Measuring Main Streets


1. Business and Civic Infrastructure Location Data (Environics Analytics, 2023)

Business and Civic Infrastructure location data sourced from Environics Analytics provides the spatial location of all businesses and civic infrastructure tracked by InfoCanada. The data includes the name, address, NAICS Code and a unique identifier for over 1.1 million businesses. The business data is used to derive the presence and composition of two the categories, each of which are further split up into subcategories, by using their respective four and six-digit NAICS codes:

For more information on the definition of these categories, click here to read a detailed methodology.

2. Demographic Data (Environics Analytics DemoStats, 2023; Statistics Canada, 2021)

The demographic data combines proprietary data from Environics Analytics DemoStats, updated yearly, with open-source data from the 2021 census, where the equivalent Environics DemoStats is unavailable. The demographic data includes population counts, housing data, basic demographic information, and commuting data.

3. Mobile Visitor Count Data (Environics Analytics MobileScapes, 2019 – 2022)

Visitor Count data is derived using Environics Analytics MobileScapes data, a mobile movement database developed from permission-based data collected using location-enabled mobile applications. The MobileScapes data is only collected for the buildings within the case study area, providing accurate visitor numbers for the time of day, week, and month. In addition, the mobile data also provides visitors' common daytime (work) and evening (home) locations to analyze visitor types, distances, and changes in spatial patterns over time. The MobileScapes data for the purpose of our analysis is defined in two ways:

4. National Road Network (Statistics Canada, 2023)

The NRN was adopted by members of the Inter-Agency Committee on Geomatics (IACG) and the Canadian Council on Geomatics (CCOG) to provide quality, homogeneous, and normalized geospatial and attributive data (current, accurate, consistent) for the entire Canadian road network. The NRN is part of the GeoBase initiative, which aims to provide a common geospatial infrastructure maintained regularly by closest-to-source organizations. (Statistics Canada, 2023)

The NRN is distributed as thirteen provincial/territorial datasets consisting of two linear entities (road segments and ferry segments), three punctual entities (junctions, blocked passages, and toll points), and three tabular entities (address ranges, street and place names, and alternative name linkages). Currently, the NRN is publicly available on the Open Government data portal.

5. Dataset Summary Table

Data Set Scale Usage
Business and Civic Location Data National (point data) Platform, Case Studies, Reports, Tools
Demographic Data National (Dissemination Area) Platform, Case Studies, Reports, Tools
Mobile Visitor Count Data Case Study (Building Footprint) Case Studies, Reports, Tools
National Road Network National (Line Data) Platform, Case Studies, Tools


Creating Canada's Main Street Network

Creating a comprehensive main street network for Canada began with a clear goal: identifying segments of roads where clusters of Main Street Businesses and Civic Infrastructure are co-located and concentrated across the country. In order to arrive at this final dataset, we underwent an iterative process, gathering feedback along every step of the way from project stakeholders, users and policy experts.

After identifying the main street network, we also attached demographic information (from the 2021 Census and other proprietary data sets), in order to provide insights about the surrounding area and its residents. The methodology will be broken down into four main sections.

1. Business and Civic Infrastructure Data Setup

The first task in creating Canada’s main street network was identifying the types of businesses and civic infrastructure associated with main streets. Based on the four and 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, points within the Business and Civic Location Data were classified into one of three Main Street Business Groups (Retail, Food and Drink or Local Services) or one of five Civic Infrastructure Groups (Arts and Culture, Education, Government and Community Services, Healthcare, and Recreation) as seen in the table below.

In addition, within the Local Services Business Sub Group, businesses under NAICS code categories such as Depository Credit, Accounting, Legal Services, Telecom stores, and Real Estate Offices, had to have less than 50 employees to confirm that they were local instances. For example, to ensure we identified local bank branches and filtered out corporate office locations that may have both been classified under the same NAICS code.

Main Street Business Table (Click to expand)

4-Digit NAICS Code NAICS Code Description Main Street Business Group
7224 Drinking places Food and Drink
7225 Restaurants
4451 Grocery stores Retail
4452 Specialty food stores
4453 Liquor stores
7223 Special food services
4411 Auto dealers
4412 Other motor vehicle dealers
4413 Auto Parts Retailers
4421 Furniture Stores
4422 Home furnishings stores
4431 Electronic and Appliance Stores
4441 Building material stores
4442 Lawn and garden stores
4461 Pharmacies and Drug Stores
4471 Gasoline stores
4481 Clothing stores
4482 Shoe stores
4483 Jewellery, and leather goods
4511 Sporting goods, hobby, and music stores
4513 Book stores
4521 Department stores
4529 Other general stores
4531 Florists
4532 Office supplies
4533 Used merchandise stores
4539 Other retailers
4541 Electronic shopping
4542 Vending machine operators
4543 Direct selling
5173 Telecom stores
5312 Real estate offices
4911 Postal Service Local Services
5221 Depository Credit
5411 Legal Services
5412 Accounting
8111 Auto repair
8112 Electronic repair
8113 Commercial equipment repair
8114 Household goods repair
8121 Personal care
8122 Funeral services
8123 Dry Cleaning
8129 Other personal services

Civic Infrastructure Table (Click to expand)

