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Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable roads

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Quick link: Proposed revision to Road Types (USA) drivable types (Freeway, Highways, Streets)

Road types aren't just for show, they make a difference in the routing server. The server doesn't have the time or resources to look at every single street between where you are and your destination, so it uses road types for guidance in selecting the best route for you. Road types aren't everything — of course, Waze uses actual and historical traffic speed data to select the fastest route for you at a given time — but they are important. They show Waze which roads to check when looking at that traffic speed data. So setting the type too low can mean Waze doesn't consider a road which may actually get you there faster.


Freeways are a fact of life. While freeways are by design often the fastest way from A to B, we all know this isn't the case every time. Sometimes a freeway just isn't convenient. Other times, freeways are clogged with traffic, while surface streets flow rather freely. Sometimes both situations are faced — without traffic, maybe the freeway adds 5 miles to your route, but it's faster anyway; today, though, the freeway is backed up and taking the 5-mile-shorter route will save you time.

Freeways are the highest type of road in Waze, often assumed by the routing server to be the best alternative. Sure, they often are, but that isn't always the case. For Waze to consider other roads as viable alternatives, there need to be other relatively high type roads — Major and Minor Highways — in the area for Waze to consider, or else you might just end up on the freeway in that traffic jam anyway.

Further, road types are increasingly important for longer routes. Yes, Waze is designed as a commuter application, but it'll provide routes up to a thousand miles. I've used Waze on dozens of thousand-mile-plus road trips, and it's performed admirably. And some people just have long commutes. Well, as we know, many lower-type roads are not considered at all by the routing server for routes longer than a certain length. The longer the route, the higher the road type has to be. For travel within a state, Minor Highways could be enough. For travel through the States, you want at least a Major Highway.

The current rules for setting road types in the United States are based on the physical characteristics of the road and are somewhat nebulous. The vagueness of the standards leads to inconsistent application, with editors in different parts of the country using different criteria for choosing road types. This leads to an inconsistent user experience across the country, even within states. It's even led to disputes, with editors who disagree on what type best suits a particular road, switching the type of a road back and forth.


Luckily, the federal government has a solution for us. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has come up with a set of standards by which every road in the country is judged: functional classification (very short explanation here). The functional classification of a road is determined both by the physical characteristics of a road and by the Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) — the number of cars that, on average, drive on a particular road each day. Each road is therefore placed in one of the functional classes; each functional class describes a particular usage scenario for the roads in it. The functional classification criteria are passed on to the several States, and each state's department of transportation in turn uses the criteria and their own research to gather information, to classify roads, and to publish maps showing the functional class of every road in the state.

The federal government further provides guidance to us by designating roads as parts of the Interstate Highway System and the United States Numbered Highways system. The roads themselves are built and maintained by the states; but in selecting the routes, the federal government identifies a network of important long-distance travel routes throughout the country. Finally, the government of each State (and D.C., and some territories) designates roads as parts of its respective state highway system; these routes are selected for their importance in travel within a particular state.

Luckily for us, functional classification and the various highway systems comport quite well with Waze's set of road types.
Functional class / highway systemWaze road type
FC: Interstates
FC: Other Freeways and Expressways (some)
HS: Interstate
Freeway
FC: Other Freeways and Expressways (others)
FC: Other Principal Arterials
HS: U.S. Highways
Major Highway
FC: Other Arterials
HS: State Highways
Minor Highway
FC: Major Collectors
FC: Minor Collectors
HS: County Routes
Primary Street
FC: LocalStreet
This system has already been put into place for testing in various metropolitan areas, including New Orleans and Detroit. Besides the clear improvement in definitiveness of road type selection, many other editors and I have noticed a marked difference in the performance of the routing server and in other aspects of Waze since implementing the systems.

Advantages
  • Waze is more likely to select the best possible route at the start, without you having to ask for alternatives
  • Waze is more likely to select alternative routes in the case of clogged freeways
  • The map display becomes more useful, showing the most important roads with thicker lines and at higher zoom levels — and, bonus, allowing you to see at a glance where the "downtown" area of a city is (examples: New Orleans; Detroit)
  • As said above, as a well-defined system, it does not allow for disputes and may make frivolous edits easier to discover
Disadvantages
  • Temporary: Currently, road type is the primary factor used to judge traffic jam highlighting. That said, I've been using Waze daily in New Orleans for months with this system in place and have not seen any instances of erroneous jam highlighting. Also, staff has announced that road type is soon to be replaced as the principal jam-highlight criterion with something else based on the actual jam-free speed of the road.
Many discussions have been had about the merits of such a system, and most editors have come out in favor of such a system. Experience will show that this system works, and it works well. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of editing, and it has the potential to improve routing considerably. In fact, many editors are using this system already in their states and areas.


