Have a custom boundary that isn’t reported in the Census? Maybe an economic district, traffic analysis zone, neighborhood improvement boundary, or even just a buffer zone around a new project site or existing point? 

You can now create that custom boundary directly in mySidewalk using our Drawing Tool feature. Once created, these custom boundaries will be available to use in Location Snapshots, Templates, and within the mapping mode. Even if your shape spans multiple census tracts, with Location Snapshot, our platform will instantly apportion data to your custom geographic area so that you can quickly get the information you need — something that often takes hours of work or days of waiting otherwise. 

Ready to get started drawing your own custom boundary? Follow these steps:

Drawing an area of interest
There are two ways to get to the drawing tool feature:

  1. From the home page: Click the green New button in the top right-hand corner, then click Layer - Draw. 
  2. From anywhere: Click Menu at the top left of the screen and then click Layers from the drop-down menu. This brings you to the Layers page. Click Draw Layer.


From here, you have a few options. Each of these features can be used to draw a custom boundary.  See below for how to use each one. 

Multi-select

The multi-select option can be used when you want to combine multiple geographies for a single comparison. For example, you can combine several neighborhoods that make up a special improvement zone, combine census tracts that make up a downtown area, or select multiple counties that make up a regional council of governments. 

  1. Once you are in the multi-select tool, use the Geography Type drop down to select your geography of preference (Census tract, county, state, etc.).
  2. An overlay of the geographical boundaries will appear on the map to help guide you. Select the geographies you would like for your project by clicking within the boundary.
  3. To remove a geography, simply click inside of the boundary to remove it from your selection.
  4. Optional: create a buffer around your selection by using the Set Buffer box in the left sidebar. Note that the minimum buffer is 0.02 miles, or 0 if you do not want a buffer.
  5. Once you have all of your desired geographies selected, name your new layer, and click Save.

See "NEXT STEPS" towards the bottom for options after your selection is complete. 

Polygon

Use the polygon option when you want to draw a custom shape—anything with more than 3 sides. For example, you may want to create a custom polygon for a shape that cuts through census tracts, neighborhoods, or other census geographies. Note: if you would like the geography outlines to overlay on the map, click Show Geography Outlines in the top right- hand corner.

  1. Once you are in the polygon tool, click once on the map to begin defining the corners of your polygon.
  2. While still holding your cursor down, drag your cursor to the next area you would like to define the shape. Click again to lock the corner into place.
  3. Continue dragging your cursor and clicking to lock a corner into place until you reach your desired polygon shape.
  4. Once you are ready to close your shape, either click on the first point to close the shape, or click Finish Shape in the left sidebar.
  5. To continue defining your shape, drag the corner handles on the shape to reposition. You can also use the dimmed midpoints between two points to create new vertices. Continue defining your shape by moving points around the map.
  6. Optional: create a buffer around your selection by using the Set Buffer box in the left sidebar
  7. When you are happy with your polygon, name your new layer, and click Save.

Please note: If you get a warning message, your shape is either too big or too small. Read "WARNINGS" towards the bottom for an explanation of why this error occurs and how to fix it. 

See "NEXT STEPS" towards the bottom for options once your polygon shape has been created.

Radius

Use the radius tool when you want to create a circular distance around a particular point. This is especially helpful for people wanting to get data for an area surrounding a place, such as the demographics for a 2-mile radius around a park, the number of disabled individuals living 1/2 mile around a bus stop, or the economic makeup for a 10-mile radius around a new possible business site. 

*Note that the minimum radius value is .02 miles, or 100 feet

  1. Once you are in the radius tool, click and drag on the map to draw a circle. Note: if you would like the geography outlines to overlay on the map, click Show Geography Outlines in the top right-hand corner. 
  2. Once you have drawn a circle on your map, you can move it by grabbing the center handle and dragging it to your location of preference.
  3. To change the radius value, you can click the outside of your handle to shrink or enlarge the size of your circle, or you can set the radius distance using the Set Radius box in the left sidebar.
  4. Once your radius is the desired size and ready to go, name your new layer and click Save.

