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Downtown's Street Grid


Guest danax

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Does anyone know why the streets from Downtown going east all run southeast/northwest and northeast/southwest instead of north/south and east/west? My first guess is that the Bayou as it approached Allen's Landing from the east was the rough benchmark for the layout of DT and the first streets ran parallel and perpendicular to that. 29ne2pk.gif

Are we doomed by virtue of having wacky Feng Shui?

I did a quick check to relieve my anxiety regarding that possiblity and here are the results of various downtowns ;

NSEW alignment

Chicago

Phoenix

San Diego

Portland (mostly)

Non-NSEW alignment

Manhattan

Los Angeles

San Francisco

Boston

Seattle

London

Paris

Tokyo

Dallas

The oldest cities are the ones with the most tangled streets. It looks like we're not doomed after all :) .

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Don't the streets run North/South and East/West?

At least that's what the signs say in downtown.

danax's map is displayed with north at the top. the streets don't run directly north/south and east/west but rather diagonally

Edited by musicman
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Check out the street signs. They have the markings of NSEW on each side. They show Louisana to run due North. You have to be on foot. Not sure if you can see them from your car.

yeah, those are technically incorrect - but probably more of a decoration than a utility

What signs are you referencing Downtown that are incorrect? I think it's a given that 45N and 59N don't run north either. one end runs "generally" north while the other end runs the other direction (i.e. south)

but yeah, it is general...especially 59, which runs pretty much due east and west between the west beltway and downtown

Edited by sevfiv
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Check out the street signs. They have the markings of NSEW on each side. They show Louisana to run due North. You have to be on foot. Not sure if you can see them from your car.

Coog, those directional signs are a concession to the general inclination of people giving directions in downtown to call NE/SW streets North/South, and NW/SE streets East/West. The signs and posts were installed as aids to those unfamiliar with downtown. I know of no one who says Travis is Northeast, so a tourist can use the signpost in the way the locals give directions.

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Check out the street signs. They have the markings of NSEW on each side. They show Louisana to run due North. You have to be on foot. Not sure if you can see them from your car.

i think they are attempting to show a general direction, not due north/south/east nor west. could be helpful for a visitor or someone who isn't familiar with the downtown area.

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but yeah, it is general...especially 59, which runs pretty much due east and west between the west beltway and downtown

i'm thinking of 59 in its entirety that's why i used "general" cause small portions of it go north/south/east and west as does 45.

Edited by musicman
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concur but many things in life are lame. this is just another.

There is really nothing lame about it. On the street signs, I believe the N, S, E, and W indicators merely indicate that you are to the North, South, East, or West of the starting place. In Houston, I BELIEVE the north-south starting point is roughly Buffalo Bayou, and I BELIEVE the east-west starting point is Main Street. If a street sign says N, that just means you are on a street that runs in a generally North-South bearing (as opposed to an East-West bearing), and that you are to the North of the dividing point.

From his comments here, I guess MidtownCoog would propose that the street signs, rather than simply saying N, should say N 33 degrees, 12 minutes, 25 seconds, E, or some such level of detail. Of course, that would be totally unworkable; not to mention, the point of the street sign indicators is not to serve as a compass, but just to specify which side of town you are on and which general bearing the street runs in.

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There is really nothing lame about it. On the street signs, I believe the N, S, E, and W indicators merely indicate that you are to the North, South, East, or West of the starting place. In Houston, I BELIEVE the north-south starting point is roughly Buffalo Bayou, and I BELIEVE the east-west starting point is Main Street. If a street sign says N, that just means you are on a street that runs in a generally North-South bearing (as opposed to an East-West bearing), and that you are to the North of the dividing point.

Good theory but how would you explain Dallas vs. W Dallas and Gray vs. W Gray? There are numerous streets that have divisions that dont meet your criteria. the signs he was talking about have n/s/e/w on each side.

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On the street signs, I believe the N, S, E, and W indicators merely indicate that you are to the North, South, East, or West of the starting place. ...From his comments here, I guess MidtownCoog would propose that the street signs, rather than simply saying N, should say N 33 degrees, 12 minutes, 25 seconds, E, or some such level of detail. ...

No, I think y'all have mis-understood each other. The signs that MidtownCoog are talking about are downtown big circular signs with N.S.E.W. marked at each quarter circle. They are situated so that main street 'appears' to run directly North/South, and Congress 'appears' to run directly east/west. Of course, looking at a map you can see that the downtown streets don't run directly north/south. So those circle signs are a bit skewed. And yeah, that is a bit lame IMHO.

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Good theory but how would you explain Dallas vs. W Dallas and Gray vs. W Gray? There are numerous streets that have divisions that dont meet your criteria. the signs he was talking about have n/s/e/w on each side.

Totally different deal. The signs downtown are directional aids. W Dallas and W Gray are actual streets.

