctly integrated within many areas of regional concern—environmental quality, land use, housing, and economic development.
The regional approach is environmentally sensitive, fostering development of easily understood maps and geographic analyses, recognizing complex environmental issues which transcend the corporate boundaries of individual municipalities.
The regional approach saves money by fostering the sharing of highly accurate spatial data, thereby minimizing duplication of effort and the need to invest in expensive geospatial data and useful analyses.
The regional approach supports coordination among municipal and regional entities through improved understanding—bringing interests together and linking individual needs, thereby conserving resources and achieving common goals through mutually beneficial projects.
MARGIS: Improving Regional GIS Services
The Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission has developed a cutting edge development suitability model which is widely used by decision makers dealing with land development, transportation, environmental, or economic issues.
The Merrimack Valley Regional Planning Commission has been a statewide leader with the application of a new technology that greatly improves local access to high quality aerial-oblique digital images, thereby providing untrained photo interpreters with practical understanding of any site throughout their regional landscape.
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council served as principal author of a spatial model analyzing build-out scenarios, which was eventually adopted by the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and employed by the 13 state RPAs as they collectively completed analyses of development potential for all 351 Massachusetts communities.