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I would like to identify linear features, such as roads and rivers, on raster maps and convert them to a linear vector features (i.e. polylines). I typically use R as my primary GIS, and have posed this question as it pertains to R, here, at StackOverflow without resolution. Apologies for cross-posting, however, here I am seeking any means to do this efficiently, (preferably, but not necessarily, in a manner that can be automated using code.)

Converting linear features of a certain class on a raster to polygons can be done using rasterToPolygons() in the R package raster, for example. But how can I turn these polygons into polylines objects (i.e. skeletonize these polygons to a centre line) efficiently and reproducibly without resorting to to manual steps in vector graphics software, for example.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Mr. Huber described the steps to convert polygons to centerlines (Oct 17, 2002). I also found a centerline AML with the exact same steps. It looks pretty easy except you need to create Thiessen or Voronoi polygons as one of the steps.

SAGA/RSAGA creates Voronoi with a Nearest Neighbor module but only in a Grid format, so you might need to vectorize the grid if you go this route.

I recommend using Geoscript (geoscript.geom.geom.voronoi), it will create Voronoi as vectors.

You should be able to script the whole thing.

centerline steps

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Brilliant, nice find! This just the elegant sort of algorithm I was looking for. I believe there are multiple ways to do Voronoi tessellations in R. This should be quite doable. – digitalmaps Mar 9 '12 at 2:46
With your help @klewis I have now answered my own question on StackOverflow… – digitalmaps Mar 9 '12 at 4:14
It turns out that the deldir package does really efficient Voronoi tessellations, and it's a snap to find the centre-line thereafter. – digitalmaps Mar 9 '12 at 4:15
Thanks to @Spacedman on StackOverflow ( for developing an R-based solution to this problem. – digitalmaps Mar 10 '12 at 3:56

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