(MapSource) CityNavigator maps with a Canadian twist.

A review by GPS Nuts

MapSource CityNavigator (CN) is a set of maps designed by GARMIN to work with the StreetPilot III receiver. It allows for turn by turn routing right on the receiver and / or on the computer. Depending on the target market, the SP3 comes with American or European versions. 

The American version of CN includes detailed maps of major metropolitan areas in 10 different pre-defined regions in the USA and Canada. Purchase price of the SP3 includes the unlock key for one of the regions. Additional regions can be unlocked by purchasing a key from GARMIN or one of their authorized dealers. Traditionally, the USA has always had good map coverage from various GPSR manufacturers. Coverage of Canada, however, was always poor to non existent.  The first wind of change came with GARMIN’s MapSource  Canada MetroGuide with Roads & Recreation.  CityNavigator is the next step in the increasing, Canadian, coverage.

Areas and detail covered:   

According to the  Garmin website,  region DCA 11 includes Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Quebec and the Yukon Territory.  This isn't entirely correct. The detailed coverage of the CN maps on CD ends just west of Montreal and does not include the Atlantic provinces nor Yukon Territory.  The most detailed coverage is for the shaded areas in the screenshot below. 

Outside of the shaded areas, there is no additional detail that can be uploaded to the receiver. Saying that; the receiver's base map already does include some good base map detail for all of Canada. For example, Halifax NS does not show at all on the CN maps, when viewed on the computer, yet a quick check on the receiver resulted with the screenshot below.

This is very good for a base map! 

Not everywhere is the basemap detail so good, however. 

 The CN (uploadable) coverage of Canada contains a total of 31 maps ( 25.2 MB total) and is most detailed for the areas of:

bulletCalgary, AB
bulletMontreal, QB
bulletOttawa-Hull, ON/QB
bulletToronto / Hamilton / Niagara, ON
bulletVancouver, BC
bulletVictoria, BC
bulletWhistler, BC
bulletWindsor, ON

For the above cities (and some surrounding rural areas) the map detail includes street level coverage that includes addresses, numerous Points Of Interest information and other information that is sufficient for the receiver to create a turn by turn routing that will take into account one way streets and such. 

 

The above  CN screenshot from  Whistler is representative of the most detailed areas. It offers (what could be called) a 1st class coverage.

For the uploadable areas outside of the 1st class coverage area (between the listed cities), the detail varies greatly. 

It may be as good as:

Or it may be limited to only the most important roads like in the screenshot below.

 

In such cases, a ramp on a major road may be shown, but it leads to nowhere.

The 3rd class coverage is offered by the BaseMap detail. That detail is not uploadable - it already resides in the receiver and can be also viewed on the computer. Surprisingly, it often shows more roads than the 1st and 2nd class detail maps. 

 

The above screenshot shows the Highway 144 all the way. It's a Base Map screenshot.

The screenshot below shows the same area, except below the horizontal line, the uploadable detail is shown.

 

No highway 144...

Confused? It's virtually impossible to describe the varying levels of CN coverage for each area. Fortunately, GARMIN provided a tool that can be used by the potential user to preview the maps. See http://www.garmin.com/cgi-bin/mapgen/mapgen.pl?p=131073&z=1&w=350&h=350&rz=0&k=1&sc=1

Why would we call "3rd class" the  maps that potentially have more detailed coverage than the 2nd class maps? It is because of a very important factor:

The Map Accuracy

Checking the base map detail to the CDAL database we found that the BaseMap may be frequently off by several hundred yards.

 

The same area covered by the CN uploadable maps is depicted very accurately.

 

 

In fact, the detailed, uploadable maps are spot on and possibly even more accurate than the CDAL database...

Points Of Interest (POI)

CN includes many POIs for the cities with the street level detail (1st class coverage areas). There are few POIs for the 2nd class coverage areas. Other than that, not much about the  POIs has changed from the MetroGuide Canada. Instead of us retyping the same thing over, you can see the comments here

Nothing is ever perfect.   

SP3 is using maps to create the turn by turn routes. By design, it is always trying to use the most accurate maps first and base map detail later. Creating an automatic route between a point that is within an uploaded map coverage area and a point that is covered only by the base map detail may lead to unexpected results. 

Look at the screenshot below. The (yellow) route was automatically generated between two points that were just a couple hundred kilometers apart. The software was forced to look for a common point that is on a border between the base map and a detailed map to lead the route from one to the other. The detailed map was missing a section of highway 144. The closest route that could be automatically generated was....

That's a trip that we would not recommend!

Fortunately, there is a way around the problem. If the route is generated on the receiver, one needs to do it in two stages. First, generate a route that takes you close to, but within the border of the detailed coverage. Once there, deactivate the uploaded maps and then generate the final leg of the route.

It is even easier to deal with the problem using the computer.  Just insert a couple of the intermediate stop  points to force the route over the section of the uploadable map that lacks the necessary detail.

Naturally, one could generate the entire route using just the BaseMap detail, but that solution would be too simple for... the GPS Nuts!

Since GARMIN already uses in CN the best Canadian detail that NavTech can supply, the real solution to the problem possibly may not be found until better data become available.

 Summary and personal, subjective opinions.   

For primary use outside of the 1st class coverage areas, users may find it hard to justify the cost, because the included maps do not show many secondary, minor roads in the 2nd and 3rd class coverage areas. That could be mostly fixed by purchasing MapSource™ Canada MetroGuide with Roads & Recreation and loading to the receiver  the Canadian, Enhanced BaseMap. The Enhanced BaseMap could not be used to generate turn by turn routes and the maps are not as accurate as CN, but it works well on the SP3 and provides a good visual reference. 

On the other hand; the Street Pilot III with CityNavigator is an excellent product for  Canadian travelers who frequently drive within or to the 1st class coverage areas. 

In short: If you are the right user, we highly recommend the unit.

GPS Nuts

Febuary, 2001   

 

 

Related links:

CityNavigator information on Garmin website.

Street Pilot III  - vehicle (GPS) navigation system. A review by GPS Nuts