ElliottPlack's diary

Recent diary entries

Broadway Alley, NYC

Posted by ElliottPlack on 21 December 2015 in English (English)

A relative of mine recently moved to the Rose Hill neighborhood of New York City, NY. As any mapper would, I was looking around the neighborhood on OpenStreetMap and found a missing street!

sign Broadway Alley_0575 by Lindsey Anderson on Flickr

Broadway Alley piqued my interested because it is notably the only unpaved road left in New York City, and because it is an alley in a city with very few alleys.

dirt road broadway_alley by Callumb on Flickr

The alley remains a named street because it has a single address, 8 Broadway Alley, as evidenced by the NYC building and address import. The alley is also gated on each side, as it is a private road. Suffice to say, I added it to the map, have a look.

Update 11 Jan 2016: My friend took ten photos of the alley and shared them. Check out the gallery on Dropbox

Location: Rose Hill, Manhattan, New York, New York City, New York, 10010, United States of America

Gently restarting the MD DNR Parks Import

Posted by ElliottPlack on 19 November 2014 in English (English)

Last year I began importing Maryland Department of Natural Resources lands but my progress slowed as I reached the populated areas of Central Maryland. Today I have restarted the process a bit with a custom translation for Paul Norman's ogr2osm tool.

Here are some beautiful new parks on the map:

Adding the parks is fairly manual but produces great looking map data. Let me know if you want to help out!

Location: Marriottsville Road, Driver, Howard County, Maryland, 21104, United States of America

Mapillary Bike Ride in my Neighborhood

Posted by ElliottPlack on 9 November 2014 in English (English)


This week I had an off day and decided to get some exercise. It is hard for me to even think about working out anymore without also considering mapping. Ever since Strava started using OSM for its routing engine and for exercise maps, I've been motivated to use it because a) Strava is a lot of fun, and b) I like contributing back to OSM with it.

Enter Mapillary

A new player in the OSM space that I am enthusiastic about is Mapillary. Mapillary is a service / app that allows users to shoot their own street-view imagery, and use it for OSM without fear of licensing issues. The typical use would be to attach a camera to a personal automobile and shoot street-view, but it works on a bicycle as well.

Bike Mount

Since I enjoy touring around on my bike, I thought it'd be a great to get some Mapillary images at the same time! I purchased the Topeak iPhone 5 Mount and attached it to my handlebar. The Topeak mount comes with a special case, and it can hold the iPhone in practically any orientation.

Tuesday's Canton Ride

Driving around a neighborhood in a car seems boring to me, and is a waste of fossil fuel. On the other hand, exploring a neighborhood on foot or on a bike is fun and healthy. I decided that I would survey as much of my neighborhood as I could during the course of an afternoon with my Mapillary bike mount. It made for an interesting GPX track!


Seeing the track as a workout on the Strava iOS app, which uses OSM data via Mapbox to create the tiles was also cool to see:


In the end, I covered 16.5 miles without ever leaving my neighborhood, and rode in at least one direction on every street within the area I planned to survey.

Lessons Learned

Riding around on the bicycle and shooting Mapillary is fun! There are some limitations to using the iPhone app for capture though.

  1. The battery. My old iPhone battery does not last long. I brought a backup battery charger for this reason, though it did come disconnected a few times, causing me to have several segments on my trip. Luckily the app doesn't seem to lose data when the phone dies.

  2. Rolling shutter blur. Unfortunately, the iPhone camera suffers from motion blur (see below) when using it as an action cam. The a jolt from a bump in the road can cause a section of the image to look blurry. The only work around for this is to get a better action camera, or get a better action camera, like the GoPro or Garmin Virb.


Once the data is in Mapillary, it is really beneficial for mapping. Now users can view the images right in iD, as I did in the screenshot below. I have already fixed some incorrect roads in the neighborhood that I hadn't noticed before. With my images I was able to clearly see the street name, and where it ended based on the GPX.



Now get out there, get some exercise, and get mapping!

Location: Canton, Baltimore, Maryland, 21224, United States of America

Ma&Pa Railroad

Posted by ElliottPlack on 2 July 2013 in English (English)

I made a relation for the former right of way of the Maryland & Pennsylvania railroad. Check it out here:

Abandoned rail rights of way are one of OSM's strong suits. These old paths are often used for trails or roads in modern times, thus they are beneficial.

Making this relation was pretty easy because all the ways were already there. I just connected them. There are some spurs that I could still add, and as I was scanning along the route, I was suprised by how many populated areas are not mapped well. I'll add them as map notes!


Location: Wyman Park, Baltimore, Maryland, 21211, United States of America

State of the Map 2013

Posted by ElliottPlack on 18 June 2013 in English (English)

I attended State of the Map US in San Francisco from June 6 to June 10, 2013. Here is a summary of my thoughts on the events and the speakers. Firstly I want to thank OpenStreetMap US for the scholarship to attend this conference.

My first day at the conference consisted mostly of giving an hour long workshop on adding bus relations to OSM, one of my pet projects. Click the following links for the slides and the data. Please note that the data is no longer up to date. I have since added all the MTA 64 routes.

The workshop was an attempt to introduce folks to the basics of bus routes and their relations in OpenStreetMap. In effect, I was teaching the new public transport schema.

I think it went pretty well, though I have a few lessons learned. If I were to do this again, in the course of an hour, I’d do much less of a presentation at the beginning. Since people were paying to come to the talk, I thought I had to cram more info into the workshop. Instead, a lightning talk to start would have been good.

Some of the participants had never used JOSM, which is a pretty complex software at first glance. This meant that during my talk at SOTMUS, the whole group was slowed down by a few users that had trouble getting JOSM running. If I do this again, I’ll get there early and do at least 30 minutes of JOSM familiarization for folks. For instance, the right click and drag to scroll functionality isn’t intuitive to most.

The heart of the workshop was to make a bus route relation, but with the time setbacks, we didn’t end up accomplishing much. Still, I heard from folks afterwards and they said it helped them so they could know where to get started. My favorite feedback was this tweet from Ian V over at MapBox.

The next two days were jam packed with lots of interesting sessions and talks. I learned about two new ways to contribute to OSM, iD and Pushpin. I saw a radical new look to OSM, and much more.

Be sure to watch some of the talks at and look at the pictures of the event on Flickr.

Location: Towson Park, Lutherville, Baltimore County, Maryland, 21204, United States of America
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