CartoDB / PostGIS Guide

CartoDB / PostGIS Guide

Michael Weaver

Yale University

What is CartoDB?

CartoDB is a web-based platform hat integrates geospatial software (PostGIS) with powerful and easy-to-use interactive mapping tools.

Key features:

  1. Hosts your geospatial and other tabular data in the cloud.
  2. Built on the powerful PostgreSQL data platform
  3. Tools for automated design and hosting of interactive maps
  4. Free entry-level accounts
  5. Highly customizable:

    • map the results of complex queries
    • tailor the design of your map using cartocss
    • build custom interactivity using the CartoDB API.


Trees in NYC

Subway Status NYC

British Navy in WWI

Evictions in SF

CartoDB Gallery

My maps

Get an account

Free accounts for university affiliates:

Load data

  • csv, tsv, shapefiles, kml, geojson, etc.
  • Drag and drop files to load
  • Can sync tables with dropbox for dynamic updating
  • Data can be points, lines, polygons, etc.

New Haven Wards

Note: shapefiles must be contained in a zipped file

####New Haven SeeClickFix data

Download these files, and then drag & drop into CartoDB


###Start with polygons Click on the dataset. See the table, then click on “Map View”

Let’s go over the toolbar:

  • Layer(s)
  • SQL (more on this later)
  • Wizards
    • Basic, Choropleth, Category
  • Infowindow
  • CartoCSS (more on this later)
  • Legends
  • Add features

###Points Lets go back to our datasets, click on “scf”

Lets check out the ‘wizards’

  • Simple
  • Category
  • Torque
    • Category
    • Heatmap

We can also customize other parts of the map: * Basemap * Publish map * Add text/title * Add layer (ward boundaries)


  • Relational database: PostgreSQL
  • Addition of geospatial operations


###Basic usage: Not enough time to introduce SQL completely

SELECT mytable.*
FROM mytable
WHERE column1 = 'value' and column2 in ('value1', 'value2')
SELECT scf.*
FROM scf
WHERE created_at > '2014-01-01'

Use the Filter tool on the toolbar to intuitively select subsets of your data. Automatically updates your SQL query.

###More advanced usage We can merge tables in PostGIS either by columns or geometry

Common uses:

  • Points in polygons
    • in which area is a point located?
    • how many points occur within a given area
  • Polygon intersections
    • what areas overlap?
    • how much of one area is inside another?
  • Distances between points, points within a radius of other points

Let’s do an example of points in Polygon:

  • How many points in a polygon
    select nh_wards.*, count(*) AS issue_count
    FROM nh_wards, scf
    GROUP BY nh_wards.cartodb_id;
  • Which polygon contains a point
    select scf.*, nh_wards.wards_desc
    FROM nh_wards, scf
  • Which wards border each other?
    SELECT wards_1.*, wards_2.wards_desc as neighboring_ward
    FROM nh_wards as wards_1, nh_wards as wards_2
    WHERE ST_DWithin(wards_1.the_geom::geography, wards_2.the_geom::geography, 10)
  • Count SCF issues in a radius around an issue
    SELECT points_1.*, count(*) as count_10m
    FROM scf as points_1, scf as points_2
    WHERE ST_DWithin(points_1.the_geom::geography, points_2.the_geom::geography, 10) and
    GROUP BY points_1.cartodb_id

###Custom map: This map lets us search for terms that appear in the SCF issue.

We can look through the html to see how we construct a new SQL query to return different subsets of the data.


###Other examples

Railroad travel times Code is here