Linear referencing sample applications

Most applications that use linear features can benefit from linear referencing. Example applications are outlined in the following sections.

Highways and streets

Agencies that manage highways and streets use linear referencing in a variety of ways in their day-to-day operations. For example, linear referencing is useful for the following:

  • Assessing pavement conditions
  • Maintaining, managing, and valuing assets (such as traffic signs and signals, guard rails, toll booths, and loop detectors).
  • Organizing bridge management information
  • Reviewing and coordinating construction projects

Linear referencing also facilitates creating a common database that traffic planners, traffic engineers, and public works analysts can use for cross-disciplinary decision support.


Linear referencing is a key component in transit applications, and it facilitates the following:

  • Route planning and analysis
  • Automatic vehicle location and tracking
  • Bus stop and facility inventory
  • Rail system facility management
  • Track, power, communications, and signal maintenance
  • Accident reporting and analysis
  • Demographic analysis and route restructuring
  • Ridership analysis and reporting
  • Transportation planning and modeling


Railways use linear referencing to manage key information for rail operations, maintenance, asset management, and decision support systems. Linear referencing makes it possible, for example, to select a line and track and identify milepost locations for bridges and other obstructions that would prevent various types of freight movement along the route. Furthermore, linear referencing can be used to display track characteristics or view digital images of bridges and obstructions.

Oil and gas exploration

The petroleum industry manages tremendous volumes of data used in geophysical exploration. Seismic surveys, or shotpoint data, are used to help understand the underlying geology in an area. Seismic data must be represented as both a linear object (the seismic line) and a collection of point objects (the shotpoints). Both the seismic line and the individual shotpoints have attributes that must be maintained simultaneously and are used in modeling applications. Linear referencing helps solve this problem.


In the pipeline industry, linear referencing is often referred to as stationing. Stationing allows any point along a pipeline to be uniquely identified. Stationing is useful for the following:

  • Collecting and storing information regarding pipeline facilities
  • Inline and physical inspection histories
  • Regulatory compliance information
  • Risk assessment studies
  • Work history events
  • Geographic information, such as environmentally sensitive areas, political boundaries (for example, state and county), right-of-way boundaries, and various types of crossings

Water resources

In hydrology applications, linear referencing is often called river addressing. River addressing allows objects such as field monitoring stations—which collect information about water quality analysis, toxic release inventories, drinking water supplies, flow, and so on—to be located along a river or stream system. Furthermore, the measurement scheme used in river addressing allows the measurement of flow distance between any two points on a flow path.