Highway classification questions

Hello all,

I’m Luke (also known as https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/ruggs) and I have been managing the Apple Data Team’s projects in Malaysia. We have enjoyed numerous excellent discussions with local editors (angys, AkuAnakTimur, kucai, JaLooNz, and others) and we appreciate all of the feedback you have provided. Rather than limiting communication to changeset comments, I wanted to reach out here and share our contact information. We also have a few questions about road tagging and modeling.

For more context into our efforts please see:

There can be slight differences in tagging preferences between community members. These nuances are why we want to make sure there’s an open dialogue with our team. If you have questions about Apple (#adt) editing trends, please reach out.

To get the conversation started, I wanted to discuss highway classifications in Malaysia. For context, we have been using the OSM wiki (https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Malaysian_Roads_Tagging) and feedback from the local community for policy decisions.

From previous communication, we heard that paved roads providing access to remote communities are typically classified as highway=unclassified. This is similar to the global policy on unclassified roads except for the suggestion they be paved. Since a residential road can also be paved, how do you commonly distinguish between the two?

We also had some questions about highway=service. The typical use cases are fairly straight-forward - parking aisles, alleyways, and such. However, we received some feedback that private neighborhoods (with entry gates) should also be using highway=service. This doesn’t seem to be a consistent trend, however, and the Malaysia Roads Tagging page doesn’t mention this. Is this policy something the community is moving towards or away from?

Finally, per OSM policy, highway=track should be used for dirt roads that access natural resources like farmlands and forests. However, dirt roads often access housing. Our team typically picks residential in this scenario, but is there a situation where a dirt road leading to houses should be track?

We appreciate the feedback and hope you find this thread an effective way to communicate with us. You may have talked with Andrew before as well, we work together and are both accessible via direct message.

Luke Dow

Luke Dow (project lead) - DM link
Andrew Wiseman (community liaison) - DM link

Along an “unclassified” highway, there may be some houses with large distances between them (but it’s not necessary that there are houses at all); with a residential highway, houses are quite close to each other, typically the compounds next to each other (and with “houses”, I mean building where people live, not barns or stables). If the highway leads to single residential building only, service may be used instead.
Most unclassified/residential highways in Malaysia are paved, but some are still unpaved.

Tracks are for agricultural/forestry access. If there are buildings along them, they may be barns or stables. If there are residential buildings, it’s not a track, but a residential/unclassified/service.

Never heard about this one myself, and certainly not practised by local mappers that I’d come across.

On the other hand, I’ve seen outsiders use highway=service in industrial areas. Seems there’s a misinterpretation of highway=service in a single industrial yard/compound vs industrial areas where many companies set up operations. We typically use unclassified for highways inside landuse industrial where there are road names and building complexes’ address can be attached to them. We also had some of them tagged as residential, mostly from the early years of osm mapping (also prevalent in many commercial/retail areas) when we didn’t understand the finer detail of highway classifications.

Haven’t these minor details discussed & summarized by the HOT Indonesian team that stopped by in Kuala Lumpur last year? I thought they were co-sponsored by Apple.

Thanks for the responses, Bernhard and kucai. An example of where we got comments about highway=service vs residential is this area: https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=18/1.46669/103.62042. Before they were all highway=service, which doesn’t seem to match the Malaysian Roads Tagging page and doesn’t seem very common in Malaysia, which is why we wanted to ask about it. It seems more common in Singapore. If there’s a consensus that a residential classification best fits in these situations, we can continue doing that.

As for HOT Indonesia, we have spoken to them in the past but we don’t work with them.

I’ll provide my insights more on my techniques to classify which is which the unclassified and residential highways later, so stay tuned. I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss about reclassifications by the Apple Data Team that were being done on some cases.

  1. Way 337824317

(The pointy bit, on lower left of the picture is my motorcycle’s side mirror)

I mapped it as a path. Although car drivers could use it as a “desire path” for their cars, common sense might tell these drivers to stick with driving on better roads, paved with asphalt and… avoid bumpy roads altogether. Since it has gone slightly wider than I’ve first mapped it in 2015/16, I believe it’s not an unclassified highway (yet). Therefore I might be inclined to map this as a track.

  1. Way 576126565

Took a detour from my work commute to take this picture. I’m unsure why the unpaved highway was eligible to be upgraded as an unclassified highway. There are no houses (yet) along the highway that I mapped as merely a track.

I’ve left changeset discussions with the mapping team, but the frequent keyword that may come up is usually concerning about tagging consistency (which may quite being in contrast with reality).

The second picture also clearly shown a stretch of a road that were recently repaved with asphalt. Not all highways were registered under the Accelerated Rural Road Programme (ARRP) scheme (by the government - for the purposes of maintenance, usually). I would probably be fine if shorter stretches of them are mapped as residential highways. But some of these officially maintained highways could be longer than 5 km, and serve as the (only) arterial road connecting villages, or even widely separated individual house units.

Combine the latter, with vast land use meant for rice fields, you’ll definitely get the mixed bag of confusing situations between what should be tagged as unclassified/residential/track highways. Which, hopefully, I’ll try my best to provide some explanation.

It doesn’t help much for the team too, seeing how unmapped place (well, in my home state of Kedah) was (forced to be) mapped by two (three?) other, independent, foreign mapping teams. These totally unrelated mumbo jumbos may somehow had influenced the way the team should map highways.

Let me know if my arguments are somehow a bit vague.

These are great examples, AkuAnakTimur. As you mentioned, the land use in Malaysia is very diverse, which is why we want wanted to ask more here to get more information about road classifications. This feedback along with other comments over the past few months has influenced the way our team looks at these scenarios and it is appreciated.

Way 337824317 is challenging. It looks like motor vehicles are allowed on the road, however I understand your perspective that it is not the most desirable route. I agree, highway=track is a great compromise.

