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  • Matthew Conant, Texas Tech University

Ever Changing Urban Maps and Environment


Over the past twenty years the world has seen an explosion of computing technology that is influencing the daily aspects of modern life. In that time, the use of GIS, GPS, Navigation software, and smartphone usage has climbed exponentially throughout the world. During the last twenty years, the cities of the world have seen their populations increase as the world population continues its upwards growth of not only population but the percentage of those living in urban environments has risen. With all this change happening it can be difficult for the general populations of the area to be able to follow directions from years past and for visitors poorly updated data can cause issues. The need to stay updated in this day and age makes the need of the ability to access a digital map on the fly a requirement in certain areas. OSM is a valuable tool that allows us to have global collaboration in the mapping community.

Urban Growth

As the world population grows, city governments from around the world are going to need to make changes to their cities. Population densities are increasing year in and year out, with this change new methods of transportation will be utilized to help transport the urban population to their various destinations. Attempting to show this on a traditional map can become cluttered with the inability to properly show the area its covering. In a city such as Houston, new highways and fast tracks have opened in the last ten years. The moment a paper map is printed it can be out of date. In addition to this, cities around the world are on a trend of going green and part of that is attempting to make certain areas unavailable to cars while making it friendly to walking and biking. it is necessary to know which areas are no longer traditional roads. Using software based mapping such as Open Street Map (OSM) can help solve this problem by giving local users the ability to influence the map of their area and contribute their first-hand knowledge of the area to the map.

Growth Projection: Houston, Texas


The last twenty years have seen the availability and use of cell phone technology grow rapidly from the old brick cell phones to the modern-day smartphones which are simply handheld computers with radios. This technology allows the everyday user to have access to an updated map that can differentiate between roads, bike paths, and other areas while providing the ideal path. OSM gives people the opportunity to help forge the urban maps of their world. An example of this was after Hurricane’s Harvey/Irma/Jose, the OSM community sprang to action and within weeks the affected areas had been mapped and verified. The damage to the regions, while varied, was widespread and affected significant areas with flooding, wind damage, and debris -the need for quick updates was glaring.

The combination of OSM, locally driven data collection, and collaboration are the best ways to help create and maintain accurate map data. OSM is driven by a community of mappers that take their own time to update various areas and regions. Given today’s interconnected world, OSM allows mappers around the world to stay connected and build upon each others' work.

Matthew Conant is a Senior at Texas Tech University, majoring in Geography with a Minor in GIS from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

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