6-Digit NAICS Code Description Group
519120 Libraries Arts and Culture
711110 Theatre companies
711120 Dance Companies
711130 Musical Groups and Artists
711190 Other Performing Arts Companies
711510 Independent Artists, Writers and Performers
712110 Museums
712120 Historical Sites
611110 Elementary and secondary schools Education
611210 Community Colleges
611310 Universities
611410 Business and Secretarial schools
611519 Technical and trade schools
611610 Fine arts schools
611630 Language schools
611699 All other schools and instruction
611710 Educational support services
624410 Child day-care services
624110 Child and youth services Government and Community Services
624120 Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities
624190 Other individual and family services
624210 Community Food Services
624221 Temporary Shelters
624229 Other Community Housing Services
624310 Vocational rehabilitation services
813110 Religious organizations
813210 Grant-making and giving services
813310 Social advocacy organization
813410 Civic and Social Organizations
921110 Executive Offices
921120 Legislative Bodies
921190 Other General Government Support
922110 Courts
922120 Police Protection
922160 Fire Protection
621111 Office of physicians Healthcare
621210 Office of dentists
621310 Office of chiropractors
621320 Office of optometrists
621330 Office of mental health practitioners
621340 Office of physical, occupational and speech therapists
621391 Office of Podiatrists
621399 Office of all other health practitioners
621410 Family planning centres
621420 Out-patient mental health and substance abuse centres
621494 Community health centres
621498 All other out-patient care centres
622110 General Hospitals
622210 Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals
622310 Specialty hospitals
623110 Nursing care facilities
623311 Continuing Care Retirement Communities
623312 Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly
623990 Other Residential Care Facilities
712130 Zoos and botanical gardens Recreation
712190 Nature parks and other similar institutions
713940 Fitness and recreational sports centres
713950 Bowling centres
713990 All other amusement and recreation industries

Attaching Additional Data

The final step was summarising the estimated employment size and retail sales, as well as our Business Independence Index, which uses text-based analysis to assess the uniqueness of each business between 0 and 1 (defined below).

2. Road Network Setup

In order to identify main streets, we had to use a road network dataset to use in our analysis. Setting up the road network is a crucial step in the methodology as it is also the median through which all infrastructure and demographic data will be attached and visualized. Before this can happen, several cleaning steps are performed on the Statistics Canada national road network.

Defining large and small city networks

The first step in setting up the road network is determining what types of roads should be included in the network. The table below outlines our methodology in creating the road network; which differs in large and small cities. A city is defined as large or small based on its population count and population density, and the types of roads included are different in each. This was done to remove mainly residential areas in large cities while maintaining small local roads in small towns.

City Type Condition Roads Used
Large City Population Count Above 100,000 and Population Density Above 1,000 / Arterial, Collector, Local Highways
Small City Population Count Below 100,000 or Population Density Below 1,000 / Arterial, Collector, Local Highways, Local Streets

Using the ‘sfnetworks’ package in R, lines in the road network are cleaned to simplify edges and reduce redundancy after the initial filtering of the roads. First, the road network is simplified to remove multiple edges and loops. Next, pseudo nodes are removed to have nodes where the endpoints of roads meet. Finally, intersections between the roads are simplified, adjoining all converging roads to a single node.

3. Attaching Data

Attaching Business and Civic Infrastructure Data

After cleaning the Infrastructure and Road Networks, a spatial intersection was performed, attaching all main street businesses and civic infrastructure to all roads within 50 metres of the desired road segment. The counts of each main street business and civic infrastructure type were summarised, producing a total for each road segment. In addition, the densities of main street businesses and civic infrastructure were calculated by dividing the total by the road length.

For summary statistics using Main Street business data, such as the Business Independence Index and Retail Sales, the average for all businesses along the road was used. The employment size of the businesses was also considered for the Business Independence Index.

Attaching Demographic Data

Demographic variables were intersected between the road network and all Dissemination Areas within one kilometre of the adjoining road segment. For each road segment, variables were summarised by taking the average of all Dissemination Areas weighted by the Population count of each DA.

4. Identifying Main Streets

With the creation of our base road network, we can now identify main streets as a segment of road where a clustering of main street businesses and civic infrastructure exists. This process is done over two primary steps. Identifying businesses and civic infrastructure clusters and extracting segments based on density thresholds.

Identifying Main Street Business and Civic Infrastructure Clusters

Using the cleaned Business and Civic Location Data, Kernel Density Estimation in QGIS created a heatmap of main street businesses and civic data. The heatmap layer was then filtered based on the set density thresholds of high-density and low-density main streets.

Main Street Type Parameters Density Thresholds
Low-Density Main Streets Radius: 100 metres
Kernel Shape: Quartic
Above 2 Main Street Business and Civic Infrastructure within the defined radius
High-Density Main Streets Radius: 100 metres
Kernel Shape: Quartic
Above 10 Main Street Business and Civic Infrastructure within the defined radius

Extracting Segments Based on Density Thresholds

The final main street layer for high and low-density main streets was then clipped from the respective heatmap layers, and a difference between the two road layers was performed to prevent overlaps.

Independent Business Index

The Independent Business Index creates a scaled index of business independence using text analysis within the Main Street Business Dataset to apply a scale between 0 and 1 based on how many times a business name appears in the data. The closer the value is to 1, the more ‘independent’ the business is deemed.

From the Main Street Business Location Dataset, businesses are grouped based on their name and primary industry using the 2-digit NAICS code associated with the business. Once grouped, the businesses are min-max scaled, giving a value between 0 and 1, with 0 being the most prevalent name in the business data and one being the least prevalent.

This methodology allows us to account for differences in chain businesses, so a small local chain with 5 locations is deemed more ‘independent’ than a large national chain with 200+ locations, for example.

Civic Infrastructure Index

The Civic Infrastructure Index (CII) assesses relative access to civic infrastructure within a defined catchment area by combining services' capacity with the local population's demand.

Based on two-step floating catchment areas

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The Measuring Main Streets platfrom (part of the Research Knowledge Initiative program from Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Canada) was developed by the Canadian Urban Institute in partnership with Environics Analytics and Open North.

Canadian Urban Institute Canadian Urban Institute Environics Analytics Open North