/ Development

Mapzen Alternatives

This is a copy and paste blogpost, originally posted at Mapzen, because the service is shutting down and I wasn't sure how long the blogpost was going to be online for, I wanted to preserve the valuable information and republish it myself. Apart from this intro, not a single word was written by myself

Get driving, biking, walking and transit navigation in your app

Mapzen will cease operations at the end of January 2018, and its hosted APIs and all related support and services will turn off on February 1, 2018.

Your two options are to switch to another hosted API that offers similar functionality, or to run your own servers with the open-source projects that powered Mapzen services. We list several options below to make this as easy as possible.

Alternate services and hosted APIs

Mapzen Vector Tiles and Cartography

For basemaps and vector tiles, you may want to consider:

Long-term support for Vector Tiles is available via Nextzen through 2018 supported by Amazon Web Services, thanks to an award from the Earth on AWS Cloud Credits for Research Program. This includes hosted versions of Tangram JS and the map styles. The vector tile data is an archived December 2017 global build available in a requestor pays S3 bucket with associated serverless software.

Terrain Tiles will continue to be available as an Amazon Public Dataset.

Mapzen Vector Tiles and Cartography are based on the Tangram and Tilezen open-source projects. Read below for information on how to run these services locally.

Tangram scene files saved in a Tangram Play account can be saved to a GitHub Gist or downloaded locally, while Mapzen services are still running.

Mapzen Turn-by-Turn routing

For routing and navigation, you may want to consider these services:

Mapzen’s routing and navigation projects were backed by Valhalla, an open-source project. Read below for how to run Valhalla locally.

Mapzen Search

For search and geocoding, you may want to consider these services:

Mapzen Search was backed by Pelias, an open source project. Read below for how to run this service locally.


For Android and iOS, you may want to consider these third party SDKs:

In the event you decide to host a version of Valhalla and Pelias locally, you can continue to use our mobile SDKs we’ve built to interact with that service.

Mapzen iOS and Android SDKs, along with On The Road SDKs for Valhalla will be available at https://github.com/nextzen.

Our LOST project for Android will be available at https://github.com/lostzen/.

Pelias and tangram-es SDKs will continue to be available from their respective repositories.


Transitland will continue as an open-data project at https://transit.land

Transitland’s server and data operations through 2018 will be supported by Amazon Web Services, thanks to an award from the Earth on AWS Cloud Credits for Research Program.

Continue to follow @transitland on Twitter for updates.

Who’s On First / Mapzen Places

Data (individual records) and source code for Who’s On First will continue to be hosted at https://github.com/whosonfirst, but whosonfirst.mapzen.com and the Mapzen Places API will go offline.

Who’s On First will continue (in a scaled back version, for now) at https://whosonfirst.org.

  • Data (individual records) and source code are at https://github.com/whosonfirst.
  • All of the data and code and blog posts have also been cloned to the Internet Archive.
  • The Spelunker will go offline, in the short term.
  • Batch processing and cascading edits will stop in the short term.
  • A limited version of the API that returns individual records will be at https://whosonfirst.org, with additional functionality growing over time (spatial queries, point-in-polygon, editorial tool, cascading updates).

Follow along at https://www.whosonfirst.org for updates.

Metro Extracts

Metro Extracts will no longer be updated, and the custom extract service will no longer be available. We are working on making a copy of the existing extracts available.

The Humanitarian Open Streetmap Team has created the HOT Export Tool that creates customized extracts of up-to-date OSM data in various file formats, including PBFs. Please consider donating to HOT, whether or not you use this service.

For non planet-sized PBF extracts, you may want to consider Geofabrik or the Overpass API.

Also, OSMaxx can be used for downloading OSM data.

Documentation and blog posts
Blog posts will be archived on https://medium.com/postzen.