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Totally different deal. The signs downtown are directional aids. W Dallas and W Gray are actual streets.

yes, and the streets (gray, pierce, bell, clay, polk, etc) begin "west" around where they break from the original diagonal grid

Edited by sevfiv
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No, I think y'all have mis-understood each other. The signs that MidtownCoog are talking about are downtown big circular signs with N.S.E.W. marked at each quarter circle. They are situated so that main street 'appears' to run directly North/South, and Congress 'appears' to run directly east/west. Of course, looking at a map you can see that the downtown streets don't run directly north/south. So those circle signs are a bit skewed. And yeah, that is a bit lame IMHO.

Oh, sorry. When he said "street signs" I thought he meant, well, street signs, in the traditional sense, meaning those (usually green) things on the corners of intersections. You're talking about the big "way-finding" signs?

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Good theory but how would you explain Dallas vs. W Dallas and Gray vs. W Gray? There are numerous streets that have divisions that dont meet your criteria. the signs he was talking about have n/s/e/w on each side.

You'll notice that the transition from W Dallas to Dallas and W Gray to Gray is at the same point; this is perfectly in concert with my "theory" (and the "W" in "W Dallas" obviously does not mean one is going due West, because then the other side of the street would have to be named "E Dallas"; the "W" in "W Dallas" just inicates that it is a street with a generally east-west bearing and you are to the West of the dividing line). In Houston, as in many cities, there is a sort of "default" whereby streets to one side of the dividing line are stated without stating the direction. So, when you see "Dallas", the East is implied.

(BTW, I got the East-West dividing line wrong, it is not Main Street, but somewhere just to the west of downtown.)

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(BTW, I got the East-West dividing line wrong, it is not Main Street, but somewhere just to the west of downtown.)

it appears, map-wise, to be where the streets broke away from the original horizontal grid

---

oops, i am tired, i just echoed myself

Edited by sevfiv
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I read somewhere that the original city grid was oriented to take advantage of the seabreeze. Homes on the grid had their front and back doors and windows oriented with the grid to maximize cooling by the breeze.

As the city grid expanded it drifted away from this basic design.

The grid was probably also influenced by the orientation of the bayou.

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It's been my understanding that the street orientation was skewed from directly N/S to minimize the number of bridges needed to span Buffalo Bayou, and that the street grid was layed out by a Mr. Borden (yes, same Borden's as in ice cream.)

And in regard to streets' names and actual directions... isn't it odd that the 78 Alabama bus's route never takes it onto Alabama? A more accurate name would be the W Alabama route.

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On a somewhat related subject of where W Gray meets Gray:

For some time now, I've been trying to get a handle on where the 'zero' lines fall (i.e. where the address would be 1 N Some St, or 1 W Any Street). I can't tell if it is Main St and the bayou all the way out to Barker Cypress or if it is the latitude and longitude line of where the bayou and Main St. meet (Allen's landing has also been tossed in as a guess).

Things I haven't done yet, but might:

-Call the post office or City Hall or Fire Department

-Plot out all the 1 N Any Streets in Google Earth (partial list: UHD, Bayou Bend, Rainbow Lodge)

-Give up

Finally, wherever these lines are, do you notice/is it true that the odd and even numbers change sides? North of Buffalo Bayou evens on N/S streets are on the East side and South of the bayou they're on the West?

Edited by SamHouston
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On a somewhat related subject of where W Gray meets Gray:

For some time now, I've been trying to get a handle on where the 'zero' lines fall (i.e. where the address would be 1 N Some St, or 1 W Any Street). I can't tell if it is Main St and the bayou all the way out to Barker Cypress or if it is the latitude and longitude line of where the bayou and Main St. meet (Allen's landing has also been tossed in as a guess).

Things I haven't done yet, but might:

-Call the post office or City Hall or Fire Department

-Plot out all the 1 N Any Streets in Google Earth (partial list: UHD, Bayou Bend, Rainbow Lodge)

-Give up

Finally, wherever these lines are, do you notice/is it true that the odd and even numbers change sides? North of Buffalo Bayou evens on N/S streets are on the East side and South of the bayou they're on the West?

Good post. South of UHDT is Main-north of that is N. Main. That is established as the street was expanded northward and someone decided to change the name as opposed to giving the next address northward a negative number as in:-One Main.Therefore, from UHDT traveling north, the street is called North Main. Our home address on the west side of the street on N. Main is an odd number. We have a property on the same side south of UHDT that is even. Frankly, I've never given any thought to what the difference is until now.

If someone has an answer I'll give them the Trivia Street Numbering Challange Award 2006. Award to announced at a later date... ^_^

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Mapquest directions to the airport: Travel east on South Braeswood to the West Loop South and turn north. Exit due east onto the Southwest Freeway, following it until it turns to the north, becoming the Eastex Freeway. Exit due west on North Sam Houston Parkway East to JFK Blvd. Turn north.

east West Loop South west East north .... woe is me. :lol:

Probably to visitors it is hard to navigate here. But to me, it is very easy to navigate. But I have been here since 1972. Kind of grew up with the place.

