For the past 20 years, GIS has played a unique role in the Portland, Oregon, region, providing the information base for the regional government (Metro) urban planning systems.
Portland has perhaps the best-known growth management program in the world. Policy makers from Europe; Asia; Latin America; and, of course, North America annually trek to Portland to learn about its regional form of government, its urban growth boundary, and its light rail transit system. Meanwhile, scholars and journalists of all persuasions fill books, journals, and newspapers with criticism and praise for Portland's style of growth management. Though the debate has raged for nearly three decades, one element of Portland's growth management system has been conspicuously overlooked: that is, Portland's development and use of an advanced regional land information system (RLIS). Since RLIS was developed in the late 1980s, it has played a critical role in the development of every significant plan, the evaluation of every key policy, and the formulation of every major development model. Though the relative success of each of those plans, policies, and models has been widely discussed, the critical role of RLIS has gone largely unnoticed.