Statistics Canada Releases Free Road Network File 2006
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Statistics Canada Releases Free Road Network File 2006

On September 26th, Statistics Canada will make available via its website, a free data product called the “2006 Road Network File” (RNF).

The 2006 Road Network File is a digital representation of Canada's national road network, containing information such as street names, type, direction and address ranges. The 2006 RNF product is derived from the “National Geographic Database” (NGD). The NGD is jointly maintained by Statistics Canada and Elections Canada, in cooperation with other partners. The content of the database is Canada’s equivalent of the “TIGER” database, maintained by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The road network content of the NGD is developed in support of the Census of Canada, where it is fundamental in the administration of the survey, as well as in the dissemination of the census results.

The product is freely available to anyone with a web browser and an Internet connection.

The fact that the product is free is a departure for Statistics Canada, which in the past has charged up to $25,000 CDN for the national file. The new pricing policy for the product is aimed at increasing the adoption of Statistics Canada’s geographic data products in environments where they may not have been fully utilized in the past, environments such as schools and colleges. Whereas in the past, the price would have prohibited the use of the product in an environment where little budget is devoted to data, for example a high-school classroom, it will now be more possible to use this and related products as part of the curriculum.

Product characteristics
The product is a fully “addressed” geographic data file, meaning that address ranges between street intersections are stored as attributes in the file. The presence of addresses in the file makes it more useful, just as a city map with addresses printed on it can be very useful for locating addresses or giving directions between locations. The file also features street names and classifications, making it easier to query.

Comparisons to the 2005 Road Network File
Differences between the 2006 Road Network File and the 2005 Road Network File are: GML / XML format
One of the key benefits of the new product is its format: standard Geographic Markup Language (GML). This XML-based text format lends itself not only to use in commercial and open-source GIS tools, but also to access using standard XML style sheets and tools for analysis, visualization and reporting. The GML standard leverages several modern internet standards and is a key component of the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI). The availability of this core dataset as GML will provide additional momentum in the advancement of the CGDI.

Useful for
Some of the applications for which this file could be useful include: mapping, geo-coding, area delineation and database maintenance as a source for street names and location. The 2006 Road Network File (RNF) also provides a test environment for the creation of user-defined areas.

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 navigation and reference purposes; therefore, relative positional accuracy takes precedence over absolute positional accuracy. The 2006 Road Network File does not contain street information required for route optimization. For example, data on one-way streets, dead-ends and other street obstacles are not included in the road network file. Consequently, this file is not recommended for engineering applications, emergency dispatching services, surveying or legal applications.

How to obtain
The 2006 RNF product is downloadable from Statistics Canada's website at The product files have been tested with a variety of commercial and open-source GIS. The RNF product files are available in a choice of vendor-specific GIS formats, or in the open standard GML text format. In addition, attribute “templates” are available for the CGDI's open-source Java Unified Mapping Platform (JUMP) GIS.

The product files are available in French or English versions of each format with corresponding bundled documentation., They are distributed as individual self-extracting packages of each province or territory, or alternatively, in a complete national package for those with plenty of available bandwidth and processing power.
Integration with other STC products
The positions of the arcs in the 2006 Road Network Files are not consistent with those of the 2001 Census Geographic products (Cartographic Boundary Files, the 2001 Road Network and 2001 Skeletal Road Network Files).

License arrangements
An unrestricted use license agreement accompanies the 2006 Road Network File allowing users greater flexibility to extract, manipulate, further develop and distribute the road network data.

A reference guide for the 2006 Road Network File (RNF) product is made available free of charge in HTML or PDF format on the Statistics Canada web site at (catalogue number 92-500-GIE). The information published in the reference guide has been adapted from metadata obtained from the ArcSDE source layer in our National Geographic Database (NGD). Statistics Canada has fully implemented the FGDC standard for creating, modifying and storing geographic metadata.

Relationship with TigerGML
Statistics Canada in partnership with the US Bureau of Census is working towards the integration of Canada/US geospatial road network information to create a complete and comprehensive North American road network layer using the open-source GML standard. This mid to long-term project will include the integration of data formats; attribute information, the positional accuracy of the road arcs and metadata based on the FGDC structure.

In conclusion, if your organization has a need for up-to-date high quality GIS road network data in Canada, there is a new option for your data processing needs this fall.

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