What I'd like to try and do is intersect some point buffers with census tracts, maintain their ID's and the tracts attributes.

I found a sample from http://www.macwright.org/2012/10/31/gis-with-python-shapely-fiona.html but can't exactly substitute the cascaded union for an intersect. I'm also having trouble getting the intersection function to import from shapely.ops.

from shapely.geometry import Point, mapping, shape
from fiona import collection
#from shapely.ops import intersection
import shapely.ops

bufSHP = 'data/h1_buf.shp'
intSHP = 'data/h1_buf_int_ct.shp'
ctSHP  = 'data/nyct2010.shp'
with collection(bufSHP, "r") as input:
    schema = input.schema.copy()
    with collection(intSHP, "w", "ESRI Shapefile", schema) as output:
        shapes = []
        for f in input:
        merged = shapes.intersection(ctSHP)
            'properties': {
                'uid': point['properties']['uid']
            'geometry': mapping(merged)

I've also got the code and sample shapefiles up here https://github.com/nygeog/questions/tree/master/shapely_intersect


So for some reason using Shapely, the larger buffers (1 km) I lose some of the features (census tracts) in the intersect.

Also, since the Shapely responder said the OGR command is good to use I started looking for into that. Anyway, I was able to test cd'ing to the directory and it works great. However, I've been trying to experiment with it so I can loop through the many sized buffers and dif. census years. However, why is it that I cannot get the following script to work. Can I not substitute paths for the folder 'data' in the ogr2ogr response below?

import os
wp = '/Volumes/Echo/GIS/projects/naas/tasks/201411_geoprocessing/data/processing/'
folder = wp+'test'
theGDALcmd = 'ogr2ogr -sql "SELECT ST_Intersection(A.geometry, B.geometry) AS geometry, A.*, B.* FROM nyct2010 A, hr1000m B WHERE ST_Intersects(A.geometry, B.geometry)" -dialect SQLITE '+folder+' '+folder+' -nln hr1000m_int_ct10_ogr_pytest'

The error I get is

sh: ogr2ogr: command not found

However, when I go to the terminal, I have access to ogr2ogr.


Mike T include some code so I can run this ogr2ogr command in python.

  • 1
    Totally love how you put your question and example neatly up on github! +1! This is pretty simple if you have access to a geodatabase, if all you're looking for is an answer for these specific layers.
    – janechii
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 22:45

2 Answers 2


While I'm a big user of both shapely and fiona, I wouldn't go this approach. This is a task of writing an effective SQL statement.

Using ogr2ogr with an SQLITE dialect, you can process this from a command line. Change directory to one before the shapefiles, so that all of the shapefiles are in one directory called data. OGR treats directories of shapefiles as datasets. Now try this command:

ogr2ogr -sql "SELECT ST_Intersection(A.geometry, B.geometry) AS geometry, A.*, B.* FROM nyct2010 A, h1_buf B WHERE ST_Intersects(A.geometry, B.geometry)" -dialect SQLITE data data -nln h1_buf_int_ct2

This makes h1_buf_int_ct2.shp with the same attributes as A and B, showing the intersections. You could also have done the buffering operation somewhere in there too.

The same SQL statement works with PostGIS too, so you know.

Here's how to do the same from within Python using ogr:

from osgeo import ogr
ogr_ds = ogr.Open('/path/to/data', True)  # Windows: r'C:\path\to\data'
SQL = """\
    SELECT ST_Intersection(A.geometry, B.geometry) AS geometry, A.*, B.*
    FROM nyct2010 A, h1_buf B
    WHERE ST_Intersects(A.geometry, B.geometry);
layer = ogr_ds.ExecuteSQL(SQL, dialect='SQLITE')
# copy result back to datasource as a new shapefile
layer2 = ogr_ds.CopyLayer(layer, 'h1_buf_int_ct3')
# save, close
layer = layer2 = ogr_ds = None
  • I tried this command and got the following error: FAILURE: Unable to open datasource `data' with the following drivers. Should I modify this code to read 'ESRI Shapefile' where 'data' is listed?
    – GIS Danny
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:06
  • Nice (first time I cd'd to data, but reread and it worked). Output seems the same as the above but did get this message: Warning 1: organizePolygons() received an unexpected geometry. Either a polygon with interior rings, or a polygon with less than 4 points, or a non-Polygon geometry. Return arguments as a collection. Warning 1: Geometry of polygon of fid 2016 cannot be translated to Simple Geometry. All polygons will be contained in a multi polygon. --- Should I worry about that message?
    – GIS Danny
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:12
  • Ahh, and I could probably put this in a python script by using os.system(theGDALCommandAbove)
    – GIS Danny
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:16
  • Nice answer too. I made an answer but found it was complicated to make the job with Shapely compared to a SQL statement too (PostGIS / Spatialite lover)
    – ThomasG77
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:37
  • 2
    Thanks @MikeT. Worked it out by using a VRT to store both datasets as in the example here: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/147820/… Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 10:55

Some issues in your code:

  • you only use correctly one table as input whereas, you should use both input bufSHP and ctSHP
  • you want to make an intersection between a list of shape and a filename with shapes.intersection(ctSHP) whereas you have to do an intersection between two shape elements

See below a possibility,

I choose to use Rtree to optimize, based on this blog post

It works but any improvement on my code is also welcome...

import fiona
from shapely.geometry import shape, mapping
import rtree

bufSHP = 'data/h1_buf.shp'
intSHP = 'data/h1_buf_int_ct.shp'
ctSHP  = 'data/nyct2010.shp'

with fiona.open(bufSHP, 'r') as layer1:
    with fiona.open(ctSHP, 'r') as layer2:
        # We copy schema and add the  new property for the new resulting shp
        schema = layer2.schema.copy()
        schema['properties']['uid'] = 'int:10'
        # We open a first empty shp to write new content from both others shp
        with fiona.open(intSHP, 'w', 'ESRI Shapefile', schema) as layer3:
            index = rtree.index.Index()
            for feat1 in layer1:
                fid = int(feat1['id'])
                geom1 = shape(feat1['geometry'])
                index.insert(fid, geom1.bounds)

            for feat2 in layer2:
                geom2 = shape(feat2['geometry'])
                for fid in list(index.intersection(geom2.bounds)):
                    if fid != int(feat2['id']):
                        feat1 = layer1[fid]
                        geom1 = shape(feat1['geometry'])
                        if geom1.intersects(geom2):
                            # We take attributes from ctSHP
                            props = feat2['properties']
                            # Then append the uid attribute we want from the other shp
                            props['uid'] = feat1['properties']['uid']
                            # Add the content to the right schema in the new shp
                                'properties': props,
                                'geometry': mapping(geom1.intersection(geom2))
  • 1
    This answer is awesome. All I had to do was install RTree. toblerity.org/rtree/install.html
    – GIS Danny
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:04
  • How to intersect two geojson files using draw tool then find the intersection of the one feature with the other feature with respective to the draw ed plygon
    – user28536
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 6:09
  • @ThomasG77 What is the fid != int(feat2['id']) check supposed to accomplish? Is this needed if the two layers definitely don't have features in common? Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 20:41

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