Tag Archives: pgRouting

This is a guest post by Chris Kohler .


This guide provides step-by-step instructions to produce drive-time isochrones using a single vector shapefile. The method described here involves building a routing network using a single vector shapefile of your roads data within a Virtual Box. Furthermore, the network is built by creating start and end nodes (source and target nodes) on each road segment. We will use Postgresql, with PostGIS and Pgrouting extensions, as our database. Please consider this type of routing to be fair, regarding accuracy, as the routing algorithms are based off the nodes locations and not specific addresses. I am currently working on an improved workflow to have site address points serve as nodes to optimize results. One of the many benefits of this workflow is no financial cost to produce (outside collecting your roads data). I will provide instructions for creating, and using your virtual machine within this guide.

Steps:–Getting Virtual Box(begin)–

Intro 1. Download/Install Oracle VM(

Intro 2. Start the download/install OSGeo-Live 11(

Pictures used in this workflow will show 10.5, though version 11 can be applied similarly. Make sure you download the version: osgeo-live-11-amd64.iso. If you have trouble finding it, here is the direct link to the download (
Intro 3. Ready for virtual machine creation: We will utilize the downloaded OSGeo-Live 11 suite with a virtual machine we create to begin our workflow. The steps to create your virtual machine are listed below. Also, here are steps from an earlier workshop with additional details with setting up your virtual machine with osgeo live(

1.  Create Virutal Machine: In this step we begin creating the virtual machine housing our database.

Open Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager and select “New” located at the top left of the window.


Then fill out name, operating system, memory, etc. to create your first VM.


2. Add IDE Controller:  The purpose of this step is to create a placeholder for the osgeo 11 suite to be implemented. In the virtual box main window, right-click your newly-created vm and open the settings.


In the settings window, on the left side select the storage tab.

Find “adds new storage controller button located at the bottom of the tab. Be careful of other buttons labeled “adds new storage attachment”! Select “adds new storage controller button and a drop-down menu will appear. From the top of the drop-down select “Add IDE Controller”.



You will see a new item appear in the center of the window under the “Storage Tree”.

3.  Add Optical Drive: The osgeo 11 suite will be implemented into the virtual machine via an optical drive. Highlight the new controller IDE you created and select “add optical drive”.


A new window will pop-up and select “Choose Disk”.


Locate your downloaded file “osgeo-live 11 amd64.iso” and click open. A new object should appear in the middle window under your new controller displaying “osgeo-live-11.0-amd64.iso”.


Finally your virtual machine is ready for use.
Start your new Virtual Box, then wait and follow the onscreen prompts to begin using your virtual machine.


–Getting Virtual Box(end)—

4. Creating the routing database, and both extensions (postgis, pgrouting): The database we create and both extensions we add will provide the functions capable of producing isochrones.

To begin, start by opening the command line tool (hold control+left-alt+T) then log in to postgresql by typing “psql -U user;” into the command line and then press Enter. For the purpose of clear instruction I will refer to database name in this guide as “routing”, feel free to choose your own database name. Please input the command, seen in the figure below, to create the database:


You can use “\c routing” to connect to the database after creation.


The next step after creating and connecting to your new database is to create both extensions. I find it easier to take two-birds-with-one-stone typing “psql -U user routing;” this will simultaneously log you into postgresql and your routing database.

When your logged into your database, apply the commands below to add both extensions




5. Load shapefile to database: In this next step, the shapefile of your roads data must be placed into your virtual machine and further into your database.

My method is using email to send myself the roads shapefile then download and copy it from within my virtual machines web browser. From the desktop of your Virtual Machine, open the folder named “Databases” and select the application “shape2pgsql”.


Follow the UI of shp2pgsql to connect to your routing database you created in Step 4.


Next, select “Add File” and find your roads shapefile (in this guide we will call our shapefile “roads_table”) you want to use for your isochrones and click Open.


Finally, click “Import” to place your shapefile into your routing database.

6. Add source & target columns: The purpose of this step is to create columns which will serve as placeholders for our nodes data we create later.

