Unzip the postcodes, just like the zips
Courtesy of @AlexPuig in Barcelona, I read on Twitter recently a post about the zip code database project. Quite simply, it’s a project that keeps the US five-digit zip code file up-to-date, providing for each zip code its latitude and longitude coordinates correct to six decimal places, the city, state and the state abbreviation. All 33,179 of them (correct at time of publishing, including the 130 PR (Puerto Rico) codes.
And quite simply, it’s beautiful. Making this data publicly available is hugely important. It allows people to do hugely powerful things with geographical data, using the currency that everyone uses: zip codes. (My only slight gripe is that it doesn’t go down to the nine-digit postcodes. Maybe the limited additional value provided by the additional accuracy doesn’t justify the hugely bloated files and additional effort it would involve.)
Meanwhile here in Blighty, there’s no such luck; nor foresight. Joe Harris informs me that the postcode–latitude/longitude file is available for download for a fee.
This sucks. People are left reliant on the likes of Google to determine postcodes’ coordinates, as opposed to having self-contained solutions. Instead, the data should be made freely available, surely making it much more useful than the value that can be driven from its sale.
The same is true of train status data. And Ordnance Survey information.
So please. Follow America’s lead. Open up access to the data. And allow people to use it in beautiful and creative ways.
(I couldn’t help but smile, btw, at the zip code download file being called zips.csv.zip.)