Proposed features/Usage Frequency

From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Status: Draft (under way)
Proposed by: user_610
Tagging: usage_frequency=very_high, high, medium, low, very_low
Applies to: way
Definition: Relative measure how frequently a way is used
Drafted on: 2016-09-14


This proposal has draft status. Everyone can contribute and improve it.


A relative measure how frequently a way (highway, railway, ferry route, aerialway etc.) is used.


When out in the countryside, I realized that some paths are barely usable any more, because of grown vegetation. The same can even occur to paved tracks. I also sometimes wondered “If I suffered an emergency here, when would I be found?” Reading though some of the proposals (in particular pathtype), and the related discussion, I figured that a tag stating the usage frequency is missing. It could answer a lot of questions

  • How likely is this path still passable?
  • How likely would I be found there, in time, in case of an emergency?
  • Which of the two ways through the dessert is safer? (Probably the frequently used one, besides all the other precautions.)
  • How likely will other road users slow me down on this particular road?


This tag can apply to any highway, railway, ferry route, aerialway etc.

Key Value Element Definition Comment
usage_frequency very_high way A local* knowledgeable person would say “This <type of way>* is heavily used.” The heavy usage of this way most probably impacts its usability.
People might want to avoid this way because of the very high usage.
On such a motorway, traffic jams might often occur.
On a path, oncoming traffic might be a nuisance.
It would be a bad idea to walk on the tracks of such a railway.
usage_frequency high way Between very_high and medium. If in doubt, choose 'medium'.
usage_frequency medium way A local* knowledgeable person would say “This <type of way>* is used about average.” This is the standard value and should apply to most ways in OSM. If in doubt, prefer this value over high and low.
usage_frequency low way Between medium and very_low. If in doubt, choose 'medium'.
usagey_fequency very_low way A local* knowledgeable person would say “This <type of way>* is rarely used.”

Tight vegetation with no sign of anyone passing through would be an indicator.

The rare usage of this way most probably impacts its usability and safety for travel.
People might want to avoid this way because of its very low usage.
It is possible that the way became impassable recently (by growing vegetation or caused by bad weather) and the obstacles were not removed yet.
On such a path, it would be unlikely to meet anyone. This could be an issue in emergencies.
One would not rely on such a ferry route being in operation without further inquiries.

*This is a relative measure that takes into account region and type of way. It is not a physical or absolute measure. A 'medium' motorway carries much more traffic than a 'medium' path. A 'medium' path in Western Europe might be something different than a 'medium' path in a rural part of Africa. Before tagging a path with usage_frequency=very_high, ask yourself the question: Would a local knowledgeable person really say "This is a heavily used road"? However, 'very high' does not mean 'local maximum'. There might well be regions without any heavily used roads, for instance.


Routers might prefer medium ways over 'very high' and 'very low' ways because of the reasons mentioned above.


Renderers might want to reduce the visibility of usage_frequency=very_low paths or hide them completely.

Related Tags

  • For highways/tracks/paths, there is certain correlation with track_type=* (that was intended for tracks but is now applied to many other ways). The more frequently used a track is, the more likely it is to be well maintained and have a solid surface. In the woods, a path with soft surface is probably less used. Still, a surface=asphalt path might still be usage_frequency=very_low.
  • For railways, there is certain correlation with usage=*. usage=main is probably not rarely used.

Further Development

The meaning of this tag could be extended to points. A rarely used bench, for instance, is more likely to be dirty. A heavily used parking lot may not often hold free places. And so on.

Experimental Usage


Please comment on the discussion page.