Create a Travel Time Boundary

Learn how to create a boundary that uses minutes to understand walk, bike or drive times around a point

Jennifer Funk avatar
Written by Jennifer Funk
Updated over a week ago

Creating a boundary using travel times opens up a lot of possibilities within mySidewalk. The tool already allows you to apportion (read: visualize) data based on the custom boundaries you create, so this is another simple way you can create a boundary.

You might want to know the service boundary around a fire station or hospital based on a 15 minute travel time. Or, you might like to understand the demographics within a 5 minute bike time from your proposed new office location. You can even drop this custom boundary into a report template to leverage the knowledge that mySidewalk is putting into the platform for you.

No matter what you want to know, travel times can be a valuable way to make a boundary and we are making that easier than ever.

Use this help article to calculate:

  • Drive times

  • Cycling times, or

  • Walking times

from a single location (or point) on a map.

How are they made?

Travel times are created using a tool called Isochrones.Isochrones reflect the total area you can reach with a particular mode of transport and within a given time.

MySidewalk utilizes the isochrones plugin to pass your starting point and selections on time and mode to the Mapbox Matrix API to sample travel times in a grid pattern around the desired starting point. It then passes the results to a CONREC algorithm to interpolate geometric shapes out of these points (reference).

Basically, it's the same methodology that any GPS would use to calculate the distance from point A to point B. It makes that calculation a bunch of times (guess and check!) to identify the point that can be reached within the time frame you selected. Then it does that all the way around your selected point until it makes a shape around your chosen location!

Note: The travel times are calculated based on average travel time for that area and currently do not take into account topography.

Create a New Boundary

Travel times are a boundary within mySidewalk. You will need to create one and add it to your custom boundaries (layers) list before you can leverage it when looking for data, when creating a map or making other components on reports and dashboards.

Choose “Travel Time”

This feature also has a technical name: Isochrones. An Isochrone is defined as “a line on a diagram or map connecting points relating to the same time or equal times.” We calculate travel times using isochrones, so we tend to use both names when referring to it!

Choose a Point

Choose a point on the map that is the starting point for the isochrone. Drag to locate the starting point you want, and click to choose. Or, enter an address in the search box to create the starting point. You can then expand the boundary size by minutes and toggle the transportation mode (driving, cycling, or walking) to reflect the boundary you want to create.

Pro Tip: You can also change the basemap (background map) in this view to get streets or satellite if that helps. Change the basemap with the drop down in the upper left corner of the map.

Save and Manage

When you have the boundary shape you desire, choose the “Save to My Layers” button to turn this boundary into a saved asset that you can use across the mySidewalk experience. You may change the name so it’s easy to find again. After the layer is processed, a notification will appear in the bottom left corner of the tool. You can access the layer by clicking on the notification or you can always find it on the Layers management page.

Use Your New Travel Times Custom Boundary

You can now use this layer just like any other geographic shape in mySidewalk. It will appear in the custom geographies list when you go to choose a geography. This has valuable uses in many places in mySidewalk.

In mySidewalk Data

In mySidewalk Data, you can use a custom geography to apportion mySidewalk data. This is especially useful for when you need either a handful of data points to share with someone (data request or conversational support) OR when you need a larger number of data points for a particular area or for comparison purposes. You can pick a couple of geographies and pick some data to get comparisons between them.

In Report Templates

You can use a custom geography based on travel times as the default geography in a report template. For example, drop a pin on a proposed park location and get a walking boundary around it to understand the area that the proposed location would serve. Then, save that walking boundary and use it in a population and demographics report template. This will give you an overview of the type of population that proposed park location will serve.

In Maps

Maps are a great way to visualize data inside a boundary. You can create a bivariate map using crash data, vehicle data and a custom cycling boundary around a bus stop to visualize a correlation that might be there. First, you would create the boundary by dropping a pin in the travel times tool and creating a cycling boundary around the bus stop. Then you can use that boundary in a map (pick a sub-geo like census tracts) and select “Style by Data” to choose crash data. Once you have chosen a first dataset, you can toggle on “Bivariate Mode” and select vehicle ownership information for your second dataset. This map can be published or copied to a report to share your findings with others.

Did this answer your question?