Sustainable Transport on the Map

Room: Auditorium 1

Friday, 12:00
Duration: 60 minutes (plus Q&A)


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  • Taylor Reich

Better information leads to better city policy. Unfortunately, many of the world’s cities still lack basic information on their own transport systems, leading to decisions measured against anecdotes rather than data. Using new tools for data processing and display, OpenStreetMap can provide the information that governments need to make better decisions. In this panel we will share recent success stories of cities adopting OSM-based metrics to plan better transport. We will reveal new tools that governments, mappers, and advocates can use. And we will discuss the challenges that still remain and the roles the OSM community can play in overcoming them.


Transport is among the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and transport emissions are growing especially quickly in the Global South. Experts agree that vehicle electrification will not be sufficient to avoid climate catastrophe: we also need to redesign cities to make it easy for people to walk, bicycle, or ride public transport instead of driving. OpenStreetMap can help.

OpenStreetMap can empower cities to make planning decisions based on real data, and to set more meaningful goals for progress. OSM has empowered cities like Fortaleza and Recife, Brazil, to plan expansions of their bicycle lane networks that serve the greatest number of potential cyclists. OSM has helped cities as distant as Seattle, USA; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Pimpri-Chinchwad, India, to optimize their public transport networks and make it easier for everyone to ride the bus. And this is only the beginning.

New tools are proliferating, such as ITDP’s Atlas of Sustainable City Transport and Trufi’s GTFS-Builder. These tools make it much easier to turn OSM data into useful indicators that can guide city policy. In the case of Trufi’s work, it does so by converting OSM data into industry-standard formats that can be used for trip planning or network analysis, As tagging evolves, OpenStreetMap is emerging as a solid foundation for creating multimodal route planning networks, thanks to its comprehensive information for generating integral maps. Furthermore, Trufi has developed a specific course on mapping public transportation routes, with the objective of training the OpenStreetMap community to contribute effectively to this particular aspect within the platform.

ITDP’s Atlas, on the other hand, uses OSM as well as other open sources to present measurements of meaningful indicators that city governments can use to set goals or compare themselves to nearby jurisdictions.

Some challenges, however, remain. It can be difficult to explain the virtues of OSM to governments who have never used it before. The tagging schema does not include certain nuances that are important for bicycle infrastructure planners (although a current proposal remedies many issues). And, looking more broadly into the future, there are many promising opportunities for the OSM community to push into new frontiers of data on topics like road usage, footpath quality, and parking. In order to prevent catastrophic climate change, we need to change the way people move around cities. In order to do that, we need maps.