Urban Form Analysis with OpenStreetMap Data

Figure-ground diagrams of urban form and building footprints in London, Paris, Venice, and Brasilia depict modernism's inversion of traditional spatial orderThis is a summary of some of my recent research on making OpenStreetMap data analysis easy for urban planners. It was also published on the ACSP blog.

OpenStreetMap – a collaborative worldwide mapping project inspired by Wikipedia – has emerged in recent years as a major player both for mapping and acquiring urban spatial data. Though coverage varies somewhat worldwide, its data are of high quality and compare favorably to CIA World Factbook estimates and US Census TIGER/Line data. OpenStreetMap imported the TIGER/Line roads in 2007 and since then its community has made numerous corrections and improvements. In fact, many of these additions go beyond TIGER/Line’s scope, including for example passageways between buildings, footpaths through parks, bike routes, and detailed feature attributes such as finer-grained street classifiers, speed limits, etc.

This presents a fantastic data source to help answer urban planning questions, but OpenStreetMap’s data has been somewhat difficult to work with due to its Byzantine query language and coarse-grained bulk extracts provided by third parties. As part of my dissertation, I developed a tool called OSMnx that allows researchers to download street networks and building footprints for any city name, address, or polygon in the world, then analyze and visualize them. OSMnx democratizes these data and methods to help technical and non-technical planners and researchers use OpenStreetMap data to study urban form, circulation networks, accessibility, and resilience.

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Urban Form Figure-Ground Diagrams

I previously demonstrated how to create figure-ground square-mile visualizations of urban street networks with OSMnx to consistently compare city patterns, design paradigms, and connectivity. OSMnx downloads, analyzes, and visualizes street networks from OpenStreetMap but it can also get building footprints. If we mash-up these building footprints with the street networks, we get a fascinating comparative window into urban form:

Figure-ground map of building footprints and street network in New York, San Francisco, Monrovia, and Port au Prince from OpenStreetMap data, created in Python with OSMnx

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Getting Started with Python

Piedmont, California street network created in Python with OSMnx, networkx, matplotlibThis is a guide for absolute beginners to get started using Python. Since releasing OSMnx a few weeks ago, I’ve received a lot of comments from people who would love to try it out, but don’t know where to begin with Python. I’ll demonstrate how to get Python up and running on your system, how to install packages, and how to run code.

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Square-Mile Street Network Visualization

The heart of Allan Jacobs’ classic book on street-level urban form and design, Great Streets, features dozens of hand-drawn figure-ground diagrams in the style of Nolli maps. Each depicts one square mile of a city’s street network. Drawing these cities at the same scale provides a revealing spatial objectivity in visually comparing their street networks and urban forms.

We can recreate these visualizations automatically with Python and the OSMnx package, which I developed as part of my dissertation. With OSMnx we can download a street network from OpenStreetMap for anywhere in the world in just one line of code. Here are the square-mile diagrams of Portland, San Francisco, Irvine, and Rome created and plotted automatically by OSMnx:

OSMnx: Figure-ground diagrams of one square mile of Portland, San Francisco, Irvine, and Rome shows the street network, urban form, and urban design in these cities

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Animating the Lorenz Attractor with Python

Edward Lorenz, the father of chaos theory, once described chaos as “when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

Lorenz first discovered chaos by accident while developing a simple mathematical model of atmospheric convection, using three ordinary differential equations. He found that nearly indistinguishable initial conditions could produce completely divergent outcomes, rendering weather prediction impossible beyond a time horizon of about a fortnight.

Lorenz system attractor animated GIF created with Python matplotlib scipy numpy PIL

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OSMnx: Python for Street Networks

OSMnx: New York City urban street network visualized and analyzed with Python and OpenStreetMap dataOSMnx is a Python package for downloading administrative boundary shapes and street networks from OpenStreetMap. It allows you to easily construct, project, visualize, and analyze complex street networks in Python with NetworkX. You can get a city’s or neighborhood’s walking, driving, or biking network with a single line of Python code. Then you can simply visualize cul-de-sacs or one-way streets, plot shortest-path routes, or calculate stats like intersection density, average node connectivity, or betweenness centrality. You can download/cite the paper here.

