July 15th update. As described below, Gmap4 will stop working for most users sometime this evening pacific time. I am developing a new browser map called GISsurfer. This new map uses the free open-source Leaflet API (Application Program Interface). My intent is to replicate most of the Gmap4 features.

The first version of GISsurfer will launch tomorrow morning, July 16. This will be a basic fire map. I will be producing GISsurfer maps for larger wildland fire events.

I picked the name GISsurfer because this new map will let anyone surf data that is hosted on GIS servers almost as easily as you surf the internet. No GIS experience required!

If you would like to be notified as I add features to GISsurfer the best way right now is to follow me on twitter @MappingSupport. Also I will be setting up a Facebook page and a website.


June 27th update. Yesterday Google replied to my request for an additional allocation of free Google map API downloads by offering a credit of $1,000 per month for two months. This credit is for the purpose of supporting the Pawnee Fire map I produce. Unfortunately this credit is not nearly enough to cover the hits my fire map gets.

So far in June Gmap4 has been opened more than 717,000 times which means the Google map API has been downloaded that many times. 717,000 - 28,000 (free API downloads per month) = 689,000. The cost for that many downloads at $7/1000 is $4,823. Subtract $1,000 credit and we get $3,823. If Google's new pricing policy was already in effect, then I would owe Google about $4,000 for API downloads during June.

Thank you to everyone who indicated that they would be willing to pay to use Gmap4. However, I have a better idea. I plan to build a new online map using Leaflet which is a free open-source map API. Work starts today. Goal #1 is to build a *very* basic fire map. Hopefully I will have something ready to go 'live' by the morning of July 16. The new name will be GISsurfer.

I do not bear Google any ill will nor should you. Each and every business is entitled to set the price for the service they provide.


Google has slashed the number of times that maps like Gmap4 can be opened without paying money to Google. At the same time Google has indicated they will consider some disaster maps for special treatment. I have submitted my application to Google for a continuation of the special treatment Gmap4 currently receives. A decision from Google is expected sometime in the next few days.

Each time Gmap4 starts the Google map API (Application Program Interface) code is downloaded from Google's servers to the user's browser. Currently Google allows a map to download that API code 25,000 times per day for free. Starting July 16th the free Google map API downloads has been slashed to 28,000 per month with additional API downloads available for purchase at the rate of $7 per 1,000.

Gmap4 gets far more than 28,000 hits per month.

Due to the wildland fire map and other disaster maps that I produce with Gmap4, Google has currently granted my maps one million free API downloads per day. But that generous allotment is under their old and soon-to-expire policies. I have applied under the new policies for a sufficient allocation of free API downloads so Gmap4 can continue. Alas, the tone of the new policies is that Google is going to greatly tighten up their past practice of granting generous allotments of free API downloads. When Google makes their decision on my application I will post on facebook and twitter.

Gmap4 Facebook page
MappingSupport Twitter feed

If Google decides that the new limit of 28,000 Google map API downloads per month will apply to Gmap4 despite the disaster and other public service maps I produce, then based on typical Gmap4 usage I will owe Google more than $1,000 per month. If this is Google’s decision then Gmap4 will stop working at the end of the day on July 15th.

But if Gmap4 does stop working on July 15th then I plan to bring it back in some form using the free open source Leaflet map API. Any such new map will not display any of the Google basemaps.

If you would like more information you can read the application I recently filed with Google and the supplemental information I filed. See links below.

Hopefully Google will decide to grant a sufficient allocation of free Google map API downloads such that I can continue to produce disaster maps, voting district maps and other public service maps.

Joseph Elfelt, Gmap4 developer
Redmond, WA

My application to Google

I produce a Google + GIS wildland fire map, post it in social media and curate those posts. Last year during the fires north of the Bay Area that map hit the 25,000/day pay wall and stopped working. Google gave me an uplift to 250,000/day so my fire map would continue to work. Later, during the Thomas Fire my uplift was bumped up to 1,000,000/day. My Google contact for that uplift is Vanessa Schneider (email redacted).

Earlier this year there was a fire in Oklahoma and one day I was close to 40,000 API loads.

I also produce Google maps with GIS overlay layers with data about rain, floods, hurricanes and any other nasty thing going on where I can find data layers on a GIS server to display. Each map has a “Map tips” link in the upper left corner which leads to the map legend and other information to help the user get the most benefit from the map. Yes, the maps work fine on mobile. For awhile I had a Google + GIS map for the ongoing Hawaii eruption until the GIS rascals at Hawaii County decided they did not want 3rd party maps displaying their data.

The software I developed is Gmap4 which I describe as an enhanced Google map viewer. One of its features is the ability to display *any* public-facing ArcGIS MapServer and ImageServer data. While the Thomas fire was still smoking the USGS posted data to their ArcGIS server regarding the risk of debris flow. Since I was on an email distribution list I got a head’s-up when that data was available. Within a few minutes after receiving that email I posted the first version of the following map on the Thomas Fire facebook page to help educate people about the risk of debris flows. This was *four days* before the devastating mudflows occurred.


In short, I can use Gmap4 to very quickly produce, and modify as needed, Google + GIS maps as events unfold during a disaster.
If online news media embeds any of my maps in a story that can cause a *huge* spike in API loads. When the Carlton Complex Fires burned a vast part of north central Washington State in 2014 there were several days when my fire map got well north of 100,000 hits. If Google’s policy is to support as a public service that type of use by online news media, then I need a sufficient allotment of free API loads such that I am not at any financial risk. Otherwise I can certainly instruct news media not to embed any of my maps.

