I got an interesting e-mail the other day informing me about the “Roads to Rome” project. I don’t normally write items that arrive in my inbox, but this had two major hooks for me. First, I used to do a lot of routing analysis earlier in my career. Second, I am a Roman history buff. With these two factors in play, I couldn’t resist.
The premise seems straightforward: perform a shortest-path analysis from each of several hundred thousand origins to a single destination, Rome, and weight the segment visualizations by the number of routes that include each segment. The resulting map doesn’t so much answer the question if all roads lead to Rome, but it does provide an beautiful visualization of how you could get to Rome from just about anywhere in Europe.
The project followed up by asking similar questions about the United States. I was most intrigued by the potential state boundaries if drawn using service-area analysis from the state capitals. There was a similar analysis of European countries.
Ultimately, the resulting maps are beautiful and are a great showcase for the analytical and visualization capabilities of the modern geospatial tools used to produce them. There was a time when this type of analysis would have been the domain of monolithic software with additional add-ons. Those days are thankfully drawing to a close, as illustrated by the Roads to Rome project.