I sent an email to US Topo regarding the conversion issue.
Their detailed response is at the bottom of this post:
Right now I guess it is a priority issue and maybe budget too. I hope that some clever folks will add full functionality to existing software like Manifold.
Despite the fact that various layers can be downloaded from other sources I believe there is a valuable convenience factor here. The fact that ARCGIS folks will pay $2197.65 plus $439.53 for annual maintenance for this functionality gives some idea of a proxy for market value. (see below)
Import to ArcGIS® with TerraGo commercial software
GeoPDFs can be imported directly into ArcMap® using TerraGo Publisher® for ArcGIS software. According to TerraGo (December 2009), this software is the only technology that enables direct import to ArcGIS. GSA price for the software $2,197.65 plus 20% maintenance ($439.53) for a total first year price of $2,637.18.
RESPONSE FROM USGS
Thanks for your comments. We are of course aware of the PDF
conversion/import issue. The primary objective of the US Topo program is
to serve people who need topographic maps but who are not GIS users.
Examples include emergency first responders, wildfire fighters, local law
enforcement, National Guard ground units, some earth scientists and land
managers, and some recreational users. Primary design requirements were a
traditional-looking symbolized map, in a digital file that could be
displayed on any normal office computer without unusual or expensive
software, and that could be printed at correct scale without specialized
expertise or unusual software. In our opinion, PDF is the only format in
general use that satisfies these requirements.
There are at least three different solutions to the problem of making the
data available to GIS and other advanced users:
1) In a sense, these data already are available. With the exception of
the roads layer, US Topo is simply a repackaging of computable and
public-domain GIS data. Anyone is free to retrieve the source data for
any purpose they see fit, including making their own maps. We understand
better than anyone that this is not easy, but the decision (in late 2008)
to design and produce a new quadrangle map series was driven largely by
the belief that we were already serving the advanced GIS user to a much
greater degree than we were serving non-specialist map users.
2) We are hopeful that GIS vendors will implement PDF importers. We had a
similar experience with GeoTIFF in the mid-1990s, when the USGS created
the first large quantities of GeoTIFFs. We caught a lot of flak for this
for a year or two, for the same reason: very little software could read
them. However, the GIS software community did respond, and now few can
remember when GeoTIFF was not a de facto standard.
3) We are working on publishing US Topo data layers in other formats.
Though we recognize this is important, it is not a top priority compared
to improving the current product and meeting production schedules (nor is
it particularly easy). Though we hope to start publishing some layers in
other formats in 2012, we do not yet have a definite schedule.
> I hope this is not a proprietary issue with Terrago etc otherwise
> the public will be paying a fortune for Terrago ARCGIS extensions
> or in waste of time trying to convert maps and reconstitute vector map
The TerraGo GeoPDF extensions provide some simple GIS functionality "for
free" - no cost to users, and if you aren't interested in georeferencing,
you can still use the product as a plain PDF. PDF and the GeoPDF
extensions are both published formats, and there are no legal barriers to
anyone writing original software to read, create, or manipulate these
09/19/2011 09:03 AM
Digital Map Feedback,Use of US Topo Data
Transaction=GSF7JXRC [19SEP2011 15:03:12UTC]
Customer email: Hydrokiwi@yahoo.com
Customer: John Christensen
Subject: Digital Map Feedback,Use of US Topo Data
Originating page: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/ustopo_feedback.html
Primary response: USTopo@usgs.gov
USGS PERSONNEL: This email was generated through the Contact USGS system.
When replying to the customer PLEASE BE SURE TO CC firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Customers, please do not send email to archive_ask, as it will not be
answered.) If you answer by phone, simply forward this email to
email@example.com. You can see more information about replying to
customers at <http://answers.usgs.gov/usgs/responding.htm> (USGS only).
I like your new maps.
To maximize the public value of these data there needs to be a conversion
route from the Geopdf to conventional raster and vector layers.
I have used GDAL and Global Mapper but these flatten the data to a single
I hope this is not a proprietary issue with Terrago etc otherwise the
public will be paying a fortune for Terrago ARCGIS extensions or in waste
of time trying to convert maps and reconstitute vector map layers.
I hope you can provide a no-cost path to use of these important map data.
Simple conversion of Raster layers to Geotiffs or ECW and vector layers to
shp files would be OK.
BTW the documentaion says that USTopo was not intended for GIS use - I
believe this data will get used and could save time in creating simple
Thanks for listening