I am attempting to measure distance from the calculated centroid points (using Feature to Point from data management) of every county in the contiguous 48 US states to a single location I have imported with geographic coordinates. I am using the Point Distance tool from the analysis toolbox and I keep getting wacky measurements that do not make any sense. I have used three different county datasets: US census county data, US census cartographic boundary shapefiles county data, and the USA counties layer package from ESRI's arcgis website.

First I attempted to use NAD 1983 contiguous USA Albers equal area projection (at the request of my boss), and realized that my scale for the map was all kinds of wrong (1:300 for the entire contiguous U.S.), and my distance measurements were between 1 and 50 even though they should have been in meters. So I switched to using the North America Equidistant Conic projection, and still was having the same issue. Finally I attempted to use a geographic coordinate system, GCS North American 1983, which fixed the scale issue but I'm still getting the same distance measurements??

  • 2
    Please edit the question to specify the exact software in use. Most of the distance commands of ArcGIS have a geodetic calculation option (which would be necessary for GCS data). Please include a screenshot of your geoprocessing command before OK (or the Python command log)
    – Vince
    Feb 20, 2017 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


The tool you are looking for is called Near.

This will calculate the distance as well as the angle from one feature/features to another feature/features.

Here is the documentation for the tool.

You will ideally have both datasets in the same projection. If you are using a geographic coordinate system (GCS), you need to set the method to 'GEODESIC' to get accurate distances. If you are using a projected coordinate system, you can use the 'PLANAR' method.

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