The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) has recently released the new Area and Road Ruggedness Scales data product. This product provides measures of topographic variation, or “ruggedness,” for census tracts across 50 States and Washington, DC. The data file includes geographic identifiers, including the vintage 2010 census tract, county, and State identifiers, as well as region and rurality codes. These identifiers can be used in mapping applications and to explore various spatial categories.
This data product provides continuous and categorical measures of topographic variation for vintage 2010 census tracts, offering users the flexibility to utilize measures of rugged terrain that meet their unique needs.
The Area Ruggedness Scale (ARS) has six categories based on the changes in elevation for all terrain and classifies census tracts as: (1) level; (2) nearly level; (3) slightly rugged; (4) moderately rugged; (5) highly rugged; and (6) extremely rugged.
The Road Ruggedness Scale (RRS) has five categories based on the changes in elevation beneath roads and classifies census tracts as: (1) level; (2) nearly level; (3) slightly rugged; (4) moderately rugged; and (5) highly rugged.
This data product serves as a resource for those working to better understand and address issues of rural development and demographic change, as well as individual and community well-being. To our knowledge, these are the first ruggedness measures with full nationwide coverage for the United States and the first to provide a roads-only version to help study the impact of rugged terrain on travel by car.
Additional information about the measures can be found in the downloadable Excel file, which includes the data, definitions and sources, and a codebook for the Area and Road Ruggedness Scales and supporting variables. A recorded webinar providing an overview of the data is available: https://www.ers.usda.gov/conferences/data-training-webinar-area-and-road-ruggedness-scales/.
For more details and link to the data visit: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/area-and-road-ruggedness-scales/