[Tagging] Avoid using place=locality - find more specific tags instead

Joseph Eisenberg joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com
Wed Apr 17 02:19:52 UTC 2019

I have reviewed all the features tagged as place=locality in 2 places
in the USA and 2 in Europe, and found that 3 out of 4, place=locality
is usually used for features that could be tagged with a more specific


1) Hawaii: less than 12 out of 143 place=locality features in Hawaii
are correct uses; most are also type=boundary relations, and most of
the nodes could be tagged as another feature like natural=beach,

2) Delaware: all 15 closed ways and relations in Delaware are
boundary=*, and 2 out of the 3 nodes can be tagged with more specific
feature tags.

3) Liechtenstein: 39 nodes. 8 have a word or suffix that defines a
specific feature like "wald" = wood, "berg" = hill/mountain. I don't
know German well enough to guess any of the others, or they appear to
be just a name.

4) Andorra: 2/3rds (39 of 58 features) can be tagged with a more
specific tag by translating the name. The other 19 features cannot be
clearly translated. All are nodes except one small square.

I selected small states or countries so that I could open the whole
data file in JOSM. The data was downloaded between October 2018 and
January 2019.

- 143 place=locality
- 72 nodes
- 26  closed ways (all tagged boundary=census) - which are also
usually members of:
- 70 relations (all are tagged with boundary=census or boundary=administrative)

All the closed ways and relations are also tagged “type=boundary”

Of the 72 nodes:
- 22 are also tagged natural=cape
- 3 are tagged tourism=attraction (one of these is also historic=yes)

Out of the remaining 47 nodes, several have names that suggest they
should have other tags:
- 8 are named “* Beach” (=> natural=beach)
- 2 are named Business Park or Business Center (landuse=commercial)
- 2 “* Point” (natural=cape or natural=peninsula)
- 2 road junctions: “Four Corners” and “Old Saddle Road Junction”
- 1 may be a lake (“Green Lake”) (natural=water water=lake)
- 1  Paiko Peninsula (natural=peninsula)
- 1  Haleakalā Observatories (man_made=observatory)
- 1  Honokanai'a Base Camp (tourism=camp_site)
- 1  Kauhakō Crater (geological=caldera or natural=caldera and natural=cliff)
- 1  “Keālia Boardwalk Entrance” (tourism=attraction and highway=footpath)
- 1  Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel Resort (tourism=hotel or =resort)
- 1  Maui Swap Meet (=> landuse=retail or amenity=marketplace)
- 1 Ka‘ū Desert (natural=desert or natural=grassland/heath/scrub etc)
- 1 Pepeekeo Mill (abandoned:man_made=works?)
- 1 “Split Rock” (natural=rock or =cliff or =peak)
- 1 Lehua Landing
- 1 likely beach or bay - Punalu’u is also a bay and a beach (mapped separately)

This leaves 20 objects, all nodes with a Hawaiian-based name which I
cannot interpret. 15 are on the Big Island, mostly the south-east
quadrant. Half (12)  have GNIS tags from an import, 13 have ele=*
(most low, but 3 are above 600 meters and might be peaks or ridges?).
8 of these are on the coast, and likely represent beaches, bays or
capes. Actually 2 of these have a bay with is similar name right next
to them.
So  less than 12 out of 143 place=locality features in Hawaii are
correct uses of the tag for an “unpopulated places that is not another
more specific feature”; less than 9%, and it’s possible that even the
features might have better tags if reviewed by a local mapper.


There are 18 features tagged place=locality
4 are relations tagged type=boundary
11 are closed ways tagged boundary=administrative (9) or =census (2)
3 are nodes:
- “Ragan” - next to a the Northeast corridor, a busy railway, and an
unnamed industrial area. This may be the name of the industrial area,
or may be the name of a historic railway station now closed.
- “Russell Complex” - on the University of Delaware campus, next to
“Russell Hall A”, B, C, D, and E - probably landuse=residential
- “Tower Circle” - in a cemetery, next to a building with description
“this is a block tower burial monument with a capacity of at least 80
people” and a circular highway=service, and a highway=path that
circles the tower. I suspect the name should either be on the service
highway or the footway.

It appears that all of the closed ways and relations in Delaware are
incorrectly tagged place=locality, and 2 out of the 3 nodes can be
tagged with more specific feature tags.

- Use of place=locality is better here.

There are 39 nodes tagged place=locality; there are no ways or relations
- 1 is tagged natural=saddle
- 1 is tagged natural=cave_entrance
- 2 are “* Wiesen” which probably should be natural=grassland or
landuse=meadow if I’ve translated correctly
- 1 is
- 1 is Lawena Obersäss - not sure how to translate this?
- 2 have ele=1200 and ele=1273; one is “Mitätsch” and the other
“Gerawald” => natural=wood or landuse=forest?
- 1 is *berg => hill, peak or ridge?
- The other 31  have a name in German without a suffix that I
recognize, so would need a local mapper to review.

