Maps and mappers of the 2020 GeoHipster calendar: Heikki Vesanto, March

Q: Tell us about yourself.

 

A: I am originally from Finland, but got started in GIS during my undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Great university with one of the most picturesque campuses in the world.

After Glasgow I went back to Finland for a MSc in Geoinformatics at the University of Helsinki. Great program which gave a great broad base for GIS, including exposure to all the main GIS packages, ArcGIS, MapInfo, and crucially QGIS.

After graduating I went back to Scotland, which really is a lovely country, well worth a visit. Where I worked at a small GIS consultancy doing some pretty innovative work. They were training QGIS, and helping local councils transition away from ArcGIS. The councils had really simple GIS workflows, which could easily be replicated in QGIS, so switching was clear. It also broadened the availability of GIS in the council. You were no longer limited to the x number of license you could afford, rather anyone who needed access to GIS could have it.

Unfortunate after a certain vote in 2016 made the UK feel a lot more difficult to plan a future in. Despite Scotland still being a lovely place, with very welcoming people. So now I am in Ireland, still in GIS, working with QGIS and PostgreSQL/PostGIS on a daily basis.

 

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: There were some pretty clear inspirations for this work.

Firstly I discovered the data from Dónal Casey who did an earlier version:

http://www.spatialoverlay.xyz/uncategorized/ireland-a-country-in-motion-1-96-million-commutes/

Also heavily inspired by Alasdair Rae and his commuter maps of US:

http://www.statsmapsnpix.com/2016/02/more-more-commuting-map-experiments.html

There is currently a fair amount of debate in Ireland about transport policy. Ireland is a very car dominated country with very low density housing even in the urban areas. This results in a lot of urban sprawl, which can clearly be seen in the map with the commuter catchments of the urban areas. Trying to solve the public transport issues in Dublin has come in the form of continuous proposals from the government but very little actual implementation. The latest effort is a rapid bus corridor proposal, which is probably the best option for Dublin, with its low population density urban sprawl. However the proposal is meeting some resistance with the general public. But I believe visualising and communicating the issues and solutions is crucial to driving public engagement.

 

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: The data is supplied by the Central Statistics Office Ireland as part of the Census POWSCAR data set (Place of Work, School or College – Census of Anonymised Records).

The processing was done in PostgreSQL/PostGIS. It’s a simple join from the centroid of each home Electoral Division (ED) to each work ED, with a column containing the count of commuters. Working in a database means it is a single SQL query that produces the end file for visualisation. The map was then made in QGIS. The blending modes really help with overlapping lines, allowing large clusters to really stand out, while keeping the smaller commutes still visible.

I am really happy with the end result. There is something to be said about simplicity, with just one layer of lines sitting on top of a subdued Natural Earth DEM.