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The building and open space layers from MassGIS have been imported for large swathes of Massachusetts, thanks to effort by User:crschmidt and others in the region. map

MassGIS ( is the shorthand name for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bureau of Geographic Information, within the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS). MassGIS provides a large amount of public domain geographic data that, among other uses, can be used to improve OpenStreetMap. Significant amounts of MassGIS data has already been imported into OpenStreetMap, and other data is routinely used for reference in editing.

The OpenStreetMap Massachusetts community would like to note our appreciation to MassGIS for making large amounts of data available under OSM-compatible license terms.

Right to Use

MassGIS states in their FAQ that their data is public domain, though credit is appreciated:

Since MassGIS data is paid for by public tax dollars, the data are in the public domain and therefore can be used by anyone for any purpose. When using MassGIS data on maps or in digital applications, source credit should be stated as "MassGIS (Bureau of Geographic Information), Commonwealth of Massachusetts EOTSS"

Similar language is in their "About" page:

Note on copyright from e-mail exchange with MassGIS (note that the language is from before a reorganization into EOTSS):

All of our data is paid for by the taxpayers and is therefore in the public domain. We do prefer to be credited though in any publications... When using MassGIS data on maps or in digital applications, source credit should be stated as [see FAQ above for currently-recommended text]

In February, 2020, a MassGIS person confirmed that the 2019 Orthophotos are usable for OpenStreetMap (and other purposes). MassGIS appreciates attribution but it is not required. (Omitting name and not posting the mail because this is a odd combination of a public record and standard courtesy of not posting email.)

The page about the 2015 Orthoimagery layer has unusual licensing text, saying that the images themselves cannot be distributed. In January 2021, a MassGIS person confirmed that while the imagery itself cannot be redistributed, the imagery can be used for any purpose, including deriving vector feature data for OpenStreetMap.

Some older MassGIS data layer pages indicated that the layers are CC-BY, which is in conflict with the PD statement in the FAQ. In January of 2021 a MassGIS person confirmed that the CC-BY label was an artifact of the web site publishing system and incorrect.

Overall, it is very clear from responses to multiple questions that all MassGIS data can be used for OpenStreetMap, with attribution requested. While the full name of the department as listed above is what's preferred on something public-facing, the shorthand of just saying "MassGIS" is fine, especially in places like changeset comments and source tags.

Privacy Policy

Two privacy policies apply to people using this data. One is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's website policy, for requests via that site, and the other is ESRI's privacy policy, for access to tiles and features hosted by ESRI (ArcGIS) on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Imagery and Feature Services

Imagery & Background Layers

There are several sets of imagery available from MassGIS that can be used as a background in an OpenStreetMap editor for reference. Some of the layers are in the Editor Layer Index (ELI) from which they flow into iD and JOSM as menu items. Layers in ELI have "(ELI)" after them.

  • For use in the iD editor: Go to the Background menu on the right side, and choose Custom. Paste in the "iD Background" link below for the layer you want to use as a background.
  • For use in the JOSM editor: See LearnOSM's page on adding imagery to JOSM for instructions. There are two ways that can work, pick the one that works best for you:
    1. Adding the WMTS source (which includes information like the layer name and available zoom levels)
    2. Adding the "JOSM TMS" URL below as a TMS source.
  • For other editors or GIS software: Most editors should be able to use at least one of the TMS or WMTS formats.

MassGIS 2019 Orthoimagery (ELI)

This layer is 15 cm color leaf-off orthophotos, acquired from airplanes in Spring 2019. MassGIS sometimes refers to it as USGS data because of joint sponsorship, but within OSM the preferred label is "MassGIS 2019 Orthos".

MassGIS 2015 Orthoimagery

This layer is approximately 50cm color leaf-on satellite imagery collected from March 16 to May 7, 2015.

MassGIS 2013-2014 Orthoimagery

This is 30cm imagery from Spring of 2013 and 2014. Similar to the 2019 data, MassGIS sometimes labels it "USGS" due to joint sponsorship.

MassGIS L3 Parcels (Overlay) (ELI)

Example of MassGIS L3 Parcels overlay

This is a representation of parcel boundaries. It's just the outlines and addresses on a transparent background, so you may want to use it over some other background. (Also see the Basemap available below that already includes the parcel boundaries.)