Here is the proposed page: https://wiki.waze.com/wiki/Road_types/USA/Revision


Note: As you'll see, this doesn't cover non-drivable and non-public road types (parking lot roads, private roads, walking trails, etc.). While much of that section of the article does need revision, it should be carried out in another thread.
Last edited by sketch on Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: revision page link changed

Post by banished
Thank you, Sketch, for the effort invested in this. At present, I am an FC holdout for three reasons:

1. Ehud said, “Please, don’t do that,” after Andy’s FC briefing at the last NA Meetup.
2. I look at the areas where FC is in use, and do not see any reduction in “Wrong driving direction” URs compared to where FC is not in use.
3. It is a workaround to get Waze to do what it should do inherently. Road type should not be a routing factor per this post viewtopic.php?f=212&t=48543. Is not a claim of FC that road type does impact routing?

Never-the-less, FC mostly aligns with what I requested AL, FL, and GA editors do, which is:

Interstate/Freeway = Freeway
US-xx = Major Highway
SR-xx = Minor Highway
CR-xx = Primary Street

This does not impact routing any more – or less – than FC as far as I can tell, but has the advantage of being concise. For my experience, I wish Waze would just adopt Google’s routing engine and be done with it, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion.

Best to you,
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Post by AndyPoms
Yes, we're still waiting (since last meetup) for feedback from Ehud.

My main problem with typing by naming (i.e. US-## must be typed X) is that those roads (both US-## & SR-##) can vary from one lane in each direction with stop signs to 2-3 lanes each direction with traffic lights to full blown limited access highways... Each of those are drastically different types of road.
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Post by AndyPoms
russblau wrote:The references to "county routes" are useless in Virginia, since we don't have them, and in most counties literally every street, from the eight-lane arterials down to the 200-foot dead end around the corner from my house, has a "secondary state highway" number that is absolutely meaningless in terms of Waze's mapping needs.
Same goes for Connecticut - no County Roads. There is also an entire series of unsigned state route numbers in CT as well - basically everything from CT-400 & up... I've been slowly removing references to those (almost all alt-names) as I've come across them. For more info on the unsigned road network in CT, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_St ... onnecticut
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Post by AndyPoms
nhanway wrote:@Sketch: I am an active editor in Washington. The states standard is to type roads according to the FC Map. I have outlined the standards in Washington's Wiki Page. Seattle also uses the FC map. One thing I have noticed is WSDOT's FC map changes some roads class when they go from Urban Area to Rural Area and Vice versa.
I can't find the legend/key for the WSDOT FC Map, do they different types between Urban and Rural areas? In 2009 US DOT removed the urban/rural split and simplified things. The only thing that didn't line up was there was only one type of "Urban Collector" and there were "Rural Major Collector" & "Rural Minor Collector". "Urban Collector" & "Rural Major Collector" became "Major Collector".

In Connecticut, the most likely change at an Urban/Rural border was a "Principal Arterial - Other" changing to a "Minor Arterial". In our first version of the translation, we actually traced the route back to urban areas on both ends & if it changed back we kept it the same. The version that was proposed last year, changed the default type of "Minor Arterial", but we haven't implemented it yet because we are waiting for feedback from Ehud.
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Post by banished
1. I remain in the minority on FC, not because I wouldn't like to see a national standard, but assuming Waze says OK to FC, this thread shows we continue to struggle with exceptions. Where there are exceptions, we will continue to have back & forth conflicts between editors.

Out-of-area editor: "It's a primary street according to FC."
Local editor: "No, it's a minor highway. I know, because I drive it frequently."

Local editors will constantly have to go back and 'fix' what an outside-the-area editor changed. Reading the previous posts, there's other subjective areas, too.

2. So while I am looking for ways to support FC (it sounds like I'll have to), FC seems to be a baseline at best, with each state having it's own exception list. It is not the holy grail of routing (see point 4, below), nor is the simple method I encourage Southeast editors to use, which is US = major, State Hwy/Rte/Rd (or SR) = minor highway, and Co Rte/Rd (or CR) = primary. It's just simpler and eliminates the local vs. out-of-area editor disagreements.

