In an ideal world, data and visualizations inform decisionmaking. State and local government agencies rely on GIS, but technology, training, and funding can be barriers to broad adoption.

Turf is part of Mapbox’s effort to make powerful mapping and GIS tools more accessible. As a plugin to the Mapbox platform, Turf makes it easy to run complex spatial analyses in the browser and build a beautiful map to communicate the results.

Let’s check out an example of how the San Francisco city government could use Turf and Mapbox to better target city services.

Like many cities, San Francisco runs a 311 hotline for non-emergencies: everything from noisy neighbors to potholes to broken parking meters. We can use Turf to quickly calculate the number of 311 calls by neighborhood for a single week and see the top-five call topics for each neighborhood.

Click on a neighborhood to zoom to it, then overlay the 311 calls with the checkbox.

What’s going on under the hood?

  • We grab SF311 data from the past seven days via DataSF (changes every minute, but roughly 4,000 data points)
  • Turf calculates the number of calls per neighborhood
  • Turf classifies and styles the data on the map
  • Turf picks out the top five call categories per neighborhood

Mapbox has a dream that any citizen or civil servant can build a map, conduct spatial analyses, and show off the results quickly and beautifully to keep state and local governments efficient and accountable. A dream that one day maps and web applications will replace spreadsheets and email attachments.

Got an idea for using Mapbox tools to improve your neighborhood or city? Hit me up on Twitter @lyzidiamond or at