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Best practices for mapping roads and addresses

Mapping ice roads or assigning addresses to remote islands? These new best practices guides for mapping Canadian roads and addresses have the answers.

How do you assign an address to a property that only has waterfront access, such as a cottage on an island? How do you map an ice road that changes alignment every year? What is the difference between a collector and a major arterial road? How do you assign addresses that are part of the Dominion Land Survey?

These and other questions that you might have on assigning addresses or creating a digital roads database are answered in these two best practices guides Esri Canada has just released. The Community Road Network Guide to Best Practices v. 4.0 and its companion Community Civic Addressing - Guide to Best Practices v 4.0 are comprehensive guides to creating and managing roads and address data in Canada. You might not need to know the answer to how to assign addresses to island properties or how to map an ice road, but the documents are a comprehensive guide to everything and anything you needed to know about roads and addresses in Canada.

A blue outline of an island with the name “Island 70” at the centre, surrounded by text representing island addresses

Figure 1 - An illustration from the Community Civic Addressing - Guide to Best Practices v. 4.0 showing how island addresses should be assigned. Both documents contain many such figures that help clarify the accompanying text.

These guides are the result of months of investigation to document and capture common practices and distill them into a collection of best practices for everyone. The Community Road Network Guide to Best Practices v. 4.0 is the latest evolution of our best practices guide that is based on the federal government’s National Road Network Guide for Best Practices for Data Acquisition, first published in 2010. The document contains helpful figures to illustrate best practices. The latest versions also conform with the guidelines and standards set by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) that are required to meet the needs of Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1).

A map illustration with black lines and red points showing streets labelled as collector, minor and major arterial streets, among others

Figure 2 When is a street a collector and when is it a major arterial? The answers to this can be found in the Community Road Network - Data Capture Best Practices v. 4.

Similarly, the Community Civic Addressing - Guide to Best Practices v 4.0 has been updated from earlier versions to also adhere to NENA standards, and to meet the needs of NG9-1-1. This document provides guidelines for civic addressing assignment standards, attribution and data format, and covers both urban and rural addressing.

Both guides are essential references for anyone who is creating this data for the first time or managing their community’s road and address databases. They are particularly helpful for those who are unfamiliar with Canadian practices and NG9-1-1 requirements. Both documents are available in English and French.

Download the guides:
Community Road Network Guide to Best Practices v. 4.0

Community Civic Addressing - Guide to Best Practices v 4.0

Need more tips to improve your roads and addresses data? Watch this recorded webinar -  Preparing & Improving Your Roads & Addresses for a Connected Tomorrow  

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us at

About the Author

Paul Heersink is a cartographer and Program Manager of Esri Canada’s Roads & Addresses Program: an initiative that is aiming to build a seamless topographic basemap using contributor data. He has over 25 years of cartographic experience, working in both the public and private sectors. Paul has always been interested in mapping and drew his own atlas at the age of 10. He took a detour in his career through the fields of psychology and social work before returning to cartography.

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