There are multiple ways to add these columns into the roads_table. The most important part of this step is which table you choose to edit, the names of the columns you create, and the format of the columns. Take time to ensure the source & target columns are integer format. Below are the commands used in your command line for these functions.

ALTER TABLE roads_table ADD COLUMN "source" integer;
ALTER TABLE roads_table ADD COLUMN "target" integer;



7. Create topology: Next, we will use a function to attach a node to each end of every road segment in the roads_table. The function in this step will create these nodes. These newly-created nodes will be stored in the source and target columns we created earlier in step 6.

As well as creating nodes, this function will also create a new table which will contain all these nodes. The suffix “_vertices_pgr” is added to the name of your shapefile to create this new table. For example, using our guide’s shapefile name , “roads_table”, the nodes table will be named accordingly: roads_table_vertices_pgr. However, we will not use the new table created from this function (roads_table_vertices_pgr). Below is the function, and a second simplified version, to be used in the command line for populating our source and target columns, in other words creating our network topology. Note the input format, the “geom” column in my case was called “the_geom” within my shapefile:

pgr_createTopology('roads_table', 0.001, 'geom', 'id',
 'source', 'target', rows_where := 'true', clean := f)


Here is a direct link for more information on this function:

Below is an example(simplified) function for my roads shapefile:

SELECT pgr_createTopology('roads_table', 0.001, 'the_geom', 'id')

8. Create a second nodes table: A second nodes table will be created for later use. This second node table will contain the node data generated from pgr_createtopology function and be named “node”. Below is the command function for this process. Fill in your appropriate source and target fields following the manner seen in the command below, as well as your shapefile name.

To begin, find the folder on the Virtual Machines desktop named “Databases” and open the program “pgAdmin lll” located within.


Connect to your routing database in pgAdmin window. Then highlight your routing database, and find “SQL” tool at the top of the pgAdmin window. The tool resembles a small magnifying glass.


We input the below function into the SQL window of pgAdmin. Feel free to refer to this link for further information: (

   SELECT row_number() OVER (ORDER BY foo.p)::integer AS id,
          foo.p AS the_geom
   FROM (     
      SELECT DISTINCT roads_table.source AS p FROM roads_table
      SELECT DISTINCT AS p FROM roads_table
   ) foo
   GROUP BY foo.p;


  1.  Create a routable network: After creating the second node table from step 8,  we will combine this node table(node) with our shapefile(roads_table) into one, new, table(network) that will be used as the routing network. This table will be called “network” and will be capable of processing routing queries.  Please input this command and execute in SQL pgAdmin tool as we did in step 8. Here is a reference for more information:(   



   SELECT a.*, as start_id, as end_id
   FROM roads_table AS a
      JOIN node AS b ON a.source = b.the_geom
      JOIN node AS c ON = c.the_geom;


10. Create a “noded” view of the network:  This new view will later be used to calculate the visual isochrones in later steps. Input this command and execute in SQL pgAdmin tool.

 st_centroid(st_collect( AS geom 
  SELECT network.source AS id,
         st_geometryn (st_multi(network.geom),1) AS pt 
  FROM network
  SELECT AS id, 
         st_boundary(st_multi(network.geom)) AS pt 
  FROM network) foo 


11.​ Add column for speed:​ This step may, or may not, apply if your original shapefile contained a field of values for road speeds.

In reality a network of roads will typically contain multiple speed limits. The shapefile you choose may have a speed field, otherwise the discrimination for the following steps will not allow varying speeds to be applied to your routing network respectfully.

If values of speed exists in your shapefile we will implement these values into a new field, “traveltime“, that will show rate of travel for every road segment in our network based off their geometry. Firstly, we will need to create a column to store individual traveling speeds. The name of our column will be “traveltime” using the format: ​double precision.​ Input this command and execute in the command line tool as seen below.

ALTER TABLE network ADD COLUMN traveltime double precision;


Next, we will populate the new column “traveltime” by calculating traveling speeds using an equation. This equation will take each road segments geometry(shape_leng) and divide by the rate of travel(either mph or kph). The sample command I’m using below utilizes mph as the rate while our geometry(shape_leng) units for my roads_table is in feet​. If you are using either mph or kph, input this command and execute in SQL pgAdmin tool. Below further details explain the variable “X”.