In addition to disaster mapping, Google and I share a common interest in donating resources to the field of education. The *beta* release of Gmap4 v9 allows anyone to surf ArcGIS data almost as easily as you surf the internet. To the best of my knowledge this is a first-of-its-kind feature. Using the *beta* code the user can split the screen. On the left side of the screen the user can navigate up/down through the table of contents of *any* public-facing ArcGIS server. Click on ImageServer or MapServer data and it will appear on the map (assuming the map center and zoom level are appropriate). There are two ways to save your work.

My goal when this feature goes into production is to encourage teachers at the middle school and high school level to use this tool to interest their students in geospatial data. And as part of that effort, I am curating the following list of 600+ federal/state/regional/county/city public-facing ArcGIS servers.

If the notion of surfing GIS data with a Google map sounds intriguing, then here is a pdf file that has a link to the beta code along with related information. I am still tweaking the interface so it will work well on cell phones, thus you will need to use a larger screen.

Yes, Gmap4 is a general purpose tool and it gets some hits from around the world by people that use it to do who-knows-what. It also gets some hits from people that use it for recreation. If those hits are more important to Google than the work I am doing related to disaster mapping and education, then certainly Google has every right to take that position.

Bottom line: I am willing to *donate my time* to continue to develop my Gmap4 software and produce disaster maps and show educators how to use the new GIS surfing feature. However, I am unwilling to pay Google for the privilege of doing so. If it turns out that I need to shift gears and instead of producing Google + GIS maps I need to start producing Leaflet + GIS maps, then so be it.

P.S. The fact that Google is not giving us a way to detect with code when the new 28,000 limit is reached is just plain silly if not evil.

My supplemental information

Please add these additional comments to the request I submitted last week asking that I be allocated sufficient Google map API downloads such that I can continue the volunteer work I do producing disaster maps and other public service maps.

Last year’s Thomas Fire was the largest California wildland fire in modern times. Here is a link to the most popular Facebook group for people affected by that fire.

If you search that Facebook group on “Google crisis” you will see that your own crisis map was barely mentioned. Now search on my last name, Elfelt. Take a look at the comments people made when I posted map links. If I cannot continue doing this type of volunteer work **without being financially at risk**, then how are people in need going to get the kind of information I provide via my Google + GIS disaster maps?

Yesterday I took another look at Google’s crisis map. Apparently it only displays one layer related to wildland fires. Below is a link to my wildland fire map with several GIS overlays turned on. The top layer is the fire weather forecast. The black lines on the map depict forecast zones. Please click a zone and then follow the link. Note that the fire weather forecast includes detailed wind information.

During a disaster people deserve high quality authoritative information. By displaying data that is hosted on federal GIS servers that is exactly what I provide. And by displaying data directly from GIS servers to the user’s screen, the user always sees the most recent data that is hosted on the server instead of out-of-date information that was previously exported from the server into some kind of file.

Sidebar: I am in the middle of tuning up the Gmap4 interface and also making certain all the code uses responsive web design.

Wildland fire map.

Below are the links to some other disaster-related Google + GIS maps that I produce. These links are always available for anyone to use. And anyone can customize these links by (1) making the map look on their screen the way they want it to look when it opens and (2) clicking Menu ==> Link to this map.

Click the basemap button to see the various GIS overlays that can be turned on/off and restacked. If you click on the ‘top’ GIS layer, you will see a display with all the attribute data the GIS server has for the thing that you clicked. For the map legend and more information, please click “Map tips” in the upper left corner.

Risk of debris flow following 2017 wildland fires.

Rain and flood map.
NE Washington State is having a significant flood right now. To get an idea of the severity you can click the gage just above the center of the screen and then follow the link which will display the NOAA page for that stream gage. Click the basemap button and then look at the overlay list to see which overlays are on when the map opens.

Hurricane map.
Note that this map includes an overlay (Storm_surge_flood) that displays NOAA’s storm surge forecast. NOAA posts this forecast a couple of days before landfall. This is critical information since much damage and loss of life results from storm surges.


FEMA shelter map
There are shelters open in Hawaii in response to the volcano eruption. https://mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?ll=19.597635,-155.403156&z=8&t=m,Open_shelter&q=https://mappingsupport.com/p/special_maps/disaster/USA_FEMA_shelter.txt

Also on the crisis theme, Gmap4 can display the U.S. National Grid (USNG). For example:

FEMA has adopted USNG as the coordinate system it will use for all ground operations. See:

Gmap4 is used to help train first responders in USNG.

BTW, Google should seriously consider adding USNG to its crisis map.

In addition to disaster maps, I also produce other maps with a significant public benefit. My original API application to Google described the GIS surfing feature of the Gmap4 beta code. Here is another example.

Gmap4 has a simple syntax that can be used to display *any* state legislature district or congressional district and do so with a common look-and-feel. Of course all Gmap4 maps work fine on mobile and include geolocation. Clicking a district displays useful information about the elected(s). For more information about these district maps and the data source, please click “Map tips” in the upper left corner. I intend to keep these maps current as events unfold. Below are two example maps.

Here are the Wisconsin state house districts.

And here is the infamous Pennsylvania congressional district 7.

Two different groups are using these maps on web pages to help inform the public. I am recommending to both groups that they use a screenshot jpg on their web pages with a Gmap4 link under the jpg.

https://www.indivisiblearmy.org/ (under construction)

If providing high quality state legislature district maps and congressional district maps is not a significant public service that deserves to be supported, then it is hard to image what might qualify.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this supplemental information. I hope that you will find that my work as a volunteer producing Google + GIS maps has such a significant public benefit that you will support my work with a sufficient number of free map API downloads such that (1) my maps do not stop working and (2) I am not exposed to any financial risk.