^
Keep Houston Press Free
4

Data Compares Houston Street Grid With Others From Around the Country (Update)

For the non-GPS drivers among us, do you ever marvel at how the city's streets follow a north-south axis? Of course not.

But a data scientist from the Northwest put together a few comparisons of street grids using Census data and came up with this:

The plots reveal some stark trends. Most of the counties considered do conform to a grid pattern. This is particularly pronounced with Chicago, even though much of Cook County is suburban. Denver, Jacksonville, Houston, and Washington, D.C., also have dominant grid patterns that are oriented in the cardinal directions.

While Philadelphia and New York are primarily gridded, their orientations are slightly skewed from the traditional N-E-S-W bearings. Manhattan is particularly interesting because it has a notable imbalance between the number of streets running the width of the land (WNW to ESE) and the length of the land (NNE to SSW). New Orleans and San Francisco express some grid-like forms, but have a nontrivial proportion of roads that are rotated in other directions.

Downtown Boston has some gridded streets, but the suburban grids are differently aligned, dampening the expression of a single grid on the rose diagram. Finally, the minimal geographic extents of the grids in Charlotte and Honolulu are completely overwhelmed by the winding roads of the suburbs, resulting in plots that show only slight favoritism for certain street orientations.

What does this all mean? We're not really sure. But what we do know is that it's an ancient form of urban planning that follows the Earth's axis, believed to connect Heaven and Earth and pass through the celestial poles. But the thing you probably need most to remember is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. With that you shouldn't get lost in Harris County, if your cell phone dies.

Here's a look at five cities that look crooked and don't follow our perfect north-south-east-west road pattern.

5) New Orleans

New Orleans is almost there. Not too bad.

4) St. Louis

St. Louis isn't too far off, either. But not perfect.

3) San Francisco

It's possible an earthquake knocked San Francisco off its axis. But they're so close.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

2) Philadelphia

Philly is close. You'd figure with all that colonial history, they'd have planned a more perfect urban outlay.

1) New York

For all that "Greatest City in the World" stuff they hit you with, you'd expect the city to conform to a cardinal direction. Sure, it's not too hard to get around once you're there, but this surely looks ugly, New York. It's what happens when you're longer than you are wide.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.