Are searchcursors brutally slow? They need not be

Discussion created by Dan_Patterson Champion on Aug 14, 2017
Latest reply on Aug 18, 2017 by Dan_Patterson

Background... exploring the ArcGIS module and looking at how it worked which lead me to SpatialDataFrames, the cloaked version of a Pandas df with geometry stuff, which lead me to some of its inner workings etc etc.

I use Numpy and lot and the FeatureClassToNumPy array with some fancy array splitting generally satisfies all my needs to get the geometry yanked out of a featureclass... do the magic... then send it back to a featureclass.

I tend not to use searchcursors, but the ArcGIS code uses it in several places, so, I thought... give it a shot.


So... helper function ...

import sys
from textwrap import dedent
import numpy as np

import arcpy
from arcgis.geometry import _types
from arcgis.features._data.geodataset import SpatialDataFrame as SDF
import pandas as pd

def fc_info(in_fc):
    """Return basic featureclass information, including...
    : SR - spatial reference object (use SR.name to get the name)
    : shp_fld - field name which contains the geometry object
    : oid_fld - the object index/id field name
    : - others: 'areaFieldName', 'baseName', 'catalogPath','featureType',
    :   'fields', 'hasOID', 'hasM', 'hasZ', 'path'
    : - all_flds =[i.name for i in desc['fields']]

    desc = arcpy.da.Describe(in_fc)
    args = ['shapeFieldName', 'OIDFieldName', 'spatialReference', 'shapeType']
    shp_fld, oid_fld, SR, shp_type = [desc[i] for i in args]
    return shp_fld, oid_fld, SR, shp_type



def to_arr(in_fc, use_geo=False):
    """Convert a featureclass to a structured or recarray using a searchcursor.
    :Requires: import arcpy, numpy as np
    : in_fc - featureclass
    : use_geo - True .__geo_interface__
    :         - list comprehension
    :get the row information
    : cycle through all geometries and get xy pairs
    : - see the polygon, polyline etc classes in
    :   C:\ArcPro\Resources\ArcPy\arcpy\arcobjects\geometry.py

    shp_fld, oid_fld, SR, shp_type = fc_info(in_fc)  # get the base information
    flds = arcpy.ListFields(in_fc)
    fnames = [f.name for f in flds if f.type not in ['OID', 'Geometry']]
    geom_flds = ['SHAPE@', oid_fld] + fnames
    flds = [shp_fld, oid_fld] + fnames
    vals = []
    geoms = []
    coords = []
    idx = flds.index(shp_fld)
    with arcpy.da.SearchCursor(in_fc,
                               field_names=geom_flds, where_clause=None,
                               spatial_reference=SR,  explode_to_points=False,
                               sql_clause=(None, None)) as rows:
        for row in rows:
            row = list(row)
            geom = row.pop(idx)
            geoms.append(geom)  # pop the geometry out
            if use_geo:
                xy = geom.__geo_interface__['coordinates']
                xy = [np.array([(pt.X, pt.Y) for pt in arr if pt])
                      for arr in geom]  # if pt else None
            coords.append(np.asarray(xy))  # maybe dump the last as np.asarray
            del row, geom, xy
        del rows
    return vals, coords, geoms


Now on to the next '2'

def two_arrays(in_fc, keep_geom=True, dtype0=True, as_recarray=False):
    """Send to a numpy structured/array and split it into a geometry array
    :  and an attribute array.
    : fc_info(in_fc) - function needed to return fc properties
    : keep_geom
    :    - True, split the points into their geometry groups as an object array
    :    - False, a sequential array of shape = (N,)
    : dtype0
    :    - True  dt = [('Idx', '<i4'), ('Xs', '<f8'), ('Ys', '<f8')]
    :    - False dt = [('Idx', '<i4'), ('XY', '<f8', (2,))]

    shp_fld, oid_fld, SR, shp_type = fc_info(in_fc)
    all_flds = arcpy.ListFields(in_fc)
    b_flds = [i.name for i in all_flds]
    a = arcpy.da.FeatureClassToNumPyArray(in_fc,
                                          field_names=[oid_fld, shp_fld],
    if dtype0:
        dt = [('Idx', '<i4'), ('Xs', '<f8'), ('Ys', '<f8')]  # option 1
        dtb = [('Idx', '<i4'), ('Xc', '<f8'), ('Yc', '<f8')]
        dt = [('Idx', '<i4'), ('XY', '<f8', (2,))]
        dtb = [('Idx', '<i4'), ('XYc', '<f8', (2,))]
    a.dtype = dt
    oid_fld = 'Idx'
    if keep_geom:
        a = np.split(a, np.where(np.diff(a[oid_fld]))[0] + 1)  # oid_fld
        a = np.r_[a]
    if as_recarray:
        a = a.view(object, np.recarray)
    b = arcpy.da.FeatureClassToNumPyArray(in_fc, field_names=b_flds,
    b.dtype = dtb
    return a, b


Now testing on trivial samples is trivial.  Before I moved on to big samples (geometries with millions of points), I tried it on a suitable one that was readily available...


# ---- A multipart polygon file, with 3 parts and 0, 1 or 2 subparts
a.size  # = 3
a.shape # = (3,)
sum([i.size for i in a]) # = 1,814,562 points

# ---- Big snips because of array print options -----
array([ array([(1, -65.55527496337874, 49.25722122192411),
       (1, -65.55305480957014, 49.25694274902389), ...,      # big snip
       (1, -55.902732849121094, 51.63003158569353),
       (1, -55.90134429931635, 51.63085556030313)],
      dtype=[('Idx', '<i4'), ('Xs', '<f8'), ('Ys', '<f8')]),
       array([(2, -81.8187484741211, 68.89791870117205),
       (2, -81.81718444824207, 68.89531707763712), ...,      # other snip
       (2, -99.49025726318348, 51.53623199462936),
       (2, -99.49021148681629, 51.536178588867415)],
      dtype=[('Idx', '<i4'), ('Xs', '<f8'), ('Ys', '<f8')]),
       array([(3, -114.51197814941384, 73.37343597412138),
       (3, -114.5083312988279, 73.37291717529314), ...,      # and another
       (3, -69.89323425292969, 83.10884857177757),
       (3, -69.89251708984364, 83.10861206054705)],
      dtype=[('Idx', '<i4'), ('Xs', '<f8'), ('Ys', '<f8')])], dtype=object)

# ---- again, 1.8 ish million points ----


Timing results

Timing function for... to_arr
  Time: 4.63e+01s for 3 objects   # 46 seconds
_ = two_arrays(in_fc)
Timing function for... two_arrays
  Time: 4.45e+00s for 2 objects   # 4.5 seconds
I kept the scripts intact for people to try out on their data.  I even went as far as to strip out anything unnecessary in other versions but nothing reduced the time of the searchcursor approach.  I am trying to get a handle on 'why'.  I would have guessed that a similar base code would have been recycled in the searchcursor and the FeatureClassToNumPyArray functionality.  I guess I am wrong OR there is some fundamental flaw in my implementation of 'to_arr' vs 'two_arrays'... so if you have a moment or two... have a look-see