[Talk-us] Rural US: Correcting Original TIGER Imported Ways

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny+osm at gmail.com
Mon Feb 12 22:08:44 UTC 2018

On Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 12:55 PM, Kevin Broderick <ktb at kevinbroderick.com>

> Please, please, please don't convert rural roads to tracks based on
> imagery alone unless it's incredibly clear (and that would exclude anything
> with forest cover).
> While many of them should definitely be unclassified, not residential,
> downgrading the main rural routes to tracks doesn't match local usage nor
> the functional topology of the road network in such places. There are a lot
> of USFS and BLM roads around here that are the only way to access
> significant areas, that commonly see normal passenger-car traffic and that
> can be traveled at reasonable speed in a sedan (or at 30+ MPH with a little
> ground clearance and driving skill),. Having these differentiated from true
> tracks (where even a stock 4x4 is likely going to be operating at 15 MPH or
> less) is incredibly helpful for routing and visual use of the map, and it's
> a lot easier to recognize what I'd call "areas of questionable data" when
> they haven't been aggressively armchair-mapped. Also, the smoothness key is
> really helpful for tracks and impossible to map from orthoimagery.
Yes, yes, yes.

In the rural areas that I can travel to readily, TIGER is downright
hallucinatory (and there are few enough mappers that cleanup has been
agonizingly slow). TIGER has roads in places where no road is, ever was, or
even ever could be. (I've seen one going up a series of cliffs totalling
about 2000 feet of ascent!) But even in 'leaves down' images, it's nearly
impossible to see the forest roads, much less trace them, and there is
definitely a wide variation in quality. Some of them are well-compacted
sand and shale, that once they've been rolled in the spring, support
driving at 30+ MPH. Others, I wouldn't bring my Subaru on. (Although I've
been on a few of those in the ancient Ford Explorrer that the Subaru
replaced.)  Some are gated, some, you simply have to decide for yourself
that they're not drivable.

The 'dirt roads' range from 'highway=path abandoned:highway=track
smoothness=impassable' to 'highway=tertiary surface=compacted
smoothness=intermediate', with no way for an armchair mapper to tell among

The old road maps that they used to give out at gas stations had, on many
of these roads, "inquire locally for conditions," which is still good
advice. The signage may say, "LIMITED PURPOSE SEASONAL-USE ROAD: No
maintenance November 1-April 15" - but in practice, they'll keep it open
later in the Autumn unless the snow comes early, and when they open it in
the spring depends on when the crews can get it clear - it could be weeks
late if there's been a bad washout or rock slide. There's absolutely no way
to tag and encode that sort of thing. Inquire locally for conditions.
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