GEOS RFC 8: Improve Coordinate Sequence API (WIP)

RFC 7: Improve Coordinate Sequence API
Author: Martin Davis
Contact:martin-dot-davis at

This document proposes to modify the Coordinate Sequence API to improve performance and adaptiveness. These improvements are (likely to be) breaking changes to the C++ API. These may require extensions to the C API to be externally available, but should not result in breaking the current C API.


The Coordinate Sequence API as it stands imposes a large cost on clients.

  • It requires copying coordinate list structures one or more times
  • It imposes the cost of a Z ordinate even if not required by the client
  • (related) It is necessary to construct a full Geometry object just to pass a simple Point (e.g. for Point0In-Polygon)
  • (related) Geometry objects for Point and Multi Point are very memory inefficient due to Point overhead

The API also has some functional limitations:

  • does not support M values

Downstream projects which are feeling pain:

  • PDAL - had to use custom Point-In-Polygon because of overhead in passing points to GEOS
  • Shapely - there are several allocations required to marshall from NumPY to GEOS
  • PostGIS - hopefully this will allow calling GEOS without copying out of LWGEOM structure


  • Allow using external coordinate list structures with no copying (except as needed by GEOS algorithms, e.g. removing repeated points)
  • Prevent mutating of external coordinate structures
  • Support XY, XYM, XYZ, XYZM
    • Coord Seq will need to know dimension of coordinates
  • Support efficient input of Point data
  • Optimized storage of Point and Multi Point data


Memory-based Coordinate Sequence implementation

  • Class which contains pointer to memory block of coordinates, length, dimension
  • Coordinate Sequence becomes a slimmed-down interface with accessors
  • Will still provide setters, but use const to prevent unwanted modification
  • How will coordinates be accessed?
    • By copying into stack-allocated object? This would allow using a Coordinate with XYZM
    • By getX, getY and optional getZ, getM? This requires rewriting some GEOS code to avoid copying coordinates


  • problem: would templates pervade entire code base?
  • does not allow dynamic adapting to external structures?

Prior Art


  1. Remove extraneous operations from CoordinateSequence? (e.g. removeRepeatedPoints)
  2. Create a MemoryBasedCoordinateSequence? (better name?) which allows access to external blocks of memory
  3. Review how Coordinates are accessed - is there a better way?
  4. Review how this can provide XYZM capability?
Last modified 5 weeks ago Last modified on May 16, 2019 1:00:45 PM