Road Network File, Reference Guide, Census year 2021

Release date: November 17, 2021

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This reference guide is intended for users of the 2021 Road Network File. The guide provides an overview of the file, the general methodology used to create it and important technical information.

What's new?

  • The 2021 Road Network File includes the Dissemination Geography Unique Identifier (DGUID) for census subdivisions (CSDs) and provinces and territories (PRs) on the left and right sides of the street arcs.
  • Since 2019, the Road Network File is available in File Geodatabase (.gdb format).
  • Since 2020, the Road Network File is available in Esri® REST and Web Mapping Service (WMS) formats.
  • Since 2020, the Road Network has been adjusted to the more current, accurate and consistent CanVec hydrographic features (Topographic Data of Canada – Natural Resources Canada), which comply with international geomatics standards seamlessly across Canada.
  • The 2021 Road Network File is no longer available in MapInfo (.tab) format.

1. About this guide

This reference guide does not provide details on specific software packages that are available for use with the 2021 Road Network File. Users are advised to contact the appropriate software vendor for information.

This data product is provided “as is,” and Statistics Canada makes no warranty, either express or implied, including but not limited to, warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event will Statistics Canada be liable for any direct, special, indirect, consequential or other damages, however caused.

2. Overview

The 2021 Road Network File depicts the digital road line coverage for Canada. It contains information such as street arc unique identifier (UID), name, type, direction and address range, as well as rank and class. It also includes PR and CSD information for each side of a street arc (where applicable).The Road Network File is portrayed in Lambert conformal conic projection (North American Datum of 1983 [NAD83]). The 2021 Road Network File is available as a national file.

3. About this product

Purpose of the product

The purpose of the 2021 Road Network File is to provide a framework for mapping and spatial analysis, and to support Geographic Information System (GIS) applications used for land use and demographic studies, and for social, economic and market research.

The 2021 Road Network File is positionally consistent with the 2021 Census Boundary Files, which provide additional reference for mapping.

Definitions and concepts

The Road Network File contains streets, street names, types, directions, classes, ranks and address ranges. Address ranges are dwelling-based.

Geographic terms and concepts are briefly defined in the Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021.

Content

The 2021 Road Network File contains street arcs depicting the national road network and includes attribute information such as street arc UID, name, type, direction, address range, rank and class. It also includes the UID, DGUID, name and type for each side of a street arc (where applicable) for the following geographic levels:

  • Province or territory (PR)
  • Census subdivision (CSD)

General methodology

The National Geographic Database (NGD) is a joint Statistics Canada-Elections Canada initiative to develop and maintain a national road network database that serves the needs of both organizations. The objective of the NGD is the continual improvement of quality and currency of spatial coverage using updates from provinces, territories and local sources. The source files used to create the 2021 Road Network File reside on Statistics Canada’s Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and was derived directly from data stored on the NGD.

Creation of the 2021 Road Network File

The 2021 Road Network File was created from a source file consisting of all streets, highways and other road segments as well as street attributes (name, type, direction, address range, rank and class) maintained in the NGD. A copy of the source file in its original format was created to facilitate geoprocessing (e.g., joins, modifications and verification operations).

Additional attribute information (i.e., PR and CSD attributes) was then joined to the spatial component at the road segment level (see Table 4.1). The resulting file, containing both the spatial content and the attribute content, was verified against the source file stored in the SDI.

The file was verified for spatial and attribute content, translated into French and English, and appropriately named according to the file naming convention. Final data processing consisted in converting the file using FME® (Safe Software) into the following file formats supported by GIS software: Shapefile (.shp), Geography Markup Language (.gml) and File Geodatabase (.gdb).

The Esri® REST service and Web Map Service (WMS) were created and published using ArcGIS® Enterprise.

The Shapefile, Geography Markup Language and File Geodatabase files are compressed into WinZip® files (file extension .zip) and made available for download from the Statistics Canada website.

Limitations

Statistics Canada maintains Road Network File information to support the census and other Statistics Canada activities. The relative position of road network features is important in maps created for reference purposes; therefore, relative positional accuracy takes precedence over absolute positional accuracy. The 2021 Road Network File does not contain street information required for route optimization such as one-way streets, dead ends and other street obstacles. Consequently, this file is not recommended for emergency dispatching services.

The 2021 Road Network File contains road arcs with address ranges sourced from field observation or administrative data sources, road arcs with imputed address ranges as well as road arcs without address ranges.