  • MassGIS Property Tax Parcels description, including last update date for each town
  • "Standardized Assessors' Parcels" tile layer service information
  • Link for iD Background:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for JOSM TMS is: tms[15,20]:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for WMTS is:

MassGIS Basemap Options

MassGIS Basemap

Example of MassGIS Basemap

This is a general map with topography, roads, bodies of water, building structure outlines, and many other features listed.

  • General information on MassGIS Basemap, including map legend
  • MassGIS Basemap tile layer service information
  • Link for iD Background:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for JOSM TMS is: tms[7,19]:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for WMTS is:

MassGIS Basemap with Parcels

This is just like the Basemap except that it also includes parcel boundaries (the property lines between real estate lots). That is, it's basically the same as if you took the Basemap above and overlaid onto it the L3 Parcels layer above, but this is just all as one layer.

  • MassGIS Basemap with Parcels tile layer service information
  • Link for iD Background:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for JOSM TMS is: tms[7,19]:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for WMTS is:

MassGIS Basemap Topographic

This is a map of just the topographic features:

  • MassGIS Topographic Features for Basemap tile layer service information
  • Link for iD Background:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for JOSM TMS is: tms[7,19]:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for WMTS is:

MassGIS Basemap Features (Overlay)

This is a map of just the detailed features, with a transparent background rather than the topographic information, which you might want to overlay onto some other background:

  • MassGIS Basemap Detailed Features tile layer service information
  • Link for iD Background:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for JOSM TMS is: tms[7,19]:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for WMTS is:

MassGIS LiDAR Shaded Relief (ELI)

LiDAR Shaded Relief view in Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, showing WWII ammo bunkers and railroad tracks that would otherwise be hard to see through traditional aerial imagery

The Shaded Relief LiDAR map can be especially useful for seeing features on the ground obscured by tree cover, such as stone walls and narrow streams. The LiDAR data was collected between 2010 and 2015 (depending on the part of the state).

  • MassGIS LiDAR Terrain Data description
  • Shaded Relief from LiDAR tile layer service information
  • Link for iD Background:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for JOSM TMS is: tms[6,19]:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for WMTS is:

MassGIS LiDAR Color-Coded Elevation

There's also a color-coded elevation map available from the LiDAR data, though it's more useful for a big picture (small-scale, low-zoom) than the detailed view that the Shaded Relief map shows:

  • Elevation from LiDAR Symbolized tile layer service information
  • Link for iD Background:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for JOSM TMS is: tms[6,19]:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • Link for WMTS is:

MassGIS MassDEP Hydrography

This is a useful reference of where streams and other bodies of water generally are (and perhaps more importantly, their names). The locations of streams is not always exact, however. Note that this isn't set up as a "tile service" so it may be a bit trickier to load as a background. Most of the information in it is already incorporated into the MassGIS Basemap above.

Other MassGIS Tile Service Layers

MassGIS has many Tile Services available in the MassGIS Gallery, including some older aerial imagery (and maybe interesting things newer than this page was last updated). For anything in it that is labeled as a "Tile Service" (you may want to search using the "tile" keyword), you can derive the needed URLs as follows:

  1. Go to the Tile Service page for the information you're interested in.
  2. At the bottom of the right side, there is a box labeled "URL". Copy that URL. It should end with /MapServer
  3. Add onto the end of that URL the suffix for the service you want:
    • For iD Background, append /tile/{zoom}/{y}/{x}
    • For JOSM TMS, prepend tms: and append /tile/{zoom}/{y}/{x}
    • For WMTS, instead append /WMTS/1.0.0/WMTSCapabilities.xml

For example, you could go to the 1990's Black & White Imagery page, and find that the URL in the right column is

  • This means that the iD Background URL is{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • The JOSM TMS URL is tms:{zoom}/{y}/{x}
  • And that the WMTS URL is

Features Map Data

There is also feature data available from MassGIS in GeoJSON format. These show you the location of features, with properties describing each one. In many map editors, you can overlay the GeoJSON feature data and select a feature to see its properties. See the description of each dataset for what properties are available for each feature.

For example, in the iD editor, go to the "Map Data" tab on the right side, click the ••• to the right of "Custom Map Data", and paste in the GeoJSON URL below (and ensure the "Custom Map Data" box is then checked) to see the data on the map. You can then click on one of the nodes to see the detailed properties of it.

