MapSourceô Canada MetroGuide with Roads & Recreation

The last years of the 20th century brought to the market affordable mapping GPS receivers.  LEI, Magellan and GARMIN were all offering units that included basic Canadian maps; very basic mapsÖ  The maps were showing only a few major highways, some lakes, and a few rivers as well as larger towns.  Some manufacturers covered water bodies in greater detail, some offered a more comprehensive list of cities and towns.  The detail was barely adequate for general orientation and accuracy was poor.  The users who had the necessary knowledge, time and patience could create and upload their own maps to LEI receivers, but most Canadians were waiting for usable maps that could be readily loaded to the receivers.

MapSourceô Canada MetroGuide with Roads & Recreation is changing all that.

The single CD from GARMIN includes interface software and three types of maps. The software is the same as on all the other MapSource CDs and its main function is to allow the users to preview, select and transfer maps to one of the MapSource-compatible Garmin receivers.

Now the maps.

The focus of this review is on the three types of maps included, which are: MetroGuide, Roads & Recreation and Enhanced Basemap.

MetroGuide

The Canada MetroGuide reviewed here was version 2.00 and was based on the data from Navigation Technologies.  It appears that the data are as current as year 2000.

MetroGuide - Areas Covered:

There are 4 metropolitan areas that are covered by MetroGuide maps.  They are: Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  This is particularly true when it comes to describing maps. In the screenshots below, the pink shading indicates the actual areas covered by MetroGuide maps.  To see a larger, higher resolution screenshot, just click on the picture:

Montreal          Ottawa

  Toronto              Vancouver

As shown above, the Toronto areaís coverage includes a number of surrounding townships.  On the other hand, Montreal's coverage  is limited to Montreal Island only. 

MetroGuide - map detail:

The base map that comes preloaded in Garmin GPS receivers has virtually no street level detail. There is no comparison between it and the uploadable MetroGuide, but you be the judge:

  

The receiver's (eTrex Legend) built-in base map is shown above.  Note that there is no additional detail shown when the receiver is zoomed in.   Below, the same area is shown in MetroGuide detail. 

 

As you can see;  MetroGuide contains very detailed maps.   Not surprisingly, the source for the data used in MetroGuide is Navigation Technologies - a  supplier with a proven track record. 

Streets, parks, rivers and shorelines are depicted in great detail.  Even the highway exit ramps are shown.  Streets have names and highways have all of the exit numbers.   In the rural areas that are included in the MetroGuide coverage, only a few of the secondary roads and some of the dirt roads are not shown.  

One should not say that MetroGuide is "like" a street map.  It "is" a street map.

 

The map detail is further enhanced by the imbedded points of interest (POIís) .   Using the receiver, the POIís can be easily searched for by category, name and proximity.  The available  categories are:

bulletFood & Drink - further broken down by several types, like Chinese, deli, fast food, steak/grill, seafood etc.
bulletLodging - hotels and motels.
bullet Attractions - further broken down to: Amusement/theme parks, museums / historical, libraries, landmarks, schools, parks / gardens, arenas, halls and wineries.
bulletEntertainment - further broken down to: live theatres, casinos, golf courses, skiing centers and resorts
bulletShopping - further broken down to: grocery and shopping centers
bulletServices - further broken down to: gas stations, auto repair shops, bank / ATM, auto parts dealers, marinas, parking, rest areas and tourist information points.
bulletTransportation - air, ground and auto rental
bulletEmergency and government - police stations, hospitals, City Halls, court houses and community centers

 Each entry includes the type, name, street address and the phone number.  Not all of the possible POIís in each category are listed.   Competing with the Yellow Pages was quite obviously not Garmin's intention.  Still,  browsing through the list, reveals thousands of POIís that are included with the maps.  They should be sufficient for anybody not intimately familiar with the area to find the most essential ones.  Saying that, many Canadians consider Tim Horton's donut shops  to be a part of the Canadian landscape, yet there aren't any listed.  But then again, a GPS is hardly necessary to find a Tim Horton's in a Canadian  city.   Also,  some of the sub-categories are grayed out and searching others may be a little confusing.  For example,  in the "Entertainment" category, Zoo / Aquarium POIís are unavailable, yet a quick search of the "Attractions" category revealed that the Metro Toronto Zoo is listed.   With so many categories being available, it would be helpful to have an option to search for a name across all of the categories.  One of the  most notable omissions includes Movie Theaters.  We could not find them listed at all.  Also, many of the sub-categories in Shopping are unavailable.  Hopefully, feature updates will include a more complete listing of POIís that are better categorized.  After all, Schools hardly belong under the  "Attractions" heading! 

