Mapping a proposal for transportation hubs in Waterloo Region

Project Background:

ClimateActionWR is coordinating with all municipalities in the Region on a long-term action plan. One aspect of this plan is to develop active transportation (AT) hubs to encourage people to forgo cars for short trips. Their research identified 11 possible hub locations. Four of these are to be stationary hubs with a physical location (such as library or community centre), and the remainder will be mobile pop-up hubs.

Project Scope:

The goal is to show the density of destinations within a 2km (walkable) and 5km (bikable) radius, and to show AT routes in those areas. 

ClimateActionWR commissioned me to create a letter-sized map for each proposed hub, showing the complete road and AT networks, parks and park paths, and the density of destinations such as schools, places of worship, community and medical centres, shopping, and major sports fields used for organized kids’ sports. I used a spreadsheet to track datasets and layers because some of the requested data is not available for all cities in the Region’s OpenData.

AT hub map data layers and sources


My client sent me a list of neighbourhoods with bounding streets, and I plotted the centre points then buffered the points to create polygon layers with 2km and 5km radii. We added an overview map to see all hub locations at a glance.

Once the hub locations were finalized on the maps, I added the data layers identified in the spreadsheet and worked on the first four maps at the same time.

draft1 - AT hub map Elgin Park North Galt

At this time, the Region was finishing its 2021 bike map, so I received a PDF version to make sure these maps show all updated infrastructure not yet in the OpenData portal. The Region’s map also greatly simplified the network types, so I used their new categorizations on these maps.

My client was surprised at how much data I was able to add to the map, and in some cases we had to clean it up. For example, often there are multiple sports fields of different types close together, so I removed multiple symbols from those areas. The request was to show locations of organized kids’ sports, but that information is not always in the datasets, so a bit more research was required to check descriptions of these sports fields. 

In the next drafts I labelled community centres and major parks, and created a cleaner style for the maps by removing all points outside of the 5km radius, but leaving the roads. I also tried some different colours.

During these reviews, my client noticed some shopping points missing. (We had an extremely tight timeline, so they’d offered to have their volunteers review the drafts and data.) I’d initially added those from OpenStreetMap data, but went back to the dataset and added a lot more categories. The guiding principle was to include any destination that someone might go to on a regular basis, so I added medical centres and pharmacies, kindergartens, variety/convenience stores, and food shops such as bakeries, delis, butchers, etc..

Many areas had a lot of shops and adding symbols for each one would overwhelm the map, so I downloaded the Region’s business improvement areas and building datasets, the latter filtered for plazas and shopping malls.

I added a purple fill for these polygons to show these retail areas without adding even more symbols. My client suggested using larger symbols to show destinations such as universities, malls and shopping districts that attract a large number of people.

detail of Country Hills AT hub map

Even with these additional data layers, my client noticed some major new shopping centres missing. So I loaded OpenStreetMap in GIS and compared with Google Maps, and created a new point layer to manually add these missing points.

final draft - AT hub map Lakeshore Village Sunnydale

Here’s an example of the data layers I worked with on each map. At an early stage we considered adding snowplowed sidewalks and trails, but that data is only available for Kitchener and made the map more difficult to read.

Illustrator layers used in AT hub map

Next steps:

Public review for the action plan wrapped up last week – it’ll be public again after going to all 8 local councils in June. But sometime in the next few weeks the maps will be up on the ClimateActionWR website.

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