[Tagging] highway = track vs. residential

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemed.net
Fri Jan 8 10:57:55 UTC 2016

Mike Thompson wrote:
> Although these are gravel surfaced roads (not yet tagged that way, 
> but physically that is what they are), the ones in question provide 
> access to two or more homes and/or ranches.  To me these are 
> not "tracks" but "residential." Before I change these back, I 
> wanted to check with the community.

Generally, in developed countries, highway=residential is predominantly used
for public roads in/near nucleated settlements with housing alongside. It's
more nuanced than simply "a road with a house on it" - "a road of
residential character" would be closer.

In the case you've pointed to I would therefore err towards
highway=unclassified, surface=gravel (or =unpaved in the case of armchairing
when the imagery's unclear). I wouldn't man the barricades against either
=residential or =track, but the latter is best reserved for ungraded
double-tracks and worse.

_However_, I absolutely would man the barricades to advocate surface tags,
and I'm really pleased to see you've added one. highway=track isn't ideal
for this road, but it's a whole bunch better than highway=residential with
no surface tag. There are a couple of places in the rural US (particularly
Kansas, occasionally Oregon) where mappers have removed the tiger:reviewed
tag on rural dirt/gravel roads without adding a surface tag, at which point
the road is indistinguishable from a nice paved street in a housing estate
and routing basically goes to s--t.

(In retrospect... when the TIGER import was run, we should have imported
A41-class roads as highway=residential in urban areas, and highway=road,
fixme=yes in rural areas, using urban area polygons to distinguish between
the two. But that's all natural=water under the bridge=yes.)


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