In a single line of code, OSMnx lets you download, construct, and visualize the street network for, say, Modena Italy:

import osmnx as ox
ox.plot_graph(ox.graph_from_place('Modena, Italy'))

OSMnx: Modena Italy networkx street network in Python from OpenStreetMap Continue reading OSMnx: Python for Street Networks

How to Visualize Urban Accessibility and Walkability

Tools like WalkScore visualize how “walkable” a neighborhood is in terms of access to different amenities like parks, schools, or restaurants. It’s easy to create accessibility visualizations like these ad hoc with Python and its pandana library. Pandana (pandas for network analysis – developed by Fletcher Foti during his dissertation research here at UC Berkeley) performs fast accessibility queries over a network. I’ll demonstrate how to use it to visualize urban walkability. My code is in these IPython notebooks in this urban data science course GitHub repo.

First I give pandana a bounding box around Berkeley/Oakland in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. Then I load the street network and amenities from OpenStreetMap. In this example I’ll look at accessibility to restaurants, bars, and schools. But, you can create any basket of amenities that you are interested in – basically visualizing a personalized “AnythingScore” instead of a generic WalkScore for everyone. Finally I calculate and plot the distance from each node in the network to the nearest amenity:

Berkeley Oakland California street network walking accessibility and walkability Continue reading How to Visualize Urban Accessibility and Walkability

Scientific Python for Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi 3 Model BA guide to setting up the Python scientific stack, well-suited for geospatial analysis, on a Raspberry Pi 3. The whole process takes just a few minutes.

The Raspberry Pi 3 was announced two weeks ago and presents a substantial step up in computational power over its predecessors. It can serve as a functional Wi-Fi connected Linux desktop computer, albeit underpowered. However it’s perfectly capable of running the Python scientific computing stack including Jupyter, pandas, matplotlib, scipy, scikit-learn, and OSMnx.

Despite (or because of?) its low power, it’s ideal for low-overhead and repetitive tasks that researchers and engineers often face, including geocoding, web scraping, scheduled API calls, or recurring statistical or spatial analyses (with small-ish data sets). It’s also a great way to set up a simple server or experiment with Linux. This guide is aimed at newcomers to the world of Raspberry Pi and Linux, but who have an interest in setting up a Python environment on these $35 credit card sized computers. We’ll run through everything you need to do to get started (if your Pi is already up and running, skip steps 1 and 2). Continue reading Scientific Python for Raspberry Pi

The Landscape of U.S. Rents

Which U.S. cities are the most expensive for rental housing? Where are rents rising the fastest? The American Community Survey (ACS) recently released its latest batch of 1-year data and I analyzed, mapped, and visualized it. My methodology is below, and my code and data are in this GitHub repo.

This interactive map shows median rents across the U.S. for every metro/micropolitan area. Click any one for details on population, rent, and change over time. Click “switch” to re-draw the map to visualize how median rents have risen since 2010:

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Urban Informatics and Visualization at UC Berkeley

The fall semester begins next week at UC Berkeley. For the third year in a row, Paul Waddell and I will be teaching CP255: Urban Informatics and Visualization.

This masters-level course trains students to analyze urban data, develop indicators, conduct spatial analyses, create data visualizations, and build Paris open datainteractive web maps. To do this, we use the Python programming language, open source analysis and visualization tools, and public data.

This course is designed to provide future city planners with a toolkit of technical skills for quantitative problem solving. We don’t require any prior programming experience – we teach this from the ground up – but we do expect prior knowledge of basic statistics and GIS.

Our teaching materials, including IPython Notebooks, tutorials, and guides are available in this GitHub repo, updated as the semester progresses.

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