If one can't locate the desired POI right on the receiver, there is another way.  One can find the address of it in a phone book and then easily find the address co-ordinates.  Yes; MetroGuide includes not only the street name, but also the street number information that can be searched for on the receiver.  

MetroGuide - accuracy:

The CGDI (Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure) Data Alignment Layer provides sets of geo-referenced points that can be easily used to check the accuracy of various Canadian maps.  We used CDAL  as a benchmark to check the accuracy of GARMIN's  Canadian maps, by converting some of the CDAL points into MapSource waypoints.

  Click on the screenshot to open a  larger map section.

In the screenshot above, CDAL points are displayed as black, square dots.  In all places that we checked, the  MetroGuide maps were very accurate and the CDAL data coincided with the NavTech data to within just a few meters.  The high accuracy of the data was confirmed when we used the maps in the field.  Similarly, street addresses were located so accurately that, in most cases, the street numbers on the houses were only necessary to confirm the location we were looking for, not to find it.  The worst case encountered was in Burlington ON, where the MetroGuide location of an address was wrong by six houses. 

MetroGuide - - File size

Canadian MetroGuide maps total approximately 8 MB.  Each of the areas is represented by a single selection area.  The largest is the Toronto selection - 3.7 MB.  Vancouver requires 1.8 MB, Montreal 1.5 MB and Ottawa 1.1 MB. 

Roads & Recreation: 

The data source, areas covered and the accuracy of the Canada Road & Recreation maps are the same as MetroGuide.  The same roads and streets are shown together with their names.  The major difference between the Roads & Recreation and MetroGuide maps is that  R&R does not include POI information, nor information necessary to search for street addresses.  By removing this information, GARMIN made the files much smaller and compatible with some older receivers that feature only 1.4 MB of memory dedicated to the maps.  Canadian Roads & Recreation maps total approximately 3.2 MB.  The Toronto area is broken into 4 sections.  Vancouver and Montreal are divided into two sections each and Ottawa remains as a single section.  Each section is smaller than 500 KB. 

Enhanced Basemap:

The Canada Enhanced Basemap reviewed here is version 2.00 and is based on the data from AND Data Ireland, Ltd.  It appears that the data are as current as the year 2000. 

Please note that due to the immense size of the area covered by the Enhanced Basemap, it was physically not possible for us to check the entire data set.  Our comments are based on what we found checking out some randomly-selected areas and we can't guarantee that they equally apply to every Canadian nook and cranny. 

Enhanced Basemap - Areas Covered:

All of Canada, up to 70 Deg. North is covered!

Enhanced Basemap - map detail:

  

The receiver's (eTrex Legend) built-in base map is shown above.  Below, the same area is shown in Enhanced Basemap detail. 

 

As shown above; the Enhanced Basemap contains very detailed road maps.   Roads,  lakes, large rivers and shorelines are depicted in good detail.  Smaller rivers and creeks are not shown. Major highways and roads are numbered. Lesser roads in rural areas are depicted, but not numbered. In the rural areas that are also covered by MetroGuide, the Enhanced Basemap even shows some dirt roads and some  secondary roads that are not shown by MetroGuide!

As shown below, there are even some major city streets with names! 

For coastal waters, many areas of the Great Lakes and some waterways, many of the NavAids are depicted.

One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises was to find numerous dirt / secondary roads that are not shown on some of the best printed or electronic Canadian road maps. 

Certainly the detail of the maps is not as good as topographical maps would be, but still, the Enhanced Basemap is more like a good quality road map and is not just a simple "base map".

Enhanced Basemap - accuracy:

With the CDAL data overlaid on the Enhanced Basemap, the accuracy proves to vary greatly from one area to another. 

 

  

 

As shown above, the accuracy in some areas is almost spot on, yet in other areas it is not that good and the map features may be misplaced by several hundred meters.  Overall, we concluded that the accuracy is comparable to the accuracy of a typical road map on a scale of 1:250.000  

 

Enhanced Basemap - map file sizes:

The Enhanced Basemap contains 148 maps totaling approximately 29MB.  Individual map sections vary greatly in the area covered.  The file sizes also vary from less than 20 KB to just over 1MB.  Owners of the GARMIN receivers with 8MB or more memory will not have to be too choosy in selecting the areas for transfer.    Users of the older receivers that feature just 1.4 MB of map memory will have to be much more careful selecting the areas, especially if they want to also transfer some of the Roads & Recreation detail. 

