Developing a National Street Addressing Standard: URISA Takes the Lead

By Martha Lombard, Hilary Perkins and Ed Wells

_Street addresses are the location identifiers most widely used by state and local government and the public.Street addresses are critical for administration, emergency response, research, marketing, mapping, geospatial information systems, routing and navigation, and law enforcement.Yet, until now consensus on a common street address standard has remained elusive.The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), with its broad-based membership representing local, regional, state and federal government geospatial professionals, is in a position to focus on this standard.With the support of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the Census Bureau, URISA submitted a proposal to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) to lead an Address Standards Working Group to draft a standard for street address data content, classification, quality and transfer.The Working Group, intended to include a broad cross section of the community that creates and uses street addresses, will build on previous work done by the Census Bureau

URISA has a long-standing interest in addressing.In 1995, Peirce Eichelberger, Jill Stover and David Taylor developed a workshop on GIS and Address Implementation. In 1998, URISA and co-sponsors NENA, the Postal Service and the Census Bureau held the first Street Smart and Address Savvy conference.This conference is now an annual URISA event.

In 1996, the Cultural and Demographic Subcommittee of the FGDC proposed an address transfer standard to facilitate sharing of mailing address data at the Federal level, and it went out for a second public review in 2003.URISA's members were actively involved in reviewing the proposed transfer standard, and many believed that it did not accurately reflect how local governments create and manage addresses. Based on URISA's comments and further discussions with the FGDC and the Census Bureau, URISA's Board of Directors endorsed the preparation and submittal of a proposal to the FGDC to develop a draft standard using a broad-based coalition of local, regional and state governments, as well as the private sector, and other representatives.This request was approved by the FGDC in April 2005.

A group of interested professionals who attended the Standards session at the Street Smart and Address Savvy conference last August, and who participated in drafting the proposal and additional meetings with the FGDC and Census staff in Washington between August 2004 and March 2005 make up URISA's Address Standards Working Group. Leading this group are the authors of this article; Martha Lombard, past president of URISA; and Ed Wells and Hilary Perkins, both past board members.We have requested participation from the URISA membership, and from our sister organizations, including NENA, the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA) and others.We have had significant response from the geospatial community, and are continuing to solicit participation.The level of interest in this project indicates that this is a much needed standard, and the time is ripe for its development.

What is the Address Standard?
The proposal for the address standard actually covers four parts of one standard.
  1. Content.This defines each of the elements of an address, and how they are related to each other.
  2. Classification.There are many types of addresses, used for different purposes, which require specific forms and formats.These classes have an effect on how the data is structured in databases, and how it should be interpreted.
  3. Data Quality.This describes how address data quality will be tested and determined.
  4. Data Exchange or Transfer.This describes how address data from different sources, which may be in different forms, can be exchanged reliably.Transfer is an especially important standard for many of the federal agencies, which obtain data from local and state governments.Transfer standards will provide for much more streamlined data collection at the state and federal levels.
How Is the Standard Being Approached?
URISA's Address Standards Working Group is subdivided into separate committees to work on each of the parts listed above.Some volunteers will actually research and discuss options, and draft part of the standard.Other volunteers will review what emerges from the committees, and provide comments.Yet others will simply observe the process as it progresses.And still others have volunteered to use their community as a test site for the standard.Due to the wide variation in addressing practices, it is likely that several test sites will be selected, representing different types of communities (rural, urban, suburban, residential, commercial, etc.) These sites have not yet been selected.

What is the Schedule?
The committees are now forming.Each committee will meet via conference call between now and August, to work on drafting various parts of the standard.Drafts will be posted to a collaborative web site for the reviewers and observers as they are completed.

At the next Street Smart meeting, August 12-14 in Austin, TX, the committees and the entire Address Standards Working Group will meet to discuss the standard.Anyone interested can attend the presentation on the standard that is scheduled during the conference. After the conference, URISA will provide the draft standard to its membership, and will provide it to the directors of the other associations mentioned above.This informal review process will continue until the end of September, when the Address Standards Working Group will process the comments and suggestions, and issue a final draft by the time of the URISA Annual Conference in Kansas City, MO, October 9-12.

At this conference, the final draft will be presented for further discussion.Shortly after the conference, final revisions will be completed, and the draft standard will be forwarded to the FGDC.The FGDC will then initiate the formal review and comment process.We hope that by involving members of local government and the geospatial data communities in the development of the standard, the formal comment period can be brief and result in few changes.Additional approval and adoption of the standard may be pursued through the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Getting Involved
Volunteers are welcome.Please e-mail URISA your name and contact information, along with a brief statement of your qualifications and level of interest (participant, reviewer or observer).

Published Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Written by Martha Lombard, Hilary Perkins and Ed Wells

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