The positional accuracy of the file does not support cadastral, legal, surveying, digitizing or engineering applications.

Comparisons to other products or versions

Differences between the 2021 Road Network File and previous versions of the Road Network File include the following:

  • The 2021 Road Network File contains more up to date roads, street names, address ranges and road classes.
  • The 2021 Road Network File is compatible with the suite of 2021 Census geography products.

Use with other products

When considering whether to use the 2021 Road Network File, users should be aware of the compatibility of this file with those that are available from other sources. They may not be consistent with Statistics Canada files.

Reference date

The geographic reference date is a date determined by Statistics Canada to finalize the geographic framework for which statistical data are collected, tabulated and reported. For the 2021 Census, the geographic reference date is January 1, 2021.

4. Technical specifications

Record layout and data descriptions

The following table identifies and briefly describes selected attributes that make up the 2021 Road Network File.

Attribute domain values

Representation of unknown or no value

The null value (empty string) is used to represent missing or non-existent values for a street’s name, type, direction and address range.

The null value is also used for geographic area UIDs, names and types to indicate that a geographic area is outside Canada.

Street type (TYPE)

This value indicates the street type associated with the arc.

For information on street types refer to the “Street type (TYPE), 2021 Census” table.

Street direction (DIR)

Street direction can be used in conjunction with street name and type to identify common street elements (e.g., Elm ST S, versus Elm ST W or Elm ST). Street direction has no relation to the direction in which the street arc was digitized.

For information on street directions refer to the “Street direction (DIR), 2021 Census” table.

Left and right census subdivision type (CSDTYPE_L and CSDTYPE_R)

Census subdivisions are classified according to designations adopted by provincial, territorial or federal authorities. The geographic reference date associated with the assignment of CSDTYPE_L and CSDTYPE_R is January 1, 2021.

For information on census subdivision types, refer to the “Census subdivision (CSD)” definition from the Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021 and the “Census subdivision type (CSDTYPE), 2021 Census” table.

Left and right province or territory unique identifier (PRUID_L and PRUID_R)

These values uniquely identify a province or territory. The geographic reference date associated with the assignment of PRUID_L and PRUID_R is January 1, 2021.

For information on province or territory unique identifiers, refer to the “Province or territory” definition from the Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021 and the “Provinces and territories (PRUID), 2021 Census” table.

Street rank (RANK)

Rank is a value assigned to a street arc to facilitate the selection of streets.

For information on street arc ranks refer to the “Street rank (RANK), 2021 Census” table.

Street class (CLASS)

The street class code identifies the different types of street features within the 2021 Road Network File.

For information on street classes refer to the “Street class (CLASS), 2021 Census” table.

Software formats

The 2021 Road Network File is available for download from the Statistics Canada website in the following formats:

  • Shapefile
    File extension: .shp
  • Geography Markup Language (GML) 3.1.1
    File extension: .gml
  • File Geodatabase
    File extension: .gdb

The 2021 Road Network File is also available as map services from the Statistics Canada website in the following formats:

  • Esri® REST service
  • Web Map Service (WMS)

This reference guide does not provide details on specific software packages available for use with the 2021 Road Network File. Users should contact the appropriate software vendor for such information.

File extension and accented character information

The Shapefile, Geography Markup Language and File Geodatabase files are compressed into WinZip® files (file extension .zip).

The 2021 Road Network File contains attributes with accented characters. They were successfully tested on the desktop versions of ArcGIS® 10.5.1 and FME Data Inspector 2015.1®.

Metadata

The downloadable compressed packages (.zip) include a metadata file (.xml) that describes and validates the structure and content of the 2021 Road Network File.

The same metadata are applied to the Esri® REST service and Web Map Service.

Geographic representation

The 2021 Road Network File is available on the Statistics Canada website in the following geographic representation:

  • Projection: Lambert conformal conic
  • False easting: 6200000.000000
  • False northing: 3000000.000000
  • Central meridian: −91.866667
  • Standard parallel 1: 49.000000
  • Standard parallel 2: 77.000000
  • Latitude of origin: 63.390675
  • Linear unit: metre (1.000000)
  • Datum: North American 1983 (NAD83)
  • Prime meridian: Greenwich
  • Angular unit: degree
  • Spheroid: GRS 1980.

The North American Datum of 1983 (NAD83) is an adjustment of the 1927 datum that reflects the higher accuracy of geodetic surveying.