 

Nothing is ever perfect.

The biggest shortcoming of MetroGuide Canada is the lack of detailed coverage for many of the key cities.   Hopefully, future updates will include all of the Canadian coverage that is available from NavTech. 

The age of the data, which appears to be from early 2000, already starts to show in some areas.   This is understandable, since the world does not come to a grinding halt the day a map is released.  There are some new subdivisions and roads that are not depicted.  Surely, GARMIN will be offering updates in the future.  On the other hand, it may take years before there are changes significant enough to justify buying an update to the existing areas, even if such updates were offered at a reduced price.  

The Enhanced Basemap would be greatly improved by the addition of some POIís.  Canada is a huge country where in some areas, one can drive for several hundred kilometers without  passing through a larger town.  Even non-searchable POIís (a simple icon on the map)  showing some key services would be very useful for the long distance traveler.

The omission of smaller rivers and creeks from the Enhanced Basemap coverage may not bother drivers, but lowers the map value for outdoor adventurers.  

Outdoor enthusiasts constitute a substantial portion of GPS / map users.   MapSource Canada would be a much better product for them, if it clearly listed such important POIís as Boat / RV / rental places, propane filling stations,  Sport / Outdoor Equipment stores, Lodges and campgrounds.

Many of the city users would surely appreciate the ability to easily look up beer / liquor stores as well as flower and gift shops and possibly even churches.  

 Summary and personal, subjective opinions.

Before we got a hard copy of MapSourceô Canada , the only source of information about it was user's Usenet posts and Garmin's website.  Everybody's attention appeared to be on MetroGuide and Roads & Recreation.  The Enhanced Basemap is hardly mentioned anywhere.  According to GARMIN,  the Enhanced Basemap "contains a complete map of Canada with provincial or state highways, controlled-access highways, primary roads in major cities".  In the MapSource section of GARMIN's website, the maps could be previewed, but at the time it didn't seem necessary to waste the bandwidth to look closely at some simple base maps.  A quick look revealed a few roads here and there.  On the other hand MetroGuide / Roads & Recreation appeared to have excellent detail for the areas covered.  MetroGuide represented the maps we really wanted to review for the Canadian Digest section of our website.

 MetroGuide really proved itself, not only in finding the way in unknown territory, but also with finding places in familiar areas.  MetroGuide is definitely very useful for visitors and residents alike.  When used on a compact receiver like the eTrex Legend, it becomes more handy to carry around than any printed street atlas.  Most limitations we came across resulted more from hardware limitations than from the maps themselves.  For example; when viewed on the high resolution but small screen of the eTrex Legend, the MetroGuide maps were sometimes too cluttered to be used by a driver, without undue distraction.   To really take advantage of the maps in a vehicle, they should be used with a receiver like the Street Pilot. 

The little-advertised Enhanced Basemap was a real surprise.  We found it to be much, much better than we anticipated.   Even though in some places it's not perfectly accurate, the detail of the Enhanced Basemap should be sufficient to drive through just about any city or town in Canada - coast to coast.  Not only major, but many minor streets are shown in most areas.  Water features, shorelines and small roads are numerous and put to shame the official road maps!    For off road users, the features shown provide a fair visual reference of one's position in relation to major topographical features and makes finding the position on a printed, detailed map so much easier.  

All in all,  MapSource Canada is a "must have" for just about every Canadian user of a GARMIN mapping receiver.

GPS Nuts

June 18, 2001

 

Related links: 

GARMIN MapSource - Canada MetroGuide with Roads & Recreation  Note that the receivers like eTrex Vista, eTrex Legend, Street Pilot III and GPS Map76 are compatible with MetroGuide maps even though they are not listed as such.

 http://www.garmin.com/cartography/mapSource/ contains a utility which allows the user to preview the maps. To really see what's there, make sure to zoom in and choose "more detail". 

http://www.garmin.com/cartography/mapSource/citynav.html City Navigator (DC11) GARMIN's mapping product dedicated to the Street Pilot III, with wider Canadian coverage from NavTech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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