Advice and answers from the mySidewalk Team

Uploading a custom geography allows you to view, compare, and export data for any area that doesn’t align with one of the 14 pre-set geographies already included in mySidewalk: state, US congressional district, metro and micropolitan area, county, state senate district, state house district, unified school district, county subdivision, place, city council district, ZIP code, neighborhood, census tract, and census block group. Please note that if you do not have GIS software or want to make it easy on yourself, you can use our Drawing Tool to quickly draw your own custom geography.

Custom geographies often look like project area boundaries, transit corridors, economic districts, or downtown boundaries. Here’s an example of what a custom boundary might look like:

What is the acceptable file type for my custom geography?

There are several formats in which you can upload a custom boundary, otherwise known as a polygon. Please note that only polygons can be uploaded into Location Snapshots (point layers and line layers cannot be used in Location Snapshots or Templates). For more information on acceptable file types, read Upload Layer Formats.


How to upload my custom geography: 

There are two ways in which you can upload your custom geography:

  1. From the Home page: click the New button on the top right hand corner of the page, then click Layer and follow the prompts
  2. From the Layers tab: click Layers in the top left drop-down menu. Click the Upload Layer button at the top right and follow the prompts 

For more instructions on how to prepare your custom geography or polygon, please read How to: Upload Data as a Layer

What do I do with my custom geography now that it's uploaded?

Once you have uploaded a custom geography into mySidewalk, the data for this boundary can be apportioned and analyzed via Location Snapshot and Templates:

View Location Snapshot for my custom geography: 

There are two options for viewing a Location Snapshot for your uploaded custom geography. Important note: You can view only one polygon at a time. If your uploaded file includes multiple polygons, see option #2 below for how to select an individual polygon from your file.

Option 1: Single polygon layer

  1. From the top drop-down menu, click Location Snapshot
  2. If your custom geography has not been set as your default geography, select Geography in the drop-down menu above the map. Select the layer you would like to view under the Custom Geographies column
  3. You’ll instantly see a Summary Data Table and charts for your custom geography based on the Category or Role you’ve selected 
  4. Optional: Compare your custom geography to any other geography. Click Compare to: Add comparison under the map
  5. You can compare your custom geography to recently viewed geography, another custom geography you have uploaded, or a recently viewed geography. The Nearby Geographies feature is not available for custom geographies 


Option 2: Multiple polygons

  1. From the top drop-down menu, click Layers 
  2. Click the name of the polygon layer you wish to view. In the Layers page that appears, you’ll notice a map that outlines your polygons, as well a Feature Details table that includes the labels and values for your layer
  3. Click individual polygons to view the updated Feature Details for that shape
  4. To view a Location Snapshot for a single polygon feature, click inside the map to select the polygon shape 
  5. Click Open Location Snapshot. Change the category or role type to view different data for the custom geography
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 for each feature of your multiple polygon layer 


View a Template with your custom geography: 

Once you have uploaded a custom geography, it’s simple to apply pre-created mySidewalk templates to help you answer specific questions about your project area. 

  1. From the top drop-down menu, click Templates
  2. If you wish, search by a keyword or change the category in the drop down boxes, or browse through the entire Template Library
  3. Once you find a template of interest, click on the template title
  4. This template should now be applied to your custom geography! Save as a PDF, print, or export the raw data using the printer and exporting icons at the top 


View a Map with your Custom Geography: 

Once you have uploaded or drawn a custom geography, it is simple to apply to a map and begin customizing the way your data is visualized.

Option 1 - From the home page: Locate and click the Geography drop-down menu to the right of the Category and Role Type drop-down menu. Click the name of your custom geography in the Custom Geographies column on the far right.

  1. Click the New button in the top right-hand corner. Click Map. Ensure that the name of your Custom Geography is in the "Select a geography" drop-down. Click Create Map.
  2. Once you are in the Map mode, you can toggle off, or change your area of interest using the Area of Interest selector at the top left-hand corner. 

Option 2 - From anywhere: Locate and click Menu at the top of the page. Click New Map at the bottom. 

  1. Using the Select a geography drop down, find your geography under the Custom Geographies column on the far right. Click Create Map
  2. Once you are in the Map mode, you can toggle off, or change your area of interest using the Area of Interest selector at the top left-hand corner. 

You now know how to upload a custom geography and analyze the data using Location Snapshot and Templates. From here, you may want to check out:

  1. Introduction to Maps: learn about how building a customized map on mySidewalk helps you tell a story about a place using data
  2. Project Folders: learn about how to organize your project in an easy to find location 
  3. Public Profiles: learn about how to communicate and engage others by sharing your findings
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