See "NEXT STEPS" towards the bottom for options once your radius shape has been created.

Note: If you get a warning message, your shape is either too big or too small. Read below for an explanation of why this error occurred, and how to fix it. 

Line

The Line, or buffer tool, can be used when you want to create a linear zone of a specified width around a particular location of interest to you—perhaps a bike path, river, or bus route. 

  1. Once you are in the Line tool, you can set your buffer distance using the left sidebar. Note: if you would like the geography outlines to overlay on the map, click Show Geography Outlines in the top right-hand corner. 
  2. Click on the map to start drawing a line, then continue moving your cursor to draw the line. Click on the map again to lock the next point into place.
  3. To reposition, drag the point handles to your desired location. To create new vertices, click and drag the dimmed midpoint handles.
  4. To remove a point handle, simply click the point again to deselect it or click Delete Last Point in the left sidebar.
  5. Continue to move the point handles around until you have created your desired line buffer. Click the last point to finish the line, or click the Finish Line button in the left sidebar.
  6. Name your new layer, and click Save.

See "NEXT STEPS" towards the bottom for options once your line shape has been created.

Please note: If you get a warning message, your shape is either too big or too small. Read below for an explanation of why this error occurs and how to fix it. 

Box

The Box tool is ideal for when you want to create a box or rectangular boundary around a specific point or location. 

  1. Once you are in the Box tool, click and drag your mouse on the map to create the outline of your box. Note: if you would like the geography outlines to overlay on the map, click Show Geography Outlines in the top right-hand corner. 
  2. Move the box around by clicking and dragging the center handle. 
  3. To change the dimensions of your box, either click and drag the corner handles or type in your desired dimensions using the Width and Height boxes in the left sidebar. 
  4. Once your box is ready to go, name your new layer and click Save
  1. See below for next steps once your box shape has been created

See "NEXT STEPS" towards the bottom for options once your box shape has been created.

Please note: If you get a warning message, your shape is either too big or too small. Read "WARNINGS" below for an explanation of why this error occurs and how to fix it. 

NEXT STEPS:

Once you have your custom geography drawn out, you have a few options: 

  1. Click New Map to see this boundary on the full-screen map. 
  2. Click New Location Snapshot to view a data report of your custom area (the data will be apportioned to your new boundary).
  3. Click the Back To Layer to view this new boundary within the Layers page.
  4. Click New Shape to draw another custom boundary.

Please note that while you cannot create both a Location Snapshot and a Map directly from the drawing tools page, your new custom geography will appear in the Custom Geographies menu within the top geography drop-down, as well as within the map. Your new custom geography will be saved as a Layer. You can then apply this boundary Layer to a Location Snapshot, Template, dataset, or you can use it within a new map. 

How to find your new layer:

Your new layer will appear under the Custom Geographies column under the Geography drop-down menu. 

WARNINGS:

If the warning is in yellow, you can still use the shape and we will apportion the data to it. However, this shape is too small and we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the data. We recommend you make your shape a little bigger to get the most accuracy. The shape can still be used as a “style layer,” or visual overlay on the map. 

If the warning is in red, we cannot apportion the data for your shape. You can still use it as a “style layer,” or a visual overlay on the map. 

Warnings: Shape is small / shape is very small

If your shape is too small, our system cannot accurately apportion the data to its area. At minimum, you will need to have 40 blockpoints, and 3 blockgroups in your area to maintain accuracy. Read here for more information on our apportionment method. 

Warning: Shape is very large

If your shape is too large, our system cannot accurately apportion the data to the area. The maximum area allowed is 932,057 sq miles (1,000,000 km). Read here for more information on our apportionment method. 

Now that you’ve drawn your own custom boundary, it’s time to start using it! Here are a few next steps in using your custom geography:

  1. Build a new map: visualize your new custom boundary on the map, instantly see data apportioned to your custom area, add datasets and charts to get additional insights, , and share out this map to gather feedback.  
  2. Custom report: view the apportioned data for your custom boundary on a report, and customize it according to your needs. 
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