Town and City Halls

Places of Worship



  • Libraries dataset description
  • GeoJSON:*&f=geojson
    • Though to work from within iD it may work better to download the GeoJSON file and then upload it as a local data file within the Custom Map Data, rather than just putting the URL in, for very-unclear-to-this-author reasons.

MassDOT Bridges

This information technically comes from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, not MassGIS, but is similarly public domain and free to use (though good practice to cite if referenced). It's the location of bridges and culverts within the state. While some of the locations are more exact than others, it can provide some useful information about where stream crosses a road, what the name of a crossing stream is, and whether it's considered a culvert or a bridge.

Other Data Layers

There are a variety of other datasets available from these places:

For many of them, GeoJSON is available by clicking on the APIs button on the right side of a dataset description page and copying the GeoJSON link. However, be warned that some of them are datasets much larger than the samples presented above, and for large sets it may be a significant download and could tax your system significantly to try to load the entire dataset, especially from within a browser-based editor like iD.

Imported layers

Some MassGIS information has been already directly imported into OSM. Status and mappings notes for imports of MassGIS data follow, by layer:

Executive Office of Transportation-OTP Roads Layer

This layer was imported in 2007.

Three towns were omitted from the initial import for various reasons:

  • Freetown (still missing signficant numbers of local roads)
  • Gloucester (as of 201203, OSM looks pretty complete)
  • Braintree (as of 201203, OSM looks pretty complete)

POI Layers

Please add information about these imports.

OpenSpace Layer

  • Since much of this layer was produced by digitizing paper maps, the areas frequently do not line up with the surrounding streets. The MassGIS L3 Parcel imaging layer can be used to refine the imported boundaries.


  • Lakes, ponds, and Wetlands were imported December 2010. Only Cape Cod and Charles River were imported by user morganwahl.
  • The rest of MA lakes and ponds, but not the wetlands, are being currently imported MassGIS_DEP_Wetlands_Import_2013.

MBTA Rapid Transit Layer

Please add information about this import.

Bicycle Trails Layer

Town Boundaries from Survey Points Layer

Around 2011-10, Calvin Metcalf imported most of this layer, and then various people edited to resolve minor issues. As of 2012-03, it is believed that town boundary data in OSM is in pretty good shape. (However, coastline data was not necessarily aligned with town boundary data, this was fixed by importing the offshore town boundary layer in Aug-Sep 2012, see below).

A comprehensive list of boundary relations for each town/city which incorporates the survey points layer (and the offshore layer, below) can be found at: Massachusetts/Boundary Relations.

MassGIS released an updated boundary data set on 2019-09-03. This updated geometry was finished being applied to the existing OSM boundary geometry on 2020-06-02. Each line was checked manually one at a time, and any errors from the previous imports was removed. This included removing source & attribution tags from the nodes & ways. The source tag was added to the changeset as per current policy. Duplicate lines underneath the admin lines were removed. MassGIS notes several boundary discrepancies still exist. In addition to these the MassGIS boundary of NW Brookline did not mesh up with the parcel map, so it was made to align with the parcel map instead. In cases where boundaries were obviously meant to follow a lake's shoreline, the boundary was attached to that.

Offshore Town Boundaries and County Boundaries

As the above survey point layer lacked the offshore boundaries, in Aug-Sep 2012 System-users-3.svgfiveisalive (on osm, edits, contrib, heatmap, chngset com.) and System-users-3.svgmassDOT (on osm, edits, contrib, heatmap, chngset com.) imported the offshore boundaries only and connecting them up to the onshore town boundary and have adjusted the town relationships and county relationships, accordingly. The tags used for import are: attribution=MassGIS and source=massgis_offshore_town_boundary_import

The MA state boundaries has been fixed to be the outer coastal boundary of all towns/counties. Join the discussion on the Talk:Massachusetts/Boundary Relations talk page. As of early Sep 2012, there is still some checking on all relations to be done. See also: diary entry

Building Layer

  • Jan 2009, User crschmidt imported the 290,000 buildings around Boston. No wiki page exists for this import.
  • April 2013, the rest of the state MassGIS Buildings Import was completed.

Tag Cleanup

  • Best practices for tagging and imports have changed quite a bit since 2009. This project MassGIS Import Tag Cleanup 2013 is going to clean up some tagging issues with the 2009/2010 imports.