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Wisconsin is one of the few states that have transitioned from CaiCE/microstation to Civil 3D/Autocad. Here are a few things users have seen from the transition. This comes from a person with an Inroads, CaiCE, and Civil 3D background.
A user with a CaiCE only background is going to like civil 3D as it is an improvement while a user from Inroads is going to feel like it is a step backwards in terms of functionality and stability.
Things users have quickly noticed are:
1.) Microstation/Inroads handles large surfaces , huge CADD files, etc much better. A surface that takes 10 minutes to load as an xml into inroads takes 3 hours to load into C3D. The database format in inroads allows for the software to handle much larger files versus C3D where the data you want (and the data you don't want but is required to process corridors, etc) is in the file slowing down C3D.
2.) Roadway modeling is much more efficient in Inroads than in C3D.
a. Even using conditional assemblies and multiple baselines in C3D, it still is cumbersome to get a corridor together. Everytime you have a change (ex: changing the steepness of a slope on the side of the roadway, driveways, side roads, a change in pavement/base depth, change from ditch to curb, etc) you have to change subassemblies. Inroads you are not going back and forth between multiple subassemblies everytime you make a small change. This is the bread and butter of roadway design; C3D is very clumsy in this area.
b. In urban areas especially where the buildings abut the back of sidewalk it can be a nightmare. You want to create less sections in your corridors to keep you file size down but you need more sections to get your corridor to match into these buildings. It’s a catch-22. On our end, it is more important to get more out of the corridors versus surface edits since we see so many larger design changes, it is much easier to update corridors versus thousands of surface edits. Had an urban project that was a half mile long with this situation and we had 3 corridor files. Inroads can handle urban projects much better than C3D especially with the drainage features in inroads.
c. Had an 8 mile rural 2 lane reconstruction project (horiz align and profile changes) recently that required us to have 12 corridor files. Users do use data shortcuts for everything (surfaces, alignments/profiles, and pipe networks) and xrefs for all non-corridor required information in a file. Computers have i5 processors, 12Gb of Memory, 64 bit windows 7 on C3D 2014. Inroads did not need 12 separate files and gave a surface that requires much less edits for machine grading.
d. The state does massive projects particularly in the Milwaukee metro area (4 level flyover interchanges, 5+ lanes in each direction, multiple lane ramps, etc). To make it even worse in roadway modeling, these are urban with retaining walls, noise walls, etc. C3D requires the user to have many assemblies/subassemblies due to sections changing frequently. This pushes up file sizes fast requiring users to break up corridor files. This adds risks for errors as one must make sure they match between the files. Also since the software only accommodates 4 lanes for superelevation, it is requires an intensive workaround to add automatic superelevation to the 5th lane.
e. Note these are more generalized comments and there is certainly more if a person were to dive into the details. The problem we find is that we have to use multiple work arounds to get simple things to work that inroads is a direct setting that can be changed.
3.) Drainage capabilities in inroads are much better than hydraflow/Storm and Sanitary Analysis
a. Inroads you do not have to “export/import” out of the software to use to drainage packages. The drainage component of inroads is integrated in as a part of the user interface in inroads. You can work directly from mirostation/inroads.
b. Pond analysis is very cumbersome in Storm and Sanitary Analysis versus Bentley Pondpak.
c. There are many storm systems across the state that have multiple outfalls or tie into existing undersized systems. Hydraflow does not account for multiple outfalls, which forces a user to work with Storm and Sanitary Analysis (SSA). SSA's interface between C3D and the software is better but is more time consuming and resource intensive. Both drainage packages are not as powerful and easy to use as inroads storm and sanitary where is the direct interaction (versus import/export from C3D for Hydraflow/SSA) is an incredible asset and time saver in roadway design. Every designer who has done an urban project with storm sewer or a rural project with complex drainage design understands drainage drives roadway design in many situations. The direct integration of the drainage software in inroads is a huge plus versus C3D.
4.) Sheet production for plans, particularly for cross sections, is much better in inroads than in Civil 3D.
a. When a user prepares a plan to be sent to utility companies, cross sections are a nightmare in marking these utilities. C3D requires the user to turn each utility line into an alignment and assign a profile. Then when the user puts the markers into the sample line groups through the profile grade markers they have to select the marker type for each alignment. Not a problem when you have 10 utilities but when you have 500+ on these massive highways projects like those in Milwaukee this is extremely time consuming. Inroads took 1 hr to do this versus 3 days in C3D. This is also an issue in all cross section sheets for final plans as right of way, easement, reference line, and wetland markers are required to be included as well.
b. The sheet set manger in C3D is terrible when trying to produce many sheets. The user has to limit their sheets to 60 cross section sheets at a time when plotting (to PDF) otherwise the software crashes and it also takes about 20 seconds per sheet. 60 sheets may seem like a lot of sheets but it is not. The massive projects in the state can have 1000+ cross section sheets once you include staging and final cross sections. Microstation there never was a noticeable limit in sheet production that would cause the software to crash. It would take a few minutes but always plotted. We had to create a macro that directly prints out of the software to avoid this issue.
c. The batch print manager in Civil 3D is nowhere as versatile as the batch plotter in microstation. Using projectwise interplot manager from Bentley a user in microstation can assemble all of their sheets into one plot file and plot to PDF or a plotter. The convenience is if many sheets in a plan set are updated (It happens frequently due to plan changes and plan reviews) microstation involves a few clicks to print a new plan.
d. Quantity take off's in microstation/inroads are incredibly powerful and easy to use once the bid items are added to the software. C3D's do not work as efficient and we have had difficulties getting them to work properly as they do now account well for our bid item measurements.
5.) Training for conversation from microstation to autocad is a huge undertaking that not only has taken the state more money and time than they expected but firms around the state all have increased costs. Particularly consultant costs have jumped since many are not sure how many hours they need in this new software to complete projects. Our first time doing a project in C3D we were low on our estimation because we did not anticipate the hours it would take to complete the work. After 3 years our rates used for C3D are still higher than inroads would be because it is not as efficient. A major problem statewide is that since we are one of the first states to take this on, there are plenty of firms that know civil 3D but most have not done extensive DOT work. It was the intention to bring in many firms to help smooth the conversion over (in terms converting the thousands of blocks and files, setting up workflows, setting up training, etc). That has not happened as the state has not been able to find firms to come in and do so. It is surprising autodesk isn’t more interested in this as this is their testing ground and a few other states are watching.
Lastly states do not get microstation/inroads for free or a very reduced price. The price is about equivalent to that of Civil 3D. Our firm discussed the prices the state got from the two vendors (Bentley and Autodesk) with the state’s software group and Bentley was actually marginally higher (Within $50) than Autodesk per license.