58 features are tagged place=locality
1 is a closed way named “Placeta de zol” which is a small square (=>
The other 57 are nodes.
Almost all of these have a name that suggests another feature. I’ve
used the Catalan dictionary on wordreference.com (I can read Spanish,
but I translated the definitions with Google)
- 2 “Bosc del *” means forest => forest or wood
- 2 “Canal de *” either a waterway=canal or “Long and narrow valley
between two mountains or two mountain ranges. Inclined valley that is
on a slope or in a cliff.” => natural=valley
- 1 “Camp *” => tourism=camp_site or a historic camp site
- 1 “Cap dels Agols” means head or promontory => natural=promontory or peak?
- 1 “Circ de Pessons” I think his means an arrete or ridge formed by
the head of a glacier
- 1 “Clot Sord” - hole or sinkhole; natural=sinkhole or
natural=cave_entrance or natural=valley
- 1 “Coll de colts” => natural=saddle
- 3 “Crête(s)” means “crest” or “ridge” => natural=ridge, or =arete
- 1 “estret de l”estanyo” means “narrows”; this appears to be a canyon
or or gorge or gully
- 1 “Jardí de Riba” - garden
- 5 “Obac de *” - means “Part of a mountain or a valley that is humid
and where the sun does not touch.” Valley or wetland (bog/marsh?)
- 1 “Pas del Monjo”  => natural=saddle or mountain pass
- 6 “Pleta de *” - “portion of enclosed land where livestock is
pastured. Landuse=meadow
- 2 “Pla de *” - flat land; a plateau, plain or possibly a valley.
- 3 “Planell(s) *” - “Land not very extensive, flat and elevated:”
also a plateau ?
- 1 Plaça del Poble - place=square
- 1 Port Dret - place=saddle (there is a natural=saddle node with the
same name 10m away)
- 1 Pont de la Baladosa - bridge
- 1 Prat dels Orris - meadow or grassland
- 1 Roc d'Aïll - natural=rock or =stone
- 1 saleres de l'Estanyò - salt pool or spring?
- 1 Torrent de la Font del' Altar - an intermittent stream

That’s 38/57 that I’ve been able to define; the others only have a
name without a descriptive term or cannot be clearly translated as a
place, eg “La Vaca Morta” = “The Dead Cow”, and “Aixás” = “Tool of
carpenter used to cut wood or make it thinner.”

So at least 2/3 of place=locality in Andorra could be tagged as a
specific natural geography or human geography feature with an existing

On 4/16/19, Joseph Eisenberg <joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com> wrote:
> We recently discussed place=locality, and I now believe this tag
> should be avoided.
> To summarize, most of these features were added in North America from
> GNIS imports; almost 20% are in Alaska alone (>200,000!), and they
> were used for all sorts of features that are not populated places:
> abandoned hamlets, former mining camps, construction sites, railroad
> and highway junctions, former locations of Native Alaskan villages,
> etc.
> Martin and Warin suggested to use abandoned:place=* for those which
> were former place=hamlet, =village, isolated_dwelling, etc.
> Several people mentioned ways they have used this tag for a "place
> without population that has a name:" for example, to tag crossroads,
> hills, a wood, a field, a pair islands, a group of a few lakes, an
> informal landmark / route mark, an abandoned airstrip, a proposed
> airstrip, etc.
> However, most of these suggested uses have other tags that could be
> more specific
> crossroads: highway=junction
> railway junction: railway=junction
> hill: natural=peak or natural=ridge or natural=hill
> wood: natural=wood
> field: landuse=farmland or =meadow
> islands: place=archipelago
> airstrip: proposed:aerodrome=airstrip + abandoned=yes;
> abandoned:aerodome=airstrip
> Two of the examples need new tags created:
> 3 lakes with a name: needs a new tag, perhaps natural=lake_group as a
> multipolygon relation?
> An informal landmark (eg an old car wheel up on a tree) - perhaps
> there is something for this already.
> I believe that place=locality was a reasonable idea when it was
> proposed in 2007, and few tags had been developed. But now, over 11
> years later, we have more specific tags for almost everything that is
> currently tagged this way.
> My suggestion: check out all the features tagged with place=locality
> in your area. If they have a more specific tag or a more precise tag
> can be added, please remove the place=locality tag.
> (If this results in the name no longer rendering in the
> Openstreetmap-carto, please check the list of issues and add a comment
> if you think that the feature should have a name label rendered on a
> general map: http://github.com/gravitystorm/openstreetmap-carto/issues
> )
> Joseph

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