[OSM-talk] Too subjective & problematic Re: no-go-areas

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Tue Jan 14 00:58:56 UTC 2020

I agree.  In the USA, the five-digit postal code was introduced in 1963 and called a "ZIP code," for "Zone" (first digit), "Improvement" (second and third digits), "Plan" (fourth and fifth digits).  In 1983, nine-digit codes were introduced by adding a hyphen after the five digits and four more digits ("Sector" sixth and seventh digits and "Segment" eighth and ninth digits), hence the newer designation "ZIP+4."  More recently, the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) systems added two more digits to standardize the exact "delivery point" (where 10th and 11th digits are calculated by CASS software based on the number in the address) and a final, 12th digit as a checksum.

Helpful to remember about ZIP codes (proposed since 1978) is that they are NOT geographic areas (as can be mapped in a map), but rather "routing algorithms" helpful to facilitate mail delivery.

I believe it is widespread consensus in OSM that while there are places where adding boundary=census polygons is considered helpful data (especially in Alaska's Unorganized Borough, as they are a joint effort by both the US Department of Commerce's Census Bureau AND the state of Alaska and have become a de facto, though not necessarily de jure definition of administrative areas), usually, adding census data to OSM is not especially helpful.  But there are much of these extant now.

I also believe it is widespread consensus that OSM should not contain postal (ZIP) code data in the USA, as ZIP codes (strictly speaking) cannot always (or even usually?) be defined as geographic areas, they are rather better thought of as a "routing algorithm to help facilitate mail delivery."


> On Jan 13, 2020, at 4:34 PM, Joseph Eisenberg <joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com> wrote:
> In the USA a postal code is not actually an area, but a set of
> addresses. Often they are all in one area, but sometimes the area is
> not clearly defined. This is partially why postal codes are usually
> just added to the POI directly in the USA. Trying to make a sensible
> set of areas or boundaries will not work for all USPS postal codes.
> Joseph Eisenberg
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