3. Florida doesn't even have a web-based FC map. Referring to earlier posts that some states do not have county roads, agreed there can't be a carte blanche rule that county roads are Primary Streets, but those states have equivalent road types no matter what they are called. It's just a matter of categorizing them into Primary or Minor and that is what FC is supposed to help with as I understand it.

4. I experimented with changing a road type in Alabama on a route I frequent -- a 4-lane, 65mph rural state highway from minor to major to see if would help routing -- and it did. The problem is the change was not supported by adherence to Alabama's functional classification system (which varies by county...argh!), but by my personal knowledge. That's not good. I would say Alabama's FC maps are wrong, but another editor would come along and "fix" those roads so that they align with Alabama's FC maps and we'd be right back where we started.

5. FC will require more attention be paid newer editors to help them be successful.


Best,
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Hoping for Waze clarification why road type even matters given viewtopic.php?f=212&t=48543.
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Post by banished
bgodette wrote:
banished wrote:Out-of-area editor: "It's a primary street according to FC."
Local editor: "No, it's a minor highway. I know, because I drive it frequently."
Sorry, but in this case the state's DOT wins.
I'd be uncertain about accepting poor routing as the result of a strict adherence to FC (or any other methodology, including the one used in the Southeast) as "winning."
bgodette wrote:
banished wrote:Florida doesn't even have a web-based FC map.
Yes it does. It's here and it's been in the Wiki for a while. However that site does not appear to work from IP addresses that GeoIP from out of state. Last time it worked for me was when I was there last December. F.I.T. may also have GIS resources usable with ArcGIS.
It doesn't work in-state, either, so effectively there is not a Florida FC reference we could use. (EDIT: Site page is responding sporadically, now.) I wrote the DOT yesterday requesting a URL for Florida’s FC system. The read receipt came back today. Standing by for a response and will advise all if I get one.
bgodette wrote:
banished wrote:Hoping for Waze clarification why road type even matters given viewtopic.php?f=212&t=48543.
Because road type is the fall-back for long distance routing.
I'm in a relatively rural area where long-distance routing over primary streets, minor highways and major highways is the norm.

Regardless, the consensus appears we’re going ahead with FC and debate is over. I've had opportunity to make my points.

[EDIT: Response received from FL DOT for functional classification:
http://www3.dot.state.fl.us/EnterpriseI ... sets/IMAP/
• 6:00am to 9:00pm Monday - Friday
• 7:00am to 7:00pm Saturday
• Not available on Sundays
Must have been written by a U. of Florida or FL State undergrad. It's awful.]
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Post by AndyPoms
banished wrote:
bgodette wrote:
banished wrote:Out-of-area editor: "It's a primary street according to FC."
Local editor: "No, it's a minor highway. I know, because I drive it frequently."
Sorry, but in this case the state's DOT wins.
I'd be uncertain about accepting poor routing as the result of a strict adherence to FC (or any other methodology, including the one used in the Southeast) as "winning."
The way I see it, in this case, the local editor needs to justify their position. Something to the effect of "It's a minor highway because it connects between X & Y, both FC minor highways, has the same lane configuration as both of them & the same speed limits as well". That shows very similar Functional Properties of the road & is a justification for an upgrade.
banished wrote:
bgodette wrote:
banished wrote:Florida doesn't even have a web-based FC map.
Yes it does. It's here and it's been in the Wiki for a while. However that site does not appear to work from IP addresses that GeoIP from out of state. Last time it worked for me was when I was there last December. F.I.T. may also have GIS resources usable with ArcGIS.
It doesn't work in-state, either, so effectively there is not a Florida FC reference we could use. (EDIT: Site page is responding sporadically, now.) I wrote the DOT yesterday requesting a URL for Florida’s FC system. The read receipt came back today. Standing by for a response and will advise all if I get one.
I just got it to load in one click up here in CT... and it seems to be responding to the menu selections & zooming, etc... The legend indicates they are still using the Pre-2009 urban/rural split types.
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Post by AlanOfTheBerg
So much fun discussion! Did I miss any routing test users chiming in that the new routing code does a much better job of using mH and primary street, using speed data rather than pruning based only on road type?
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Post by banished
After dropping out of this discussion several pages ago, I researched FC in Florida and Alabama, and modified one county to see what would happen to the existing routing aligned under KISS. To revisit KISS again:

US – major
state – minor
county (or equivalent) – primary

Aligning with FC broke the ideal routing from the Florida Gulf Coast to Montgomery, AL. By “ideal routing” I mean:

a. What I know to be true since this is where I live
b. What Google Maps says is the best routing – which happens to align exactly with a.