Way 576126565 is a dirt road and certainly looks like it gets less traffic than the surrounding unclassified highways. I will set back to track.

The goal of our reclassification work is to review data added by other organized editing efforts and users, and bring the classifications more in-line with the Malaysian tagging guidelines and local feedback (this is where the “consistency” goal comes from). However, more needs to be done in the country. We are optimistic we can leverage and reclassify new geometry added by the other organized editing teams to help build a better map.

Hello all,

We noticed around Kuala Lumpur that some motorcycle lanes that were previously classified as highway=path have been reclassified as highway=track. This includes from (https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/443711034) to (https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/443711030) and from (https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/377995058) to (https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/443711029). The Malaysia OSM wiki mentions twice that these motorcycle lanes are preferable as highway=path (https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Malaysian_Roads_Tagging). We would like to change these to highway=path to be consistent with similar scenarios around the country but your feedback first is appreciated!

I’d to apologise for the long wait. Dirt roads (usually with shades of ground, be it brownish, yellowish) are sometimes very obvious from imagery, than, let’s say, an asphalted highway - usually grey in colour. Side note: rains will wash away any dust accumulation on asphalted surfaces.

Today’s post will be focussed more on highways criss-crossing the unending rice fields specifically. Since I’m from the state of Kedah, my statements would reflect a mapper’s bias from the socio-geographical area of where I live. It may not reflect or translate well to be modelled in other states of Malaysia.

First of all, previous remote mapping team (GlobalLogic for Grab) wanted to map highways which not yet mapped, with deadlines being set. This is unfortunate: some highways were mapped higher in hierarchy. On top of that, since the number of local mappers are really small, these incorrectly mapped highways cannot be amended as early as possible. It’s been a year, plus; and still I managed to discover incorrectly mapped highways. Leaving changeset discussions may not bear fruit - the related mappers have been inactive and already stopped mapping altogether.

The domino effect is obvious: the AI import team on behalf of Facebook and others, tend to follow these incorrect mapping practice.

It’s not always the case where highway=residential would follow a highway=unclassified in parallel, from end-to-end. Fair, sometimes dirt roads do lead to residentials. But do we really have to map a residential highway from one extreme end to another extreme end?

Not necessarily. See above example. Sometimes houses can be found in “island”-like plots. The highway on the left of the canal should be split to indicate limits accordingly. There are even access roads direct to some houses from an asphalted highway=unclassified; which I would map as highway=residential ways instead. Only machineries (think of harvesters, tractors and the likes) would rather make use the remaining stretch of these dirt roads, than, say, even underbone motorcyclists. And, why not, include the humble hobby cyclists as well.

And of course, there will be real-world cases that might not fit these textbook cases. Feel free to bring them up here, and we’ll discuss.

I would like to take this opportunity to beg, hopefully, that the team would carefully check edit histories, before making edits solely based on imagery, without any additional cues. I don’t fancy seeing my ground truth efforts went direct into the bin unless there are strong proof showing otherwise (I’m happy to be proved incorrect, with proper evidences if available). I reckon other active, local mappers would share the same sentiment too.

Hi AkuAnakTimur,

Thanks for the information on how to interpret roads in Kedah.

Also, we appreciate the feedback via changeset comment. I have reminded my team to check history before making edits and to respect changesets that cite ground survey. We will continue reaching out on this forum post with questions.

Hi mappers mapping in Malaysia :slight_smile:

So far the the discussion in this thread and in Malaysian_Roads_Tagging wiki doesn’t seem to touch about roads within commercial/business areas/districts within a town. Areas connected to either tertiary or secondary roads of the state/national road network.

(A) Quite a few commercial areas used residential roads (highway=residential) within the area connected to tertiary/secondary/primary roads. Examples (filter to show only Traffic Roads, also set background map to none):
(A1) Bandar Bukit Tinggi (Jalan Batu Nilam 3), only residential roads, no minor/unclassified roads for shoplots area.
(A2) Kota Kemuning (Jalan Anggerik Vanilla), only residential, no minor/unclassified roads for shoplots area.
(A3) Subang Jaya SS15/4 area, only residential, no minor/unclassified roads for shoplots area.
(A4) Klang town (Jalan Tengku Kelana), mix residential and minor/unclassified roads for shoplots area.

(B) Some commercial areas totally didn’t use residential roads (highway=residential). Examples:
(B1) PJ Old Town (MBPJ Tower), only minor/unclassified roads used for shoplots area.
(B2) Seksyen 14 (Jalan 14/24), only minor/unclassified roads used for shoplots area.

So my question to esteemed colleagues, should we allow (highway=residential) be used for commercial/business shoplots areas?

It used to be that many of us tagged those as residential. Then somehow realized that nobody lives there (mostly), hence the change to unclassified roads. After that came the “outsiders” that started changing those to service roads (which I promptly change whenever I meet them).

Thanks Kucai. We are on the same page then. Retag business/shoplots area roads to “minor/unclassified”, particularly those named ones. I have one commercial/business area that are all tagged as service roads. I was thinking of retagging to residential roads (based on practice in nearby areas) until I started researching further per above post.

Oh checking the history of one of the roads, Lorong Batu Nilam 21B, I see I created that road 12 years ago as Unclassified. Some other mappers in last year or two tagged them as Service road. Hah.

As far as I rememeber, that was some when in the past the “official” tagging style.
Just checked some commercial areas in Wiesbaden and Mainz (Germany): “unclassified” was the typical tag. So, “unclassified” may have become standard meanwhile.

Thanks @Bernhard Hiller, noted about Wiesbaden and Mainz (Germany). I did have a look at Oxford Street (UK) area. I see they used both “Minor/Unclassified” roads and “Residential” roads around that commercial area.