UPDATE network SET traveltime = shape_leng / X*60


How to find X​, ​here is an example​: Using example 30 mph as rate. To find X, we convert 30 miles to feet, we know 5280 ft = 1 mile, so we multiply 30 by 5280 and this gives us 158400 ft. Our rate has been converted from 30 miles per hour to 158400 feet per hour. For a rate of 30 mph, our equation for the field “traveltime”  equates to “shape_leng / 158400*60″. To discriminate this calculations output, we will insert additional details such as “where speed = 30;”. What this additional detail does is apply our calculated output to features with a “30” value in our “speed” field. Note: your “speed” field may be named differently.

UPDATE network SET traveltime = shape_leng / 158400*60 where speed = 30;

Repeat this step for each speed value in your shapefile examples:

UPDATE network SET traveltime = shape_leng / X*60 where speed = 45;
UPDATE network SET traveltime = shape_leng / X*60 where speed = 55;

The back end is done. Great Job!

Our next step will be visualizing our data in QGIS. Open and connect QGIS to your routing database by right-clicking “PostGIS” in the Browser Panel within QGIS main window. Confirm the checkbox “Also list tables with no geometry” is checked to allow you to see the interior of your database more clearly. Fill out the name or your routing database and click “OK”.

If done correctly, from QGIS you will have access to tables and views created in your routing database. Feel free to visualize your network by drag-and-drop the network table into your QGIS Layers Panel. From here you can use the identify tool to select each road segment, and see the source and target nodes contained within that road segment. The node you choose will be used in the next step to create the views of drive-time.

12.Create views​: In this step, we create views from a function designed to determine the travel time cost. Transforming these views with tools will visualize the travel time costs as isochrones.

The command below will be how you start querying your database to create drive-time isochrones. Begin in QGIS by draging your network table into the contents. The visual will show your network as vector(lines). Simply select the road segment closest to your point of interest you would like to build your isochrone around. Then identify the road segment using the identify tool and locate the source and target fields.



Place the source or target field value in the below command where you see ​VALUE​, in all caps​.

This will serve you now as an isochrone catchment function for this workflow. Please feel free to use this command repeatedly for creating new isochrones by substituting the source value. Please input this command and execute in SQL pgAdmin tool.


SELECT di.seq, 
FROM pgr_drivingdistance('SELECT
     gid::integer AS id, 
     Source::integer AS source, 
     Target::integer AS target,                                    
     Traveltime::double precision AS cost 
       FROM network'::text, ​VALUE::bigint, 
    100000::double precision, false, false)
    di(seq, id1, id2, cost)
JOIN network_nodes pt ON di.id1 =;


13.Visualize Isochrone: Applying tools to the view will allow us to adjust the visual aspect to a more suitable isochrone overlay.

​After creating your view, a new item in your routing database is created, using the “view_name” you chose. Drag-and-drop this item into your QGIS LayersPanel. You will see lots of small dots which represent the nodes.

In the figure below, I named my view “take1“.


Each node you see contains a drive-time value, “cost”, which represents the time used to travel from the node you input in step 12’s function.


Start by installing the QGIS plug-in Interpolation” by opening the Plugin Manager in QGIS interface.


Next, at the top of QGIS window select “Raster” and a drop-down will appear, select “Interpolation”.



A new window pops up and asks you for input.


Select your “​view”​ as the​ vector layer​, select ​”cost​” as your ​interpolation attribute​, and then click “Add”.


A new vector layer will show up in the bottom of the window, take care the type is Points. For output, on the other half of the window, keep the interpolation method as “TIN”, edit the ​output file​ location and name. Check the box “​Add result to project​”.

Note: decreasing the cellsize of X and Y will increase the resolution but at the cost of performance.

Click “OK” on the bottom right of the window.


A black and white raster will appear in QGIS, also in the Layers Panel a new item was created.


Take some time to visualize the raster by coloring and adjusting values in symbology until you are comfortable with the look.



14. ​Create contours of our isochrone:​ Contours can be calculated from the isochrone as well.

