Google Earth Pro layers being dropped

Google Earth Pro has a set of three layers that are not found in the standard version of Google Earth. They are “US Demographics”, “US Parcel Data” and “US Daily Traffic Counts”. As the names suggest they only have data for the US. If you open a popup for the Parcel Data layer a notice appears stating that all three layers will be removed from Google Earth on January 29th, 2016. There is also a link to this page which explains that the Parcel Data depends on Google Maps Engine which was deprecated in January 2015 and is set to be shut down on January 29th, 2016.

From what we can tell based on comments on the announcement thread and emails on the subject that we have received, it is the US Parcel Data layer that will be most missed. There appear to be quite a lot of people who use it on a daily basis and before Google Earth Pro was made free of charge, they paid for it specifically for access to the Parcel Data.

The Parcel Data layer includes outlines of ‘parcels’ which are pieces of land with a unique identification number used for things like ownership records, tax assessment and zoning. The information associated with each parcel varies considerable depending on the local authority.

As far as we know there is no single alternative source for free parcel data for the whole of the US. However, a number of sources are mentioned in the comments of the announcement thread.

Parcel outlines can be seen in Google Maps, but the associated data is not available, nor is the ability to search using an Assessor’s parcel number (APN) as you can in Google Earth Pro. You can also use the Google Maps API to make the parcel outlines more visible in Google Maps. See the the announcement thread for more details.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.



Comments

  1. We paid for Google Earth Pro for years, and were happy to, mostly because of the Parcel Data function. Now we are deleting Google Earth from all of our company’s systems and investigating other options. Google has made Earth obsolete for us.

  2. This is SO annoying, the US Parcel Data were features I used literally on a daily basis.

  3. Same here. The program is useless to me now.

  4. Who on Earth thought it was a smart idea to remove the “traffic” layer from Google Earth Pro? What was the reasoning behind this? It is/was my most used function.

  5. I echo the sentiment of the prior posters. I used to pay for GE Pro, was happy to do so, and would again. I use GE Pro daily, and relied heavily on the parcel data. I didn’t mind terribly if a parcel here or there was not current, I could track it down at the local County property appraiser. I truly feel that Google made a mistake by taking this service away all together.

  6. I’m a land surveyor and also chair my county’s Land Information Council. We are up to speed in the LI world.
    Considering the way the world is trending as far as parcel data goes (easier to access and much more standardized), this definitely is a backwards step just at the time when the data is coming together across the country. I’ve wondered just who was running and marketing GE for a long time, and now it’s becoming clearer.

  7. Also a daily user of the parcel data, as well as the demographics and traffic count data. May not go anywhere, but how do we lobby to get it back?

  8. The parcel data was a nice feature of GEP. Too bad it was dropped.

  9. Google is the penultimate bag of corporate monkeys. Google says “ahhh…we are sick of actually providing a useful tool and getting paid to do it…I know! Let’s pull that section of usefulness out and STILL CHARGE THEM MONEY! YEA!!! CORPORATE BUSINESS MODEL!”.

  10. I too am upset about loosing the parcel information. this tool has been the reason why i used GE pro. I am not sure why leaving one of the most used tools is not being re-thought by staff. i would still pay for the parcel info as the only other place for me to get the info is through the cumbersome process of ArcGIS. Thank you for costing our tax payers more money by making my job less efficient. ~ frustrated county staff

  11. We gladly paid for Google Earth Pro (back before it was free) for the parcel/APN layer (mostly—used almost daily) and traffic data (less often). I would have liked some advanced notice of this. If we go back to the a paid version can we get it back? This has caused a huge ripple effect in our office and has created a panic on what to do in the absence of these layers now.

  12. Besides the removal of the three Layers from GE Pro that were not on GE, the enhanced save image feature of Google Earth Pro have disappeared. Exactly one year after Google Earth Pro was made available for free, all of the features that made Pro different from Google Earth have been removed. So for all practical purposes, there no longer is a Google Earth Pro. I suspect Google will be coming out with a Google Earth Premium or some such descriptor that will include what was previously on Google Earth Pro. :-(. In the interim, we are stuck with Google Earth basic.

    • Timothy Whitehead says:

      No changes have been made to the save image options. When you save an image, a new tool-bar appears above the view. Look for the ‘Map options’ button for any options that might have been turned off.

  13. Executive Assistant says:

    I would gladly pay for the service, we have been clipped and now GE Pro is USELESS!!

  14. Would be nice to hear from Google on the reasoning behind their decision to remove parcel data. If nothing else, just to clear the air.

    • Timothy Whitehead says:

      The parcel layers depended on Google Earth Engine which was deprecated a year ago and then shut down on schedule. The exact business reasons for shutting down Google Earth Engine have not been made public, but a product like that costs significant time and money to run and it would have been a question of whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs. It would presumably have been possible to move the Parcel data layer to another platform, but given that Google no longer charges for Google Earth Pro they would not be making any revenue from maintaining the Parcel data layer. I also do not know how the data was gathered and kept up to date, but given that nobody has yet stepped in to offer a similar product, it would seem that the costs of collecting the data is not insignificant.

  15. There’s another way to get the parcel information is via County’s GIS Map. Each County Property Appraiser’s website has a GIS Map option for you to search for parcel info. Visit http://www.realtyunited.net and call/email Trung if you need further help!

  16. Trung, yes this is sometimes true but not all counties have this service on line and not all of these services are easy to use. The GE Pro was so easy, and my daily use of it only required an approximation of boundaries for my purposes, basically to provide explanatory mapping for risk assessments for insurance purposes. Very sad they did not preserve this function somewhere, somehow.

  17. Marisol Becerra says:

    Any recommendations on alternatives for US demographics layer? I was going to use it for a work project, but just found out this is no longer available. I’d like to map U.S. demographic variables as a layer to overlay with other data in a public open source platform.

  18. Bryan Benton says:

    Enplan – Parcel Viewer currently has 18 California County Parcel Maps, and adding new counties monthly. The Basic version is free, just visit pv.enplan.com.

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