OpenStreetMap data is often the best large-scale data you can find in regions of the world where governments are not yet distributing free, open geodata.
There are several ways to download OSM data (QGIS plugin, Geofabrik, direct from OSM), but if the format you prefer is shapefile, and you have a specific area you’re interested in, the old Weogeo service may be the easiest and the best way.
Weogeo seems to have been bought or otherwise taken over by the for-profit company Trimble. I appreciate Trimble hosting this service and keeping it alive, but since Trimble integrated it into their pre-existing sales system, you have to go through a number of odd steps to get your free data. Since it’s free, open data, you hope for one of those good-feeling interactions that suggest the sharing-without-strings that OSM represents. Instead be prepared here for a less comfortable, more corporate, interaction where they’ll want to you to go to their “data marketplace,” make an account, “add to cart,” and so on. But it works really well.
Two important notes up front:
- If you use the Firefox plug-in “Privacy Badger,” it breaks this site. You have to disable it for trimbledata.com.
- You won’t get your data immediately. Depending on the order size you may have to wait up to 24 hours to receive the email saying that you can download it.
Here’s the procedure:
Click Shop OpenStreetMap data now. You are now at the Trimble Data Marketplace.
Sign In (upper right corner). (Registration is free, and necessary.) Your name should now appear in the upper right hand corner, and below it, over the northwest portion of the map, you should see a summary of your current order, with headings for Region, Layers, Datum-Projection and File Format.
Initially the map shows the entire world (in a ghastly pseudo-mercator projection, but that does go hand-in-hand with OSM). Region is “Entire map,” Layers are “26/26” (26 of 26 available layers), Datum-Projection is “Lat/Long-WGS84 (Native),” File Format is “ESRI Shape,” Estimated size is “1.36 TB” and cost is “Free.
Don’t be fooled by the 1.36 TB. That’s the size of the entire world database for OSM. Trimble will restrict you to a 5 GB limit in a single order.
On the map you can now pan and zoom to the region you’re interested in. Let’s say you go to the area around Budapest, Hungary.
Notice that even though you are zoomed in, the Region is still “Entire Map” (meaning the whole world) and Estimated Size is still 1.36 TB. To narrow down your data area you have to either upload a KML file with a polygon of your area of interest, or draw a polygon on the screen.
To draw a polygon, click the pencil icon next to Region, click Draw, and begin placing points around your polygon. Clicking on the initial point closes the polygon. Now Region and Estimated Size change to something more reasonable.
You may not want all 26 layers, and you can click the pencil icon next to Layers to select the subset you want. The 26 layers are explained in depth at the OSM wiki page on Map Features, but for simplicity I’ll just list the 26 categories here, with links to the OSM wiki page:
- 1.1 Aerialway
- 1.2 Aeroway
- 1.3 Amenity
- 1.4 Barrier
- 1.5 Boundary
- 1.6 Building
- 1.7 Craft
- 1.8 Emergency
- 1.9 Geological
- 1.10 Highway — this includes all roads
- 1.11 Historic
- 1.12 Landuse
- 1.13 Leisure
- 1.14 Man_made
- 1.15 Military
- 1.16 Natural
- 1.17 Office
- 1.18 Place
- 1.19 Power
- 1.20 Public Transport
- 1.21 Railway
- 1.22 Route
- 1.23 Shop
- 1.24 Sport
- 1.25 Tourism
- 1.26 Waterway
Note that these categories are often subdivided into separate shapefiles for point, line and polygon features.
In this case let’s say I want only Waterway, Highway, Railway. I deselect all, select these three, and click the “X” to close the Layers list. Layers has now changed to “3/26” and Estimated Size has now dropped to 381 MB.
Then click Order. Accept the Content License and click Add To Cart. Click View Cart.
Everything should still read “Free,” so click Checkout. Go through the [annoying] Address Information and Select Payment steps (“No Payment Required”) and then finally Place Order.
The next step is that you receive a series of emails acknowledging your order, telling you that your order is being prepared, and finally that your order is ready for download. It can be almost immediate for small orders, or up to 24 hours for large ones.
When you do download your data it will be in a ZIP file called “weogeo_<order number>.zip.”