Mapping issues

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OSM has a number of major broken, conflicting, and incomplete tagging schemes and mapping methods that have not been solved yet via a Proposal.

It is encouraged that community members add:

  • Discussions from the Tagging mailing list and other Contact channels debating these issues.
  • Proposals related to solving these issues.
  • New issues. They must be notable, encompassing multiple smaller problems, and have had previous discussion. This is not a place to introduce completely-new ideas/conflicts. They must be discussed with the community first.

Tagging schemes

amenity=* disorganization

amenity=* has way too many values. Many of these could be grouped using subtags.



man_made=* disorganization

Man made is a general term for anything man-made, so naturally there are many values for it and many values being added to it. Man-made-ness should probably be inferred from defined tags, not as a key to put all things every made by man under.



landuse=*, landcover=*, natural=*, and surface=* conflict

There are a number of ways to indicate what is the ground, what is on the ground, what the ground is used for, or all three. These keys and their tags are often conflicting and confusing in their definitions and usage.




Currently all education is under Key:amenity#Education. Tagging different and more-specific types of education is not complete.

There also is a problem as to what to define and put under education:

  • Is athletic or other forms of training education? What is the difference between training and education?
  • Are computer classes at a library, religious education, or classes given by a non-standard institution education?



Education 2.0 is a failed proposal that addressed most of the problems.

Government landuse

There is currently no way to map areas where government-related buildings are present.



See the abandoned proposals Proposed features/Civic admin and Proposed features/landuse=civic which supersedes Civic admin.

leisure=pitch definition

The current definition for to how to map leisure=pitch as of April 2021 states:

"If there is some physical outline of the pitch or painted line markings, draw an area area around it and add leisure=pitch and proper sport=* tag"[1]

This causes confusion among mappers and renderers as to what area specifically should be mapped as and is a pitch: The outer markings of a pitch, or a defined or ambiguous area that the surface of the pitch extends to outside of the markings.


  • A tennis court is defined IFT is the 78' x 27' outer-marked area.[2] However, tennis courts are usually constructed with a "clearance", or area outside of the court made of the same material, that allows players to move around, play, and serve in. This area's dimensions are not standardized, consistent among all courts, or ever marked - so mapping it precisely for renderers to use is impossible. Therefore, in accordance with the unspecific definition of leisure=pitch, it is unknown what to map as the area of the court in order to maintain consistency in mapping and usage.


Talk:Tag:sport=tennis#What's a pitch then?


Mapping methods

Mapping navigable open areas with ways

How should ways be mapped and tagged to provide routing for open pedestrian areas?

How should a standard be developed to account for all cases and be followable?

Can/should the dimensions of a open pedestrian area be mapped with ways using width=* somehow?

If and how should a Relation combine the way and area of a open pedestrian area? Should this be similar to other highway elements?



Should "non-verifiable" boundaries be mapped?

"Non-verifiable" boundaries of countries, provinces, counties, cities, and residential areas are already mapped in OSM because of their relative importance.

To what extent should we map the more-minor boundaries often decided by governments like postal codes, legislative districts, etc.?

Other types of boundaries include "fuzzy areas": areas that represent locally known and named, but not specifically defined or verifiable, geographical areas. For example, mountain ranges, deserts, valleys, water areas, etc.

A w:Cultural area could also be a potential type of area mapped.

Whether we should map boundaries at all still remains an opinion of some community members.

Boundary disputes also are a continuous issue the OSM community has to manage.


The fuzzy areas saga

A series of long discussions started by Anders Torger on the Tagging mailing list in November-December 2020 about fuzzy areas and why they should be mapped.


Naming of areas split into parts

Many named, contiguous area types in OSM have subdivisions.

  • Buildings are often split with building:part=*
  • Forests can be broken up into different areas with unique leaf types and cycles.
  • Wetlands can be subdivided by different wetland subtypes.
  • Reservoirs can be broken up into a non-intermittent area and an intermittent area.
  • Waterways are often subdivided/segmented

For the cases other than building, one ends up breaking with the One feature, one OSM element practice. One either has to remove the name=* leaving no element for the area as a whole, or copy the name=* tag to all sub-areas, leaving many elements for one feature.