Users of the 2021 Road Network File can transform the file into the representation that best satisfies their needs, knowing the effects of these representations on angles, areas, distances and direction. Users have the option to choose the best projection in concert with the map’s objectives.

File naming convention

Spatial product file names follow a file naming convention. The geographic area and code, file type, geographic reference date, software type and language are embedded within the file name. Standardizing the names of the files facilitates the storage of compressed files, all of which have the extension .zip.

Each file name has 13 characters. All letters are in lower case to maintain consistency.

First character: projection of file

  • l - projection in Lambert conformal conic

Next three characters: primary geographic level of file

  • rnf - Road Network File

Next three numbers: geographic code of coverage

  • 000 - Canada

Next character: file type

  • r - Road Network File

Next two numbers: geographic reference date
The geographic reference date is a date determined by Statistics Canada for the purpose of finalizing the geographic framework for which census data are collected, tabulated and reported. For the 2021 Census, the geographic reference date is January 1, 2021.

  • 21 - geographic reference date is 2021

Next character: file format

  • a - Shapefile (.shp)
  • f - File Geodatabase (.gdb)
  • g - Geography Markup Language (.gml)
  • s - Services (Esri® REST and Web Map Service [WMS])

Final two characters: language

  • _e - English
  • _f - French

5. Data quality

Spatial data quality elements provide information on the fitness for use of a spatial database by describing why, when and how the data were created, and how accurate the data are. The elements include an overview describing the purpose and usage, as well as specific quality elements reporting on the lineage, positional accuracy, attribute accuracy, logical consistency and completeness. This information is provided to users for all spatial data products disseminated.

Lineage

Lineage describes the history of the spatial data, including descriptions of the source material from which the data were derived, and the methods of derivation. It also contains the dates of the source material, and all transformations involved in producing the final digital files.

Road information was incorporated from a variety of sources, including provincially sourced data, municipal maps and field observation. The timeliness of the NGD varies from region to region depending on the source data.

Positional accuracy

Positional accuracy refers to the absolute and relative accuracy of the positions of geographic features. Absolute accuracy is the closeness of the coordinate values in a dataset to values that are true or accepted as true. Relative accuracy is the closeness of the relative positions of features to their respective relative positions accepted as or being true. Descriptions of positional accuracy include the quality of the final file or product after all transformations.

Absolute positional accuracy

The information present in the NGD road layer was developed for the purposes of statistical analysis and census operations. The absolute position of roads in the NGD varies with the source files and documents used to build and maintain the database. Therefore, the road layer is not suitable for high-precision measurement applications such as engineering or property transfers, nor for other uses that might require highly accurate measurements of the earth’s surface.

Absolute positional accuracy is not a requirement for census processes.

Relative positional accuracy

For the NGD, relative positional accuracy is important. A road must appear in its proper position relative to other roads and physical features.

Attribute accuracy

Attribute accuracy refers to the accuracy of quantitative attributes and the correctness of non-quantitative attributes. No explicit testing for attribute accuracy is done; however, results from internal operations suggest a high degree of accuracy.

Data entry during maintenance operations includes a data control process to ensure that attributes are properly associated to a specific geometric feature. This includes the association, as well as its accuracy.

The class attribute is not updated on a regular basis; as such, quality checks are not performed to verify its accuracy.

Logical consistency

Logical consistency describes the fidelity of relationships encoded in the structure of the digital spatial data.

The 2021 Road Network File was verified against data in the SDI and found to be logically consistent.

Consistency with other products

The position of the arcs in the 2021 Road Network File is not necessarily consistent with previous editions of boundary files or road network files as a result of updates made using provincially and territorially sourced data.

Topology checks were performed with the 2021 Road Network File and the 2021 Census Boundary Files to measure the degree of integration in these products. The results indicated that the degree of integration was within the default tolerance parameters, as defined below:

  • Tolerance: 0.00001 metres
  • Resolution: 0.000005 metres

Completeness

Completeness refers to the degree to which geographic features, their attributes and their relationships are included or omitted in a dataset. It also includes information on selection criteria, definitions used and other relevant mapping rules.

New road features have been added to the NGD to create a more complete road layer and are present in this edition of the 2021 Road Network File.

Appendix

See Figure 1.1, “Hierarchy of standard geographic areas for dissemination, 2021 Census,” from the Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021.


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