Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable roads

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Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable roads

Postby sketch » Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:47 am

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
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Re: Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable ro

Postby kentsmith9 » Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:55 pm

Proposal on the page naming:

Since this is a US centric page, when we go live with it we should make it [[Road types/USA]]. This will allow a page above it called [[Road types]] that directs to each country. I proposed this in a different thread and I have been working on moving pages that are country specific to subpages to prevent inter-country user confusion.

On your point of this only being drivable roads, this is perfect because the current page is way over the limit of good Wiki practice for content size. We may want to consider

  • [[Road types/USA]]: Brief overview of road type selection with (at least) two sections linking to the following subpages.
  • [[Road types/USA/Drivable roads]]: Your new proposed content.
  • [[Road types/USA/Non-drivable roads]]: The other content you did not yet update.

I am open to debate on the Drivable vs Non-drivable naming if there is something more applicable here that I might not be thinking about.

I will further review the rest of the content over the next day or so. I see the page came from an older version you had been working on. Did you already update your page with all the current content of the latest version of the current page? I am not saying I see any difference, just thought I would confirm.

(Note: I added the construction template linking to this forum in case someone ran across it and wanted to make changes. Feel free to modify the template parameters as you desire.)
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Re: Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable ro

Postby bgodette » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:02 am

Isn't your current mapping a modification on that table where US/SR are always Major/Minor unless FC says it should be higher?
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Re: Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable ro

Postby banished » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:40 am

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 https://www.waze.com/forum/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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Re: Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable ro

Postby AndyPoms » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:49 am

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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Re: Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable ro

Postby PhantomSoul » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:22 am

Thanks for the efforts, sketch. I have to say the FC idea is growing on me, at least in the less urban parts of New Jersey. But in the more urban parts of especially northern New Jersey, the FC maps do not really coincide with the objectives Waze claims for the road types to meet.

From what I understand, the higher road types in Waze are meant to narrow the network of possible routes to consider for really long trips - I would imagine we're talking 50+ miles in the scope of MH and Fwy, if I'm not mistaken. Many of the urban routes that New Jersey calls principal arterials are not meant to be principal arterials across the entire state or even across the multiple counties, like Waze is looking for with the higher road types, but rather just the principal arterial through that specific urban area. Many of these roads are simply surface city streets with traffic lights, no concretely defined turn lanes/signals, parked cars, and even very frequent residential/commercial driveways, and are simply not appropriate for even being considered for routing in the middle of a 50+ mile trip. Fact of the matter is that in such highly-urbanized areas, controlled-access freeways are really the only roads appropriate for through travel. If there's an accident, you can try another freeway - there's usually many of them in very urbanized areas. If you're past the point of detour to another freeway, unless the freeway is actually closed, the ugly reality of these heavily urbanized areas is that your fastest option is probably to just wait out the congestion on the that freeway.

Ironically, Bing seems to have the best metaphor for road types that I've seen so far. I'm not saying that we should rush and adopt their standard; I don't even know exactly what it is or whether it would suit Waze's objectives, but if you look at New York City on Bing Maps, there isn't a single major non-freeway highway anywhere inside the outermost I-287 loop, except for a few short connector sections of roads where a controlled access freeway was never built. Even multi-lane divided roads in this area are mere minor highways, because they've been replaced with nearby controlled-access freeways far more appropriate for longer-distance travel.

I'm not trying to single out New Jersey, but it's where I've done and continue to do the vast majority of my editing. Though I know our roads are rather quirky, I'm pretty sure there are other states, at least here on the east coast, that have similar issues with a strict FC interpretation.

Maybe I have the objective of the road types totally wrong, but if they are for trying to single out roads appropriate for use in the middle of trips of certain distances, then urban arterials are a bad metaphor for Waze highways.
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Re: Road Types (USA) – comprehensive overhaul of drivable ro

Postby sketch » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:51 am

Thanks for the input, all, I appreciate it.

With the next NA meetup looming as close as it is, of course I'm perfectly comfortable waiting until then before implementing it nationally.

Kent, I did take account of the recent-ish changes to the Overview section of the current page. I included some of that a few days ago. The rest is pretty much a wholesale change.

Regarding the US/State/County Highway correlation, I agree that that should be part of it, and it is. But that doesn't cover anywhere near everything; there are 55 mph suburban expressways which don't fit into any of those systems. I'm sure this isn't what we'd intend, but I've seen this pushed to its extreme in the Detroit area — where US Routes were Major Highway, state highways were Minor Highway, and every other county- or municipality-maintained surface-street thoroughfare was Primary Street, including that 55 mph expressway I mentioned. Routing left quite a lot to be desired. Like I said, I know that's not what we'd intend by that standard, but the point of including functional classification is to have definite answers for those roads as well.

PhantomSoul wrote:From what I understand, the higher road types in Waze are meant to narrow the network of possible routes to consider for really long trips - I would imagine we're talking 50+ miles in the scope of MH and Fwy, if I'm not mistaken. Many of the urban routes that New Jersey calls principal arterials are not meant to be principal arterials across the entire state or even across the multiple counties, like Waze is looking for with the higher road types, but rather just the principal arterial through that specific urban area. . . .

Maybe I have the objective of the road types totally wrong, but if they are for trying to single out roads appropriate for use in the middle of trips of certain distances, then urban arterials are a bad metaphor for Waze highways.

That's one function of higher road types, the other seems to be during the initial route pruning process. Cities have Freeways too — the highest type road — so if you give the server a couple Major Highway alternatives to choose from, it'll be more likely to "see" an alternative route in case of traffic on the freeway. Upgrading to functional classification — which, yes, means Major Highway on 35 mph roads with lights — added a third route to my daily commute besides the 2 freeway options. It only routes me along that route occasionally, when traffic is especially bad on the other two, but for those occasions it's worth it.

In Detroit I saw a much bigger difference (because Detroit's much bigger and has way more roads to choose from); basically where it used to make me backtrack to get on the nearest freeway entrance, it now sends me along a Principal Arterial (Major Highway) or two for a few miles to get to the next useful freeway entrance downstream. It actually saves a couple minutes.
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Re: Road Types (USA) - AGC exceptions

Postby dbraughlr » Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:11 am

I would like to see the rationale documented for the exception for ramps to be used for at-grade connectors.
Last edited by dbraughlr on Mon Mar 17, 2014 8:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Road Types (USA) – functionally primary

Postby dbraughlr » Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:12 am

I favor the use of functional classification. But I see a possible deficiency.

I believe that primary street should be used for the main road linking two rural towns (and presumably thus the main street through the town) when no higher classification applies (which is often the case). This could well require local knowledge of the editor rather than a published document. Functionally the street is the primary route even though there isn't much traffic.

A primary designation is very relative to population and traffic densities.
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Re: Road Types (USA) - AGC exceptions

Postby kentsmith9 » Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:24 am

dbraughlr wrote:I would like to see the rationale documented for the exception for ramps to be used for at-grade connectors.

The exception for at grade connectors is in the Wiki here http://wiki.waze.com/wiki/At-Grade_Connectors#Exceptions. Are you asking something different?

Ah maybe you are suggesting we explain "why" we need the ramp in order to get the "Exit right" instruction. That looks easy enough to add. Then we can link it to the ramp entry.
Last edited by kentsmith9 on Mon Mar 17, 2014 4:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: rephrased original statement
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