Find near the top of QGIS window, open the “Raster” menu drop-down and select Extraction → Contour.


Fill out the appropriate interval between contour lines but leave the check box “Attribute name” unchecked. Click “OK”.



15.​ Zip and Share:​ Find where you saved your TIN and contours, compress them in a zip folder by highlighting them both and right-click to select “compress”. Email the compressed folder to yourself to export out of your virtual machine.

Example Isochrone catchment for this workflow:

SELECT di.seq, Di.id1, Di.id2, Di.cost,                         , Pt.geom 
FROM pgr_drivingdistance('SELECT gid::integer AS id,                                       
     Source::integer AS source, Target::integer AS target, 
     Traveltime::double precision AS cost FROM network'::text, 
     2022::bigint, 100000::double precision, false, false) 
   di(seq, id1, id2, cost) 
JOIN netowrk_nodes pt 
ON di.id1 =;

References: Virtual Box ORACLE VM, OSGeo-Live 11  amd64 iso, Workshop FOSS4G Bonn(​​),


This post covers a simple approach to calculating isochrones in a public transport network using pgRouting and QGIS.

For this example, I’m using the public transport network of Vienna which is loaded into a pgRouting-enable database as network.publictransport. To create the routable network run:

select pgr_createTopology('network.publictransport', 0.0005, 'geom', 'id');

Note that the tolerance parameter 0.0005 (units are degrees) controls how far link start and end points can be apart and still be considered as the same topological network node.

To create a view with the network nodes run:

create or replace view network.publictransport_nodes as
select id, st_centroid(st_collect(pt)) as geom
from (
	(select source as id, st_startpoint(geom) as pt
	from network.publictransport
	(select target as id, st_endpoint(geom) as pt
	from network.publictransport
) as foo
group by id;

To calculate isochrones, we need a cost attribute for our network links. To calculate travel times for each link, I used speed averages: 15 km/h for buses and trams and 32km/h for metro lines (similar to data published by the city of Vienna).

alter table network.publictransport add column length_m integer;
update network.publictransport set length_m = st_length(st_transform(geom,31287));

alter table network.publictransport add column traveltime_min double precision;
update network.publictransport set traveltime_min = length_m  / 15000.0 * 60; -- average is 15 km/h
update network.publictransport set traveltime_min = length_m  / 32000.0 * 60 where "LTYP" = '4'; -- average metro is 32 km/h

That’s all the preparations we need. Next, we can already calculate our isochrone data using pgr_drivingdistance, e.g. for network node #1:

create or replace view network.temp as
 SELECT seq, id1 AS node, id2 AS edge, cost, geom
  FROM pgr_drivingdistance(
    'SELECT id, source, target, traveltime_min as cost FROM network.publictransport',
    1, 100000, false, false
  ) as di
  JOIN network.publictransport_nodes pt
  ON di.id1 =;

The resulting view contains all network nodes which are reachable within 100,000 cost units (which are minutes in our case).

Let’s load the view into QGIS to visualize the isochrones:


The trick is to use data-defined size to calculate the different walking circles around the public transport stops. For example, we can set up 10 minute isochrones which take into account how much time was used to travel by pubic transport and show how far we can get by walking in the time that is left:

1. We want to scale the circle radius to reflect the remaining time left to walk. Therefore, enable Scale diameter in Advanced | Size scale field:


2. In the Simple marker properties change size units to Map units.
3. Go to data defined properties to set up the dynamic circle size.


The expression makes sure that only nodes reachable within 10 minutes are displayed. Then it calculates the remaining time (10-"cost") and assumes that we can walk 100 meters per minute which is left. It additionally multiplies by 2 since we are scaling the diameter instead of the radius.

To calculate isochrones for different start nodes, we simply update the definition of the view network.temp.

While this approach certainly has it’s limitations, it’s a good place to start learning how to create isochrones. A better solution should take into account that it takes time to change between different lines. While preparing the network, more care should to be taken to ensure that possible exchange nodes are modeled correctly. Some network links might only be usable in one direction. Not to mention that there are time tables which could be accounted for ;)

This post is a quick instruction for installing Postgres 9.2, PostGIS 2.0 and pgRouting 2.0.