More about this in a minute.

KISS, though easier to understand and it brings consistency to editing, isn’t perfect, either. (Yes, I, a KISS supporter, said that.) The rural south has county roads that are dirt. Red clay, washboard, sticks to everything, dirt. Are they primary segments as aligned under KISS? (Don’t answer that!) An “unpaved” check-box might be helpful in these situations, but there’s little sense in talking about options we don’t have. Never-the-less, I have seen darn few long-distance routing error reports under the KISS methodology.

But wanting to be a team player, I continued with FC study since it seems the direction we are headed. I found places where roads should be upgraded from their FC classification – as described in sketch’s FC-hybrid proposal.

There are segments that should not be upgraded from pure FC. One such road in my region is US-90 across north Florida parallel to I-10. Florida rates it a minor arterial (mH)…and it really is given I-10’s close proximity.

====================================================

So, what I have gotten out of the discussion is this:

- No one outside of Waze knows enough to state confidently when Waze uses speed data (average & current) or segment type, or a hybrid. We don’t know the proprietary algorithms/data so struggle to inform our thought processes based on personal experience; experience which lacks consistency from one editor to the next seemingly based on their location. In short, we are trying to determine how to apply segment types around inconsistencies or expectations of Waze’s routing. We don't know what we don't know.

- We seem to have confidence in speed data informing Waze’s routing results in metro and on more heavily traveled routes

- We seem to have limited confidence in speed data – or even its availability – to inform Waze's routing results elsewhere (e.g., off-the-interstate rural routes). In those areas:

o Waze routing appears to favor segment classification that heavily weights Interstate & MH over mH
o The discussion about US-212 was informative; FYI, Google Maps chooses US-212 as the best route between Rapid City and Billings, and US-212 is indeed a principal arterial (MH) per http://mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/docs/funct-c ... cation.pdf and http://sddot.com/transportation/highway ... assMap.pdf. Sketch has completed changing US-212 from mH to MH and the belief is after the next tile update (http://status.waze.com) we'll know if that had the desired impact.


- The effects of FC-hybrid on routing in metro and rural areas are not reliably comparable and should not influence any decision on what methodology to use

- Under FC-hybrid, road segments can be upgraded from pure FC, but not downgraded

- Under FC-pure, a lot of current road segments would be downgraded

========================================

What I think to be true:

- What to with dirt roads, even if they are county roads, is clearer in FC-hybrid than KISS

- Both KISS and FC-hybrid can be -– and one or the other should be -– applied nationally and reduce disputes over segment types; yes, I know not every place has county roads, but they do have functional (ha!) equivalents

- Use caution with any rule set that necessitates numerous exceptions; when exceptions outnumber the rules, then the rules were faulty to begin with

=========================================

Lastly, neither KISS nor FC (hybrid or pure) work for the best route from the Florida Gulf Coast to Montgomery, AL. There’s a 20-mile stretch of 4-lane, 65mph (75+ on good day!) Alabama state highway in the middle of nowhere rated as “rural minor arterial,” mH. For routing to work (yes, I have experimented), it has to be MH, which means the FC would have to be “rural principal arterial” for me to legitimately change it to MH. (Google Maps gets this routing right.) I changed it back to mH even though the reality is MH.

So whether KISS or FC-hybrid, I expect national consistency from any GPS product. Waze used to be focused on the local commuter, but now they have matured so a national standard is needed.
Given a choice between exceptions or standardization, I choose standardization and accepting that road segments may not always be represented by their ideal classification or produce Google Map quality routing.

By the way, please keep the current (larger) font size. You young’uns will understand someday.

Kudos to sketch for getting FC-hybrid discussion this far.
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Post by AlanOfTheBerg
sketch wrote:I tried all the examples from [url=https://www.waze.com/livemap/?zoom=15&l ... -108.50069]this post plus the route from Rapid City, SD to Billings, MT with the routing test, but all the results were the same in every case.
Yeah, that's disappointing. Did you include this example in the routing test feedback thread?
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