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Tiger Files and their Usefulness for Transportation Planning Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 18th, 2019


We are living in an evolving era where technology plays a key role in everyday life. Today, individual just simply navigate their cell phone with few finger press, and the phone can direct them to anywhere at any time. Moreover, they can inform one the shortest, quickest route to any destination desired by walking, driving, and even taking public transits.

Ironically, the end user seldom ponders how this technology came into form. This is especially true when it comes to mapping services; the use of technology in Geography and mapping for giving directions and location has become a common phenomenon amongst most of the people.

Indeed with the ease of access to the World Wide Web and the internet it is so much easy to determine the particular location of a given place as well as the other characteristics of a given region such as infrastructure and demography (Miller and Wu 157). In the US, the use of this technology has been adapted by the US Central Bureau of Statistics for planning purposes and this will be outlined in the following sections.

What are TIGER files?

Since 1990, the United States Census Bureau officially adopted a format that is used to describe land attributes and census tracts: Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER). This powerful format is able to contain specifications of the land such as roads, rivers, lakes, and buildings into one single file. TIGER is purely used on topographical data instead of demographic data that one might assume.

The use of TIGER technology is based on the integration of a combination of points which are enjoined to form lines and ultimately polygons (Klosterman 5).

These are combined with geographic coordinates to be able to give a clear display of the locations of different places and features.

It is important to understand that with the use of TIGER it is relatively easy to comprehend the relations of the transportation infrastructure in relation to the spatial distribution; other features that are considered using TIGER include landmarks, census data, social and demographic characteristics of a given region.

TIGER is constantly interfaced with the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) so as to give more accurate results (Klosterman and Lew 379).

Limitations of TIGER

There are a number of limitations that can be associated with the application of the use of TIGER files in a particular region or for a particular application.

Most of these applications are linked to the accuracy of TIGER and the geographic offsets that are applicable in TIGER; the other limitations are related to the difficulties that are applicable in the use of TIGER especially if it is to be used in more than one country and the lack of trained personnel in the use of and interpretation of the TIGER systems.

In relation to the spatial configurations it is important to note that the spatial models that are applicable in most of the circumstances may not be able to meet the current technological advancements to give an accurate representation of the required information (Sutton 242). There are other advanced applications which can be used in the application of the spatial models to ensure that the data that is obtained is accurate and reliable.

These applications include but are not limited to the Network analysis models such as FEDEX and ISD; the problem of using the TIGER data in more than one country can be adequately addressed through the use of a model that allows for spatial optimization.

This allows a clear representation of the data that is available for a variety of locations; however it is very crucial to note that the greatest impediment in the adoption of these complex applications for the spatial configurations in these nations can be attributed to the lack of personnel who are trained and experienced in the use of these applications.

Usefulness in Transportation Planning

The TIGER technology and the data that is obtained find a wide range of applications in multiple fields. However the importance of the use of the TIGER systems in combination with the GIS systems for planning purposes in the transportation system cannot be overlooked.

TIGER was first developed and utilized in the 1990 census in the US by the Census Bureau and its main purpose was to help in the production of maps for use by the local census takers (Liu and Zhu 117).

One of the issues that have made the use of these maps very viable is the fact that the TIGER files that have been developed incorporate very important geographic information. This information gives details on the geographic information for the roads, railroads, streams as well as the political boundaries in the US.

The application of TIGER data in GIS applications for the purpose of transportation planning incorporates the use of thematic mapping, geo-coding of the associated date, a network analysis and finally carrying out a spatial analysis.

In the process of planning for the transit routes for the public transportation system, there is some very important information that needs to be considered such as the distribution of the income of the households in the regions to be accessed by the transport network.

Other information includes the households that own a car, and the general distribution of the public in relation to the youth, senior citizens and any disabled persons in the society (Miller and Wu 151). By use of TIGER data, a combination of thematic maps and the spatial analysis can help in the provision of this information and ultimately provide useful insights into the best routes for a public transportation system.

The use of the application related to the use of geo-coding and network analysis in a TIGER system can make it easy to easily determine the accessibility of a road transport system and the destinations that are to be accessed along the developed system.

A combination of TIGER and the GIS system makes it possible to determine the level of connectivity that can be achieved using a given transport system; this is most especially so applicable when dealing with the road transportation system.

In determining the accessibility of a given region, it is very crucial to understand the land use patterns, the kind of transport system that can fit the area and the transportation preferences that can be associated with the travelers. This is more so in relation to their preferred mode of transport.

The use of ArcMap GIS and ArcView GIS enables a user to determine the best options for accessibility in planning for a transportation system; they help to give a visual representation of the transport network that is best suited for a given region (Trainor 217).

Through the use of the TIGER data, it is possible to determine information in relation to the shortest route as well as the fastest route for any given transportation network; this can be easily determined using the Network Time Matrix in the TIGER Program data set (Liu and Zhu 112).

Apart from determining accessibility of a region TIGER data can also be used to plan for a mass transit system; this data is applicable in the service planning, the design and production of the maps and finally the publishing of these maps and determining the rate of compliance with the associated authorities.

In this system the GIS can be used for counting the passengers, carrying out a market analysis as well as doing scheduling for the transit routes that are to be used especially in the case of a rail road.

Finally the use of Tiger and GIS has made planning even easier by incorporating data to form programs and tools such as Google maps and MapQuest which have proved to be very popular search Engines to find data and information regarding the access routes and topographical information for any given region (Sutton 242).

Summary and Conclusion

It is very clear to note that the role of TIGER data in the process of planning a transportation network cannot be overlooked.

Although there are a number of limitations in relation to the level of complexity of the TIGER technology and a lack of experienced workers, ultimately the data that is obtained through this technology can be used to determine very important aspects that ultimately help to chart the best route for a transportation network (Miller and Wu, 142).

The accessibility of a given region through the chosen transportation mode is made possible and using data that gives the course of rivers; it is possible to determine the ideal location for a bridge or a railway crossing along the river. Thus the use of TIGER and GIS has made the planning for the laying out of a transportation network even more effective.

Works Cited

Klosterman, Richard. TIGER: A Primer for Planners. Planning Advisory Service (PAS) Report Number 436. Chicago, IL: American Planning Association, 1992. Print.

Klosterman, Richard and Alan Lew. “TIGER products for planning.” Journal of the American Planning Association 58.3 (1992): 379. Print.

Liu, Suxia and Xuan Zhu. “Accessibility Analyst: An Integrated GIS Tool for Accessibility Analysis in Urban Transportation Planning.” Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design. 31(2004):105-124. Print.

Miller, Harvey and Yi-Hwa Wu. “GIS Software for Measuring Time- Space Accessibility in Transportation Planning and Analysis.” GeoInformatica. 4.2 (2000): 141-159. Print.

Sutton, John. “GIS Applications in Transit Planning and Operations: A Review of Current Practice, Effective Applications, and Challenges in the USA.” Transportation Planning and Technology. 28.4 (2005): 237-250. Print.

Trainor, Timothy. “U.S. Census Bureau Geographic Support: a response to changing technology and improved data.” Cartography and Geographic Information Science. 30.2 (2003): 217. Print.

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