Graphic Reveals Cardinal Orientation of Street Grids

Seth Kadish says he was born with an innate sense of direction. As such, he appreciates street grids oriented to cardinal directions. The phenomena interested him enough to create a graphic that visualizes the orientation of 12 urban areas.

“If you’re like me, and you use the Sun to navigate, you probably appreciate cities with gridded street plans that are oriented in the cardinal directions,” writes Seth Kadish in introducing a cool visualization exercise that produced a graphic representation of the orientation of street grids for 12 metropolitan areas around the United States.

Like many of us, Kadish has noticed how the orientation of each city is as unique as the city itself: “…not all urban planners settled on such a simple layout for road networks. For some developers, topography or water may have gotten in the way. Others may not have appreciated the efficiency of the grid.” To examine the differences in orientation, Kadish created a visualization that compares the relative degree to which city streets are gridded.

Here are a few of Kadish’s observations from the visualization; “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.”

Full Story: On and Off the Street Grid: Relative Distributions of Road Orientations

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