Portland Streetcar Loop Visualizations

I recently worked with the Portland Streetcar organization to develop 3D “visualizations” of the new loop route on the eastside, to be shown at public meetings and made available online.

The project is a good example of how geographically-oriented data from many sources is converging to help people better-understand their communities and better-communicate ideas.

Using the affordable tool Google Earth Pro, which automatically incorporates aerial images from Metro and building shapes provided by a community of 3D artists, and the addition of eastside 3D building shapes and height data provided by the Bureau of Planning, and with the flourish of a 3D streetcar model provided by a volunteer artist, the project was able to be completed in a quick time frame.

Here are the finished videos on YouTube:



The quality from YouTube is not good… the embedded viewers are too small to read the text, and when viewed full-screen the resolution is too low to see the detail, but it does make widespread distribution simple.

For those who want to see the videos more clearly, the original “high definition” files may be downloaded directly from the Portland Streetcar web site for viewing in Apple’s QuickTime player. Warning: These files are well over 500MB each.

The technology still has a long way to go, but it’s amazing just how much can be done today… if you’re willing to put up with Google Earth’s penchant for crashing (and crashing while saving!), arcane user-interface, and horrifyingly over-complicated 3D object placement process when paired with Google Sketchup… garbled output images, and an output video which can’t be opened in most professional editing software and which requires 3rd-party conversion software… technology is the future!

Disclosure: In the past I’ve worked on projects for the Portland Streetcar on a strictly volunteer basis. This project was considerably larger in scope beyond my usual commitment, and I was compensated for hours worked beyond the volunteer agreement, as well as reimbursed for direct expenses.

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