In the past two months, Google maps has made two major updates for Fairfax City and surrounding areas. In December, they updated the aerial imagery for the entire Washington, DC area. In January, they finally added the streetview feature for most streets that weren’t previously served in Northern Virginia, particularly western Fairfax County.
Both of these updates have fairly recent images, showing many of the recent changes to the Fairfax City landscape, such as the Smashburger shopping center, and several of the townhouse developments in progress.
A few weeks ago, a post on the Greater Greater Washington web-site sought to find out the exact date that the regional aerial image was taken - sometime within the last few months. The process took several steps, first determining it was a taken on a weekend by all of the visible activity at local farmers markets, and empty office building parking lots. Then they determined it was a Saturday by noting the long lines at the DC vehicle inspections station, which is closed on Sunday. Then they determined that it was in October by the postseason markings visible on the field at Nationals Park and finally pinpointed the exact date by checking the metro trackwork schedule and looking for the maintenance equipment to match.
It was impressive investigative work, but something that could have been avoided simply by zooming in on Fairfax City to see the entire downtown area covered with tents and people for the Fall Festival, which took place on October 13, 2012. (Note: by using Google Earth, you can see the date the image was registered to Google, but in this case it was listed as October 14 – so it probably refers to the date that Google received the image, not the date that it was taken).
For streetview, most areas of the region (and the country) have been covered for a few years now. Aside from major thoroughfares and a few scattered side streets, it seemed that the western suburbs of DC were the last to be updated.
Our area was finally added last month. The exact date that these images were taken varies, but it looks as though most of side street photos in Fairfax City were also taken in Fall 2012. In my neighborhood of Westmore, it was obviously a Tuesday, because everyone’s trash cans are on the street, and it looks to be late September or early October.
Now there is one update left to wait for. Google has been adding oblique images similar to Bing Maps for many metropolitan areas in the US and abroad. DC seems to be one of the few large metro areas not to have it yet.