Classification of "dirt" roads

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Classification of "dirt" roads

Postby PhoenixofMT » Tue Dec 22, 2015 2:37 am

My feeling is that the "Dirt road / 4X4 Trail" road type most closely fits the ruts you find crossing pastures, "Jeep trails", and some Forest Service roads, better than the generally well kept, gravel, county roads that are often classified as collectors in Montana.

It seems to me that the Wazers most likely to be out on Montana's gravel ways will be equipped to handle them. Indeed, I've been out in the past few weeks on many improved and not-so-improved "collectors" in a vehicle some might consider poorly adapted to such terian (Nissan Maxima), and suffered nothing worse than some "washboards", a few potholes, and a layer of dust on my rear bumper. Any visitor who might turn up their nose at a road made without adhesives will likely stick to the urban areas where they are rare anyway, and if they need to drive out back of Bourke, they'll find it difficult without crossing at least a bit of gravel. (What DOES a DR-restricted client do with an address in the middle of a network of dirt roads anyway? Is it just an expensive route, like routing against turn restrictions?)

The guidelines I've developed for myself consider the classification, whether the road is named, the condition of the road (from satellite or experience), and the presence of houses along it.

Official Classification:
It seems that only very rare collectors or arteries are in such poor condition that they may only be traversed by a vehicle with high clearance and 4-wheel drive. (I don't think I've seen any.) Therefore, I feel safe classifying any road shown on the FC map as collector or above as a Primary Street or higher no matter how remote it is.

Named Roads:
Generally, any road that has a name on the FC map is more likely to be tolerably well maintained, and can usually (but not always) be classified as a Street. For example, this portion of Sappington Rd probably only gets occasional traffic from railroad service vehicles, so it's Dirt. Unnamed roads are more likely to be classified as Dirt, but are still subject to the housing consideration below.

The condition of the road is usually easy to tell from the satellite images, but not always. Heading south onto this segment, I quickly realized my car wasn't up to the challenge :shock: and backed up to get back on Rock Mountain Rd. It's a bit tricky to tell from the satellite, but Reynolds Creek Rd is a fairly uniform, dirt color. There is no gravel that has been spread to the sides to make ruts, as can happen on better roads towards autumn. I would say this is the absolute best conditions that I would still classify as Dirt. On other roads, the presence of vegetation between the ruts makes it pretty clear that you're looking at a "Jeep trail" and not a street.

The presence of houses along a road bias me to classify it as a Street, even if it doesn't look to be in the best condition. This way Wazers can still navigate to an address if they have disabled dirt roads in the client. If there is only a single house (or maybe a couple) and/or the road is especially poor, I'll set it as dirt.

Thoughts? Comments?
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Re: Classification of "dirt" roads

Postby bretmcvey » Tue Dec 22, 2015 2:53 am

That's the approach I prefer to take. Trying to change every unpaved road in a state to dirt isn't very productive. Usually good FC work can help avoid unpaved roads for the most part (but of course nothing is perfect).

A basic guide to follow would be if a road is truly dirt or considered low maintenance to treat it as a dirt type road.

At some point in the future there may be an "unpaved" toggle to better differentiate street and primary street level roads that happen to be unpaved, but don't expect to see that option anytime soon.

Another wrinkle of using the dirt type is that if you allow dirt roads in your app settings, it will actually treat dirt roads as a primary street over what might be a paved street type nearby.
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Re: Classification of "dirt" roads

Postby Kinematic » Tue Dec 22, 2015 11:49 am

That's pretty much how MT's state wiki page is set up to classify dirt/4x4 trails. Obviously it's harder to tell from satellite imagery what's going to be better, but that's where user discretion comes in to play and you seem to have a good grasp on that.

As you know MT has a vast array of dirt trails and mapping them all would take a considerable amount of time, not only that but also time to research the ones in the back country to ensure they aren't USFS roads.
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Re: Classification of "dirt" roads

Postby PhoenixofMT » Tue Dec 22, 2015 10:50 pm

Yeah, I'm finding all kinds of trails from the base map as I work (inch) my way across the county. Much of the time it just looks like some rancher's preferred route across a pasture, sometimes it's a more deliberate road separating fields. If it's on the satellite but not the map I'll set to dirt or leave private and fix direction and turns, but try to suppress my OCD and not spend too much time futzing with the geometry. One of the first dirt trails I found, I spent quite a bit of time fixing it up and then realized there are TONS of more pressing edits I should be focusing on. Of course, for now I leave unmapped, non-base trails for later.

That's kind of messed up about preferring Dirt to Streets. Maybe if the client is set for shortest route over fastest... but it seems like a similar but less severe penalty you get with parking lot roads should apply.

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Re: Classification of "dirt" roads

Postby Kinematic » Wed Dec 23, 2015 1:12 am

I'm running into the same situation near Florence.
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