Regarding the designations, a few quick thoughts on your suggestions:
- As you say, I don't think we should strictly use the US/SR designations to decide major/minor since there are a lot of roads that are what I would consider "major" that are state roads - 436, 50, 414 come to mind.
- I think the type of road is better, and although it is a pretty good starting point, I also don't think we should have a strict definition. There are several roads I would consider "major" that are only two lanes in many areas - many of the SR-x0 roads are like this (SR-50, SR-60, etc).
- I've never thought of a gated neighborhood as "private road". I consider a "private road" to be a road that is limited access, but also is not residential unless it is dedicated to one particular family. I don't think this occurs too often in developed areas - mostly occurs in rural areas. It's interesting (and telling?) that the Map Legend doesn't even talk about them.
- Dirt road, Service Road, Parking Lot road - I all agree with (except Service Road could be used in additional circumstances, I think).
Although having a very strict and clean rule for what constitutes a major/minor highway would be ideal I think that it will lead to too many cases of "why isn't this really X", and the answer "because that's the rule" won't be satisfying. Nevertheless I agree that it makes sense to have a set of rules that can be justified and followed in a process flow, even if there are exceptions.
My personal opinion is that a freeway are those roads you would expect to see at when zoomed out, major highway is one that you would expect to see a bit closer in, and minor highways would appear with even higher zoom (yup, just how the map works!). I don't mean to say what you would "see with a camera" but more to answer the question "what's the main roads I would take to get from this part of the map to that part of the map". Primary Streets vs Streets should handle the routing once you get from "this part" to "that part", and should be based more on function than anything else. I can't think of any 3+ lane roads that I would consider a primary streets offhand but I wouldn't be surprised to come across a few.
Obviously that does leave a lot to judgement, but that's the whole point of leaving this decision to local managers - otherwise we could very easily describe rules for the entire US (and probably world) that would have already been defined by Waze community. I think the list of what is major, minor, primary, can have guidelines such as those you have proposed but there will always be exceptions, as you also seem to imply.
To that point, I had also come up with some guidelines on the Orlando page I reference above. I duplicate most of those below for convenience.. note that this isn't a specific set of rules but concepts that guide an AM in one direction or another (so read the "=" sign as "leads you to..." instead of "is"):
- Only (or "almost" only) uses on-/off-ramps = Freeway
- US Interstate designation (I-4, I-10, etc) = Freeway
- Physically Divided by 5m or more = Major Highway, Minor Highway, or Primary Street
- Inter-city (or could say "inter-county", perhaps) = Major Highway, Minor Highway
- Has an SR designation = Major Highway, Minor Highway
- Has a CR designation = Minor Highway, Primary Street
- Primary purpose is to provide access to business/residential streets AND is thought of as a primary conduit and/or is 2+ lanes in each direction = Primary Street
- Residential (zoned strictly residential, = only has homes) = Street
- Other?? = Street
One concern I had with my own list is that it can lead to roads that would "change type" in the middle... for example, I have coded Orange Blossom Trail (US 441) as a major highway, but made it a minor highway in the area of Apopka where it is "thinner", but I'm really dissatisfied with that decision. I think we should have a guideline governing how and when roads change from one type to another, even if the physical layout of one part of the road is inconsistent with the guidelines. I'm just not sure what that guideline should be... As a first thought, a road shouldn't switch from a higher designation to a lower designation for a span of any less than (??) miles? (Distance seems like a non-satisfactory answer here.)
I hear your argument about the 'Avoid Highways' and I can say out of personal experience - if you turn this option on you are asking for routing trouble, and almost makes the navigation unusable except as a fun experiment in testing "how long can it take me to get home while still following directions". I can't wait for Waze dev to allow you to specify the specific types of roads to avoid, but I don't think we should design our roads to prevent problems with this option.