-{ a hewer of maps }-

Using CanVec

In the spring of 2007 the Natural Resources Department of Canada released digital topographic data for the whole nation under a free and libre license policy. The product is CanVec. For bulk downloads, see http://ftp2.cits.rncan.gc.ca/pub/canvec/ (subst http for ftp if that is more to your liking).

Although the data has been out for 5 months or so, as near as I can tell it has yet to be used in any significant public way (no one has been yapping about it outside the confines of their cubicle). The sole reference I could find is Stewart Russell’s my neighborhood, according to Canvec. A modest project to be sure, but I’m happy to see the first one off the block is one of this scale as it demonstrates that with free and libre data *anything* is possible. :)

I think the slow up take is at least in part due to the impenetrable nature of the canvec documentation and file format. So this series of posts will serve, I hope, to part the veil a tad and let more ambitious projects take root.

[later same day] 15 minutes at home working on linux solved a problem I couldn’t do in 2 hours at work on windows: transfer some tables in the source pdf to tables in another format, csv, for easy cross referencing and reuse. Thank you KWord for extracting the tables from PDF and Open Office for converting text to table and exporting as .csv. Looks like it’s time to revive that vmware linux appliance at the office. :)\ I caught on, late I know, to a problem with using a blog for this kind of reporting: I can’t attach files. For instance the script for bulk downloading and unpacking canvec archives or the aforementioned theme-name cross reference table. Guess I’ll post as comments for now.\ ((more coming as I figure it out))

UPDATE: tables and scripts are now available from http://code.google.com/p/maphew/, so I removed the same from the comments below.

Comments {#commentz}

  1. scruss wrote:

    The file formats take a bit of pondering, but they’re pretty simple one you can get your head round the weird naming convention for layers.

    My biggest and total disappoint with CanVec is that the metadata is barely there. Look at the road layers; the only road names are Federal-class highways. No use for local mapping.

    I’ve half a mind to register as an Ontario Base Map reseller, as the OBM shapefiles have so much metadata. Registering as a reseller gives you access to the data for comparatively few \$.

    Posted 18 Sep 2007 at 6:19 pm

  2. matt wilkie wrote:

    Hi Stewart, thanks for dropping by. I agree the metadata is poor, but that’s no different from the source NTDB. The geobase/canvec development model is all about partnership with regional agencies (provincial/territorial governments) so over the course of time, not too much one hopes, we should see more metadata migrate up. Though for regions like Ontario where the they are making some money from the extra information richness there may be some pressure not to do so.

    The one I’m waiting for is next year when the National Hydrographic Network is to be released. Lakes and rivers know their names, and that the same watershed flows through them both (real stream networks).

    Posted 18 Sep 2007 at 9:28 pm

  3. James wrote:

    Thanks for sorting out the attribute names! I am not a programmer and don’t have access to a Linux or Unix machine. Is there a way to do a bulk download of CanVec data, or do you have to get it by individual tiles? I need to download and merge 50k CanVec data on a province-wide basis (shapefile). Alternatively, do you know if anyone has done this, available for free or purchase?\ Thanks!

    Posted 09 Oct 2007 at 8:43 am

  4. maphew wrote:

    Hi James. You don’t need linux for this. The above .cmd files are for Windows. The first one (download-yukon-gml.cmd) handles the bulk download part while the next two unpack the zips and merge the tiles into seamless layers.

    However they do assume wget.exe and fwtools (ogr2ogr) are installed and in path (just google for both).

    if you’re not in a hurry my plan is to eventually get around to build one or more easy to use scripts to automatically download and merge for each province/territory (and they will be free). This could take some time though!

    If your need is more pressing you’ll need to learn a little about running batch files (it’s daunting if you’ve not done it before, but really it’s not that hard to learn). I’m tempted to say “I’ll sell it to ya!” but I don’t know if that will square with my employer.

    To date I’ve not heard of anyone offering merged canvec data sets at any price.

    Posted 10 Oct 2007 at 12:06 am

  5. James wrote:

    Hey Matt -

    Just wondering if you have (or know of anyone who has) downloaded and merged ALL of the CanVec data at the Province level.

    Thanks!\ James

    Posted 24 Oct 2008 at 12:05 pm

  6. matt wilkie wrote:

    I’ve not heard of anyone producing compiled provincial/territorial Canvec sets yet. I have toyed with the idea of doing so myself and putting it up for sale in a fashion similar to the Maps For Ransom project. I’ve two small kids though and my “spare” time seems to dissolve faster than salt in the ocean. :)

    Posted 25 Oct 2008 at 12:26 pm

  7. Barb wrote:

    I need the 50K Canvec datasets merged into seamless files divided by province/territory too…any further progress on this anyone?

    Posted 17 Dec 2008 at 4:44 pm

  8. Rel wrote:

    If you need 50K merged CanVec data for any province/territory, I can do that.

    Posted 11 Feb 2009 at 7:38 am

  9. SpatialWorks Calgary wrote:

    SpatialWorks Solutions based out of Calgary, AB have the entire CanVec data for sale at a very low cost. Email: info@spatialworks.ca

    Posted 20 Mar 2009 at 6:35 pm

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