  1. For Postgres, download the installer from
  2. Run the installer. You’ll have to pick a superuser password – remember it, you’ll need it again soon.
  3. At the end of the installation process, allow the installer to start Stack Builder.
  4. In Stack Builder, select the Postgres 9.2 installation and install PostGIS from the list of available extensions.
  5. The PostGIS installation procedure will prompt you for the superuser password you picked before.
  6. I suggest letting the installer create a sample database We’ll need it later anyway.

Now for the pgRouting part:

  1. Download the pgRouting zip file for your system (32 or 64 bit) from Winnie.
  2. Unzip the file. It contains bin, lib and share folders as well as two text files.
  3. Copy these folders and files over to your Postgres installation. In my case C:\Program Files\PostgreSQL\9.2

Installation – done.

Next, fire up pgAdmin. If you allowed the PostGIS installer to create a sample database, you will find it named postgis20 or similar. Otherwise just create a new database using the PostGIS template database. You can enable pgRouting in a database using the following steps:

  1. In postgis20, execute the following query to create the pgrouting extension. This will add the pgRouting-specific functions:
    CREATE EXTENSION pgrouting;
  2. Test if everything worked fine:
    SELECT pgr_version();

    It should return "(2.0.0-dev,v2.0.0-beta,18,a3be38b,develop,1.46.1)" or similar – depending on the version you downloaded.


How about some test data? I’ll be using the public transport network of the city of Vienna provided in GeoJSON format from

    1. Just copy paste the url in Add Vector Layer | Protocol to load the dataset.
    2. Use DB Manager to load the layer into your database. (As you can see in the screenshot, I created a schema called network but that’s optional.)


  1. To make the line vector table routable, we use pgr_createTopology. This function assumes the columsn called “source” and “target” exist so we have to create those as well:
    alter table network.publictransport add column source integer;
    alter table network.publictransport add column target integer;
    select pgr_createTopology('network.publictransport', 0.0001, 'geom', 'id');

    I’m quite generously using a tolerance of 0.0001 degrees to build the topology. Depending on your dataset, you might want to be more strict here.

  2. Let’s test it! Route from source #1 to target #3000 using pgr_dijkstra:
    SELECT seq, id1 AS node, id2 AS edge, cost, geom
      FROM pgr_dijkstra(
        'SELECT id, source, target, st_length(geom) as cost FROM network.publictransport',
        1, 3000, false, false
      ) as di
      JOIN network.publictransport pt
      ON di.id2 = ;

    Note how the query joins the routing results and the network table together. (I’m aware that using the link length as a cost attribute will not lead to realistic results in a public transport network but bear with me for this example.)

  3. We can immediately see the routing results using the Load as new layer option:


Nice work! pgRouting 2.0 has come a long way. In a post from April this year, Boston GIS even announced to add pgRouting into the Stack Builder. That’s going to make the installation even more smooth.

This is the follow up post to “An osm2po Quickstart” which covers loading the OSM network into PostGIS and using the result with pgRouting. After parsing the OSM file, e.g.

C:\Users\Anita\temp\osm2po-4.2.30>java -jar osm2po-core-4.2.30-signed.jar prefix=at "C:\Users\Anita\Geodaten\OpenStreetMap Data\austria.osm.pbf"

you should find a folder with the name of the prefix you chose inside the osm2po folder. It contains a log file which in turn provides a command line template for importing the OSM network into PostGIS, e.g.

INFO commandline template: psql -U [username] -d [dbname] -q -f "C:\Users\Anita\temp\osm2po-4.2.30\at\at_2po_4pgr.sql"

Using this template, we can easily import the .sql file into an exiting database. My pgRouting-enabled database is called wien_ogd.

C:\Users\Anita\temp\osm2po-4.2.30\at>psql -U [username] -d wien_ogd -q -f C:\Users\Anita\temp\osm2po-4.2.30\at\at_2po_4pgr.sql

Now, the data is ready for usage in QGIS:

The osm2po table in QGIS

Using “pgRouting Layer” plugin, it’s now straightforward to calculate shortest paths. I had to apply some changes to the plugin code, so please get the latest version from Github.

