Street data for Network Analyst

Through talking with customers and being personally involved in several projects which require having street data for routing purposes, I have learnt some valuable lessons which I want to share with the GIS community.

First of all, to get started working with street data is not as easy as it seems. One may need to contact a local agency for any street data in the public domain. At the same time, quite often there are no street data available, which implies spending quite a large amount of money on data acquisition. Technically, to get started performing network analysis using ESRI Network Analyst extension is relatively easy, yet to get the data for the work is much harder.

Secondly, there is a lack of awareness of street data sources available in the ESRI community. Obviously, there are much fewer people working with Network Analyst extension compared to the users of Spatial Analyst or 3D Analyst extensions. So, a person involved in solving routing tasks is forced to get to know the software on his/her own by using limited help system and other resources available. The number of white papers and magazine articles related to the ESRI tools for network analysis is limited as well, yet there is a great deal of interest in this particular area.

Finally, vendors’ street data is shipped in a raw format and obviously not in ArcGIS network dataset format! Navteq Navstreets and TeleAtlas Multinet products are delivered among others in ESRI Shape format. This implies that users may need to dive into the hundreds of pages which comprise the reference manual, in order to figure out many things – such as how to convert turns tables into ArcGIS turn feature class, import signposts, and set the directions parameters properly, to name a few. It is a time consuming process which is likely to involve contacting vendor’s support and extensive trial by error tests.

To give a thorough overview of the network analysis in ArcGIS would take too much time, so let’s just focus on the acquisition of street data in this post. Options available are as below/follows:

1) TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system) data from the U.S. Census Bureau is a good option to get the street data. Visit U.S. Census Bureau for more information or proceed to the ESRI ArcData Web interface for direct downloading available data. Street data do have a lot of attributive information, but one will still need to perform a lot of manual data editing. The data coverage includes only the USA.

2) ESRI has a separate product – ESRI StreetMap Premium, which provides access to the street data in SDC format both for North America and Europe. This product can be used in the Network Analyst directly and no data processing is required. Be aware that these network data are for read-only use and no edits to data can be applied. This data product provides the best performance as well as robust functionality, yet the least customization flexibility, because one can only use the street data as it is.

3) Navteq Navstreets and TeleAtlas Multinet are one of the most often used products for network analysis purposes. The data is delivered in MapInfo or ESRI Shape format and need to be processed in order to be used with the Network Analyst extension. Navteq does provide Navstreets data in the compiled ESRI File Geodatabase from the Q1 2011 yet some data processing still will be required. Depending on how much information you want to include into your network dataset, you will need to perform some joins and geometry processing operations as well as use ArcGIS geoprocessing tools or scripting language, for instance, Python. The data coverage includes the whole world.

4) OpenStreetMap – a collaborative Web project that aims at creating a free digital world map. One can download all the data including, but not limited to, street network data ( Street data do not have much attributive information so one would need to perform a lot of manual data editing. The data coverage includes the whole world.


What is Network Analyst


Navteq Network for Developers




12 thoughts on “Street data for Network Analyst

  1. Thanks for the quick review, I had some ESRI Street Data from a couple of years ago I just pulled out for a personal project and found there were some serious errors in the network (sections of highway assigned one way the wrong way). I am going to try open street map, but it doesn’t have nearly the routing information I would like (like elevation data and speed).

    1. Hi George, thanks for getting back in touch. ESRI StreetMap Premium is delivered in two versions: based on Navteq Navstreets and based on TeleAtlas Multinet. Thus, ESRI has nothing to do with those errors you mention since it is just about some compilation of the raw data. Furthermore, as you know, street data represents a huge number of features with numerous attributes and I guess it is very hard for the data vendors to keep all the data consistent and accurate. Personally, I might make a few edits in the TeleAtlas data before the delivery in some custom projects yet the customers are good with the overal quality of the products. I am just curious if the one you have used was based on TeleAtlas or on Navteq? They say that Navteq Navstreets provides a slightly better quality over TeleAtlas yet it is hard to evaluate.
      Regarding OSM, keep in mind that you can take advantage of their online routing service ( (which already has all the information required, i.e., speed limits and elevations), so you do not have to need to download and compile any data. Take a look at this Web site (, a good friend of mine has been using OpenStreetMap & OpenLayers with some custom programming to get it up and running.

  2. Hi Alex,
    First of all I would like to thank you for this very nice blog. It already helped me in a lot of problems.
    Now, I have some multinet data that I would like to convert to a network dataset (including turns). This is quite complicated. Some research on the internet gave me the link . This tool seems really promessing, but I always fail to run the command (I have windows 7 and arcmap 10). I read you have a solution. Can you help me?
    Kind regards,

    1. Hey Annelies,

      As I mentioned on that page, to assembly the .dll in the VS2008 was required. I have Win7 and ArcGIS 10, too. Please feel free to stay in touch via email if I could help you with that.

  3. Hello!!
    Thanks a lot for the blog, is very helpful!
    I have installed the toolbox, and I am trying to execute the Process Multinet. I have a Teleatlas Multinet cartography. But when I try to execute the tool, it says “Field named MINUTES is not the expected type”.
    The field MINUTES in the mw shapefile is double type. Where can I consult what type should it be? How do I fix the error?
    Thanks a lot!!

    1. Hello!

      Thank you, I am glad you like the blog.

      I’ve never seen this message before. After some quick search – it seems as this error has some relation to the original ArcObjects code that was used to compile the Street Data Processing solution. So, this build of the tools may not work properly on your machine.
      If you have Microsoft Visual Studio at your disposal, I’d suggest recompiling the source code and then running the installation again.

      Good luck!

      1. Thanks for your answer!! I do have visual studio but I don,t know how to recompile the code, Can you help me? Thanks again!

      2. Sure. In the .zip file you downloaded and then extracted, there is SourceCode folder. Double-click the .sln file to open the solution in Visual Studio (tested with VS 2008, but should work in 2010 too. Otherwise you could open the project from the VS as well). In VS, click the Build menu > Build Solution. This will create a bin folder in the solution folder. There you will find the newly compiled .dll file. Replace existing GPProcessVendorDataFunctions.dll with the newly created GPProcessVendorDataFunctions.dll file. Then you can run the .bat installation file.

        Good luck!

  4. I am trying to figure out how to create a layer that maps the shortest ROAD/HIGHWAY distance between two sets of point data here in Ohio. I think it is Network Analyst but not sure if I will have to purchase an add-on. Any thoughts?

  5. Hi Alex, thank you so much for this post, it is very helpful!
    I am going to run a service area analysis to determine walk-ability to locations in many cities across the United States. So things like one-way vs two-way streets or turn analysis will not be very important to me. What is important is that the location of the road be as accurate as possible, and that I can remove highways so that they wont factor into the walk-ability analysis.
    Are there any advantages or disadvantages based on these datasets? It seems like the TIGER roads are a little more detailed than the free ESRI roads that come with the software, but that there are still some errors.
    Do you know how much it would cost to get the Navteq or Teleatlas dataset and if there is a considerable accuracy improvement with either of those datasets over any of the free road data?

    Thanks in advance!

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