This Tool Helps Planners Compare City Grids

February 2, 2017

Inspired by illustrations from an influential book on city planning, the tool lets you create and compare city street grids.

In 1993, a book called Great Streets, by Allan Jacobs, investigated the physical characteristics of some of the world’s best streets. In it were 50 visualizations of city grids from around the world. The hand-drawn visualizations were unique in that they were easily comparable. They were all on the same scale, showing one square mile of city grid.

Now, tech savvy practitioners with a little coding knowledge can build their own maps on the fly using a tool developed by University of California - Berkeley Ph. D student, Geoff Boeing. Developed as part of his dissertation, the tool transforms data from OpenStreetMap to construct illustrations similar to those in Great Streets.

“Drawing these cities at the same scale provides a revealing spatial objectivity in visually comparing their street networks and urban forms,” writes Boeng on his website.

image of line map
Samples of maps created using OSMnx. Image source:

We connected with Bob Kost, SEH senior urban designer, to weigh in on possible practical applications.

Visualizations like these have always been helpful in understanding aspects of neighborhood connectivity and walkability. It used to require using several computer programs to prepare them, this new tool will make it much easier for working with partners and stakeholders during workshops and design charrettes.

To learn more about the tool, its history and applications, visit

About the Expert

Bob Kost

Bob Kost, LA, LEED AP, CLARB, AICP, is an urban designer dedicated to creating better places. Contact Bob

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