A shortest path in osm2po network

Using osm2po turned out to be far less painful than I expected and I hope you’ll find this post useful too.

PgRouting is great. But (Yes, there is always a “but”.) those queries are not easy to remember. That’s why I started work on a pgRouting GUI today. It’s actually a QGIS plugin which I’ll call “pgRouting Layer” and it is based on Pablo T. Carreira’s “Fast SQL Layer” plugin which can execute arbitrary SQL statements against a PostGIS or SpatiaLite database and add the results in a map layer.

This first prototype supports pgRouting’s shortest_path() function as described in “A Beginners Guide to pgRouting”. Once supplied with the necessary information about attribute field names, the plugin allows you to route between pairs of nodes. For convenience, the resulting layer is named after its start and end node.

some shortest paths using "pgRouting Layer" plugin

Besides normal routing capabilities, I’d like to develop this plugin towards a user friendly tool for catchment zone analysis. If you are interested in teaming up to work towards this goal, let me know.

The function with the glorious name “find_node_by_nearest_link_within_distance” is part of pgRouting and can be found in matching.sql.

“This function finds nearest node as a source or target of the nearest link”
That means that we can use this function e.g. to find the best road network node for a given address.

The function returns an object of type link_point:

CREATE TYPE link_point AS (id integer, name varchar);

To access only the id value of the nearest node, you can use:

SELECT id(foo.x) 
   SELECT find_node_by_nearest_link_within_distance(
	'POINT(14.111 47.911)',
	'nw_table')::link_point as x
) AS foo

Alpha shapes are generalizations of the convex hull [1]. Convex hulls are well known and widely implemented in GIS systems. Alpha shapes are different in that they capture the shape of a point set. You can watch a great demo of how alpha shapes work on François Bélair’s website “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Alpha Shapes But Were Afraid to Ask” I borrowed the following pictures from that site:

Alpha shapes for different values of alpha. The left one equals the convex hull of the point set.

Alpha shapes for different values of alpha. The left one equals the convex hull of the point set.

pgRouting comes with an implementation of alpha shapes. There is an alpha shape function: alphashape(sql text) and a convenience wrapper: points_as_polygon(query character varying). The weird thing is that you don’t get to set an alpha value. The only thing supplied to the function is a set of points. Let’s see what kind of results it produces!

Starting point for this experiment is a 10 km catchment zone around node #2699 in my osm road network. Travel costs to nodes are calculated using driving_distance() function. (You can find more information on using this function in Catchment Areas with pgRouting driving_distance().)

CREATE TABLE home_catchment10km AS
   FROM osm_nodes
   (SELECT * FROM driving_distance('
      SELECT gid AS id,
          meters AS cost
      FROM osm_roads',
      false)) AS route
   ON = route.vertex_id

After costs are calculated, we can create some alpha shapes. The following queries create the table and insert an alpha shape for all points with a cost of less than 1500:

CREATE TABLE home_isodist (id serial, max_cost double precision);
SELECT AddGeometryColumn('home_isodist','the_geom',4326,'POLYGON',2);

INSERT INTO home_isodist (max_cost, the_geom) (
SELECT 1500, ST_SetSRID(the_geom,4326)
    'SELECT id, ST_X(the_geom) AS x, ST_Y(the_geom) AS y FROM home_catchment10km where cost < 1500'));

In previous posts, I’ve created catchment areas by first interpolating a cost raster and creating contours from there. Now, let’s see how the two different approaches compare!

The following picture shows resulting catchment areas for 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000 meters around a central node. Colored areas show the form of pgRouting alpha shape results. Black contours show the results of the interpolation method:

Comparison of pgRouting alpha shapes and interpolation method

At first glance, results look similar enough. Alpha shape results look like a generalized version of interpolation results. I guess that it would be possible to get even closer if the alpha value could be set to a smaller value. The function should then produce a finer, more detailed polygon.

For a general overview about which areas of a network are reachable within certain costs, pgRouting alpha shapes function seems a viable alternative to the interpolation method presented in previous posts. However, the alpha value used by pgRouting seems too big to produce detailed catchment areas.


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