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Every Sunny Patio in Toronto - Mapped

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Now that, for the most part, the horrible months of winter are behind us, we can turn our sun starved gazes towards the most cherished of civics amenities. Yes, I am referring to those unique public/private spaces: our Canadian patios.

You see, I have simple goal here at lgeo and that is to get GIS information to the masses as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And by GIS information, I mean: Beer, in the sunshine. So, with that lofty goal in mind, I've managed to make a good start on this, and will have an app to help sort out thirsty Canadians in the medium term.

For right now though, I'll walk you through one case study of patios, sunshine and all good things GIS.

The Toronto Case Example

To find sunny patios anywhere, we need some data to start with. Fortunately for us, the open data revolution is making this easier than ever before. Presented below is the sunny patio recipe that I've cooked up to make this happen:

  • 1 Massive buildings dataset with heights that is reasonably up-to-date;

  • 1 digital elevation model of reasonable accuracy and precision;

  • 1 list of every patio in town;

  • and the capacity to build a solar shading model for an entire day at regular intervals; and

  • some GIS wizadry to put it all together!

See, so easy! Now, thanks to the very good folks at open data Toronto, I've managed to locate a great list of businesses with patios, an awesome buildings dataset and the aforementioned elevation model. I've got the last two bullets down pat so here we go.

The hardest part of all of this was getting the patios in the right spot. Patios come in many flavors including roof patios, back patios, side and front patios, arcades and random corporate office balconies. And in case you were wondering, Toronto has like 1,400 of these so that took some time. Thankfully, GIS is really good at automating data management stuff like moving patios off of the middle of buildings to the block face so it wasn't too bad. Just in case you wanted to get an idea of the level of accuracy that I needed, here are some shots of how well these things are located (Torontonians see if you can guess the street in the comments):

Anyway, once I had the patios down, it was time to tackle the buildings and the associated shadow model. Full disclosure, there is some IP in here so let's just assume this was more or less magically created. However, the takeaway for how do this can be found on this amazing link here (full disclosure I am not as excellent as the NY times). In any event, I've managed to create the map below for the June 6th prime patio day (use the sliders to change time of day, scroll wheel zooms in and out, click to pan):

Once the shadows were completed, the next step was to figure out at what time of day any patio would be in the sunshine. Some more semi-secret GIS later, we have all of the data ready to play with in the map below. Reddish circles mean that the patio is in full sun, blue circles mean the patio is in partial sun. Have fun with it, you can use the street view links to hopefully find the patios (I'm working on the view angle that will be added later).

As always, I need some help with the exact location of these patios so any crowd sourcing of errors is appreciated. And if you wondering, the beta app of this mapping will be released on android and iphone before summer kicks off. Just in time to help you find your sunny patio as easy as possible.


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