City of Hamilton Ward Boundaries - SHP and KML files

Hamilton’s municipal ward boundaries are now available in an open electronic format for use.

Data license

I’m releasing the boundaries under the Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL) with credit to Statistics Canada for some of the boundary data. (I used StatsCan census tracts as the framework for the escarpment and waterway boundaries.)

Download the files:

City of Hamilton municipal ward boundaries as created by Joey Coleman:[

Hamilton Ward Boundaries (KML format)](
Hamilton Ward Boundaries (SHP format in ZIP package)

City of Hamilton CMA Census Tracts:[

Hamilton_CMA_2011_Full (SHP format in ZIP package)](
Hamilton_CMA_2011_Full (KML format)

Data limitations:

The municipal ward boundaries do not meet the standards of the OpenStreetMap project due to the inclusive of Hamilton Harbour. Further, the escarpment areas of the boundaries between Wards 2, 7, and 8 is not 100% accurate. Only the City of Hamilton can offer 100% accuracy and they have not released this data.

Getting the data meant creating the data

18 months ago, I emailed a request to the City of Hamilton for ward boundaries in shapefile format. My request was repeatedly denied.

I ask for ward polling boundaries. The City denied the request. It was only after I attempted to file a freedom of information request for this public information the week prior to voting that the city provided me a paper copy of the poll boundaries. (I threatened to seek an injunction for the data)

The city continued its refusal to release in an open electronic format.

During the past year and a half, I’ve requested the data without success. The City is willing to provide the data, only if I promise to not use it for public consumption and do not publish in an open format.

This meant I had to create the data.

Why the delay creating?

Creating the ward boundaries for Hamilton is not a simple task. The escarpment and waterways are hard to trace. It is time consuming to import the mapping data to trace upon and time consuming to trace every boundary in the city.

It only became reasonable upon the release of census tracts by Statistics Canada.

How are the boundaries created?

Statistics Canada released the GIS files for census tracts as part of their first 2011 census data release in February. The census tracts all follow the escarpment and major waterways such as the small ravine dividing Hamilton and Dundas, and the Red Hill creek.

Here’s what the census tracts look like:

[![]( "Ward 12/14/13 intersection (early work)")]( 12/14/13 intersection (early work) in QGIS
I loaded QGIS, an open-source GIS software suite, and started transforming the census tracts into ward boundaries.

I start by removing the boundaries outside of Hamilton by selecting them in QGIS and using the delete key.

[![]( "Ward 12/14/13 intersection (later work)")]( 12/14/13 intersection (later work) in QGIS
Then I zoom into sections of the city, use the OpenStreetMap import feature to populate roadways, and start the changes.

I moved the boundaries overlapping into other wards back into their own territory, leaving “white space” on my map.

I then move boundaries from the neighbouring census tract(s) into the white space. This gets me near the exact boundary of the wards – which in the case of the needed modifications are conveniently roadways.

At this point, I zoom to a high magnification and plot the boundary along the centre of the roadway. OSM data makes this easy as the roadway thickness is exact and there is a line denoting the median.

It is critical to the usefulness of the geometry file this be done exactly, sites such as WardRep use geolocation based upon the boundaries to decide which ward users reside.

Including the wrong side of a street within a boundary which result in false information communicated to users of apps.

An example of a boundary difference between wards and census tracts is the Rosedale division between Ward 4 and 5.

The census tract follows the CP rail line. The ward boundary is Lawrence Rd. To make the ward boundary, I moved the boundaries northward. However, I was forced to do my best with the Red Hill Valley Parkway boundary and it is not entirely 100% accurate. (This minor variation will not impact apps as no residences are involved.)

This process was repeated for all Wards except 13 (Dundas) where the census tracts and ward boundary both follow the former municipal boundary.

City of Hamilton plans to (finally) open GIS data

The City of Hamilton is working on a license for releasing their GIS data.

I’m lobbying them to “don’t be stupid” and try to create their own license. Their past work on licenses and terms of use does not inspire confidence. They presently ban any linking to their website – yes, they are trying to tell the Internet not to use links.

The City of Hamilton should adopt a true open data license and use either Creative Commons or Open Data Commons.

What’s next for this dataset?

WardRep will use the improved boundary data in the application.

I’ll await more detailed population data from Statistics Canada later this spring and create my next open data ward boundary-ism news application. What it is? It’s not open data – yet. :