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KML ZIP Scribble Map

January 18th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

US ZIP code Locations, in Google Earth

About a year ago, Robert Kosara at eagereyes.org published a fascinating set of visualizations demonstrating the overall structure of ZIP (and post) codes in various countries, for obvious reasons he called them ZipScribble maps. Robert compiled  PDF maps of the USA,  and a dozen more countries

The concept he uses is remarkably straightforward:

 1) Plot the centroid of every ZIP code area onto a map.
 2) Join these with lines, dot-to-dot, in ascending numerical (or alphabetical) order.

I know several people did similar things for various parts of the world, but I don’t think anyone ever published one of these in KML (?)

Anyway, as you can see from the picture at the top of the post, inspired by Robert’s maps I’ve compiled a visualization for Google Earth, showing a complete set of 43,000 U.S. ZIP codes.  Bordering States are shown in different colours.  White lines indicate where the sequence jumps across a State boundary.

It’s interesting to combine the file with Google Earth’s default Borders and Labels layer to see how the organization of the codes relates to the underlying geography.

Download the file here:

ZIP Scribble Map (USA) (320kB)

There’s a chance this one might cause problems on some computers – 40,000 data points is a lot of information for GE to handle 🙂 .   Before switching on all the States (only a quarter are on by default) it’s probably wise to close any other KML files, or complex layers like Weather and 3D buildings.

Data Source:

1999 U.S. Postal Service ZIP Codes (U.S . Census website)

  1. January 19th, 2008 at 03:27 | #1

    Nice, well done! I actually made a KML version of the map myself, but couldn’t find a good way to make the lines look good when zoomed in, so I never published it. Some of the line modes look better when zoomed out, some better from up close.

    I also tried a Google Maps version, but Maps is simply too slow to show that many lines. I have found that Google Earth handles the entire US without much trouble, even on my MacBook without dedicated graphics card.

    Nice to see the idea taken further!

  2. January 19th, 2008 at 13:29 | #2

    Cheers Robert,

    Your original maps were a stroke of genius.

    After playing with this some more, turns out the entire file works as a rolling time animation too – really didn’t think it would (performance wise) with something this large.

    I’ll post an updated file sometime over the weekend.

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