Documentation will be available in each open-source GitHub repo:

Documentation section Source location
Overview https://github.com/mapzen/mapzen-docs-generator/tree/master/docs
mapzen.js https://github.com/mapzen/mapzen.js/tree/master/docs
Tangram https://github.com/tangrams/tangram-docs
Vector tiles https://github.com/tilezen/vector-datasource/tree/master/docs
Search https://github.com/pelias/pelias-doc
Mobility https://github.com/valhalla/valhalla-docs
Metro Extracts https://github.com/mapzen/metro-extracts/tree/master/docs
Terrain tiles https://github.com/tilezen/joerd
Elevation https://github.com/valhalla/valhalla-docs
Android SDK https://github.com/mapzen/android/tree/master/docs
iOS SDK https://github.com/mapzen/ios/blob/master/docs
Address parsing/libpostal https://github.com/whosonfirst/go-whosonfirst-libpostal/blob/master/docs
Who’s On First https://github.com/whosonfirst/whosonfirst-www-api/tree/master/docs
Cartography https://github.com/tangrams/cartography-docs/

Run open-source versions of Mapzen services

Mapzen services are backed by open-source software projects, and use open data. Even with limited technical knowledge, you can run these yourself for metro-sized areas using a local web server or Docker containers.

Tangram and Tilezen (Cartography and Vector Tiles)

Documentation for Tangram is available at https://github.com/tangrams/tangram-docs.

tangram.js, tangram.es, Mapzen.js, Tangram Play are all open-source projects that can be run locally.

Basemap styles

Refill, Walkabout, Bubble-wrap, Tron and Cinnabar basemap styles will continue to be available in their repositories in https://github.com/tangrams and served via tangrams.github.io and via Nextzen.org.

Map data

While Tangram can import non-tiled GeoJSON and TopoJSON, vector tiles are what makes it interesting.

The Docker version of Tilezen can dynamically serve tiles from a Metro Extract or reasonably-sized PBF.

Tilezen in Docker https://github.com/tilezen/tileserver/blob/master/DOCKER.md
To run a map for a city or a region with no network dependencies:

  • Save mapzen.js / tangram.js, index.html and scene.yaml file in a directory
  • Extract a pyramid of tiles for area of interest using tilepack and save them in that same directory. (Note you don’t need to go beyond z15 tiles as they contain all the data in higher (>= 16) tiles, and Tangram overzooms.)

To download tiles from our hosted services before shutdown:

https://github.com/tilezen/tilepacks MAPZEN_API_KEY=mapzen-xxxxxx tilepack -122.51489 37.70808 -122.35698 37.83239 10 15 sf_mvt_10_15 --tile-size 512

Size and download speeds makes this viable for a city and perhaps a region. The example above generates a 30MB pyramid of MVT tiles, or 138MB of topojson, for San Francisco. For GeoJSON, SF is 67MB at z14, and 130MB at z15.

  • Serve tiles via a web server (localhost or hosted).
  • Create a scene file for Tangram. Note you will need to override the mapzen source in the scene file if you are importing a basemap.
        type: MVT
        url:  localhost:8000/sf_mvt_10_15/all/{z}/{x}/{y}.mvt
        tile_size: 512
        max_zoom: 15

Valhalla (routing)

Documentation for Valhalla is available at https://github.com/valhalla/valhalla-docs.

Instructions on running Valhalla in Docker using data from a Metro Extract or PBF are at https://github.com/valhalla/docker.

Pelias (search)

Documentation for Pelias is available at http://pelias.io and https://github.com/pelias/pelias-doc.

Instructions on how to run Pelias in Docker with data from a Metro Extract or PBF and OpenAddresses data are at https://github.com/pelias/dockerfiles/blob/master/how_to_guide.pdf.

General instructions on running and installing Pelias and Elasticsearch: http://pelias.io/install.html

Android and iOS SDK source code and LOST will available at https://github.com/lostzen

Preview image: World Emigration Map by Charles Minard from the David Rumsey Map Collection

PJ Carly

PJ Carly

There's an English proverb: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt". I wanted to remove all doubt.

Read More