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You'll notice that the transition from W Dallas to Dallas and W Gray to Gray is at the same point; this is perfectly in concert with my "theory" (and the "W" in "W Dallas" obviously does not mean one is going due West, because then the other side of the street would have to be named "E Dallas"; the "W" in "W Dallas" just inicates that it is a street with a generally east-west bearing and you are to the West of the dividing line). In Houston, as in many cities, there is a sort of "default" whereby streets to one side of the dividing line are stated without stating the direction. So, when you see "Dallas", the East is implied.

(BTW, I got the East-West dividing line wrong, it is not Main Street, but somewhere just to the west of downtown.)

I guess I was trying to say that there are E/W designations scattered all over the city, not just those "somewhere to just to the west of downtown." Orem, Bellfort, Little York, etc. I say it is more random all over the city.

When i see Dallas i wouldn't say east is implied, i would say it is older than W Dallas though as that is where W Dallas got its name from the original street called Dallas.

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I guess I was trying to say that there are E/W designations scattered all over the city, not just those "somewhere to just to the west of downtown." Orem, Bellfort, Little York, etc. I say it is more random all over the city.

When i see Dallas i wouldn't say east is implied, i would say it is older than W Dallas though as that is where W Dallas got its name from the original street called Dallas.

Good grief, man. I did not say all streets with the designation of "W" were "just to the west of downtown." I merely said that the dividing line between east and west apparently runs just to the west of downtown, rather than on Main Street as I had presumed.

The dividing line runs throughout the entire city.

So, of course there are E and W Little York and Orem and Bellfort, etc etc etc. Any street running in a generally east-west bearing will have both an E and a W version, if it runs on both sides of that dividing line. Look on a Google Map and you can find exactly where Little York switches from E to W. It's still the same street! The E and W just indicate which side of the dividing line you are on.

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There are numerous dividing lines. Downtown, it is Buffalo Bayou on the north and west. In the Heights, it is Heights Boulevard. Out west, it is generally Buffalo Bayou. As Houston swallowed up towns, it generally did not renumber the streets, so there is often no rhyme or reason to the grid.

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There are numerous dividing lines. Downtown, it is Buffalo Bayou on the north and west. In the Heights, it is Heights Boulevard. Out west, it is generally Buffalo Bayou. As Houston swallowed up towns, it generally did not renumber the streets, so there is often no rhyme or reason to the grid.

VERY interesting. I had never noticed that. Within those pockets (e.g., The Heights), the same rules apply. For example, East of Heights Blvd, 9th Street is E. 9th Street. West of Heights Blvd, 9th Street is W 9th Street, but it's all 9th Street.

I've been searching, so far in vain, for a source that explains where the dividing lines are... and how the numberings work :-(

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Good grief, man. I did not say all streets with the designation of "W" were "just to the west of downtown." I merely said that the dividing line between east and west apparently runs just to the west of downtown, rather than on Main Street as I had presumed.

The dividing line runs throughout the entire city.

So, of course there are E and W Little York and Orem and Bellfort, etc etc etc. Any street running in a generally east-west bearing will have both an E and a W version, if it runs on both sides of that dividing line. Look on a Google Map and you can find exactly where Little York switches from E to W. It's still the same street! The E and W just indicate which side of the dividing line you are on.

i'm saying good grief too. i'm just saying that the "dividing line" varies to the point of it not being discernable (i.e. it is street/area specific) there's an orem, w orem and e orem yet streets that are running parallel to this don't change names where orem does.

There are numerous dividing lines. Downtown, it is Buffalo Bayou on the north and west. In the Heights, it is Heights Boulevard. Out west, it is generally Buffalo Bayou. As Houston swallowed up towns, it generally did not renumber the streets, so there is often no rhyme or reason to the grid.

thank you red....margarita on me!

Edited by musicman
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I finally found SOMEthing on the city's website addressing this. It's not much, but it's somthing...

They have a page named Street Name Change Procedures and Standards.

Included in the standards:

"Street name prefixes such as North, South, East, and West may be used to clarify the general location of the street. However, such prefixes must be consistent with the existing and established street naming and address numbering system of the general area in which the street is located."

Edited by Houston19514
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If you're going to an address on Alabama, and take the Alabama bus...you ain't gonna get there.

And that doesn't strike you as odd?

btw: Virginia and W Virginia? Two separate states. :D

:wacko: Unless, of course your "address on Alabama" happens to be on W Alabama, which is, after all Alabama Street as well. Gee, how have people ever been able to locate the Alabama Ice House or Alabama Theater? With names like that confusing them, one would think they would be wandering around over there somewhere east of Spur 527. ;-)

btw: I am aware of the distinction between Virginia and West Virginia. States are quite different things than city streets; perhaps you've noticed that. :D

I'm not sure how we got to this particular tangent. My initial point was and remains, that the W on street signs merely indicates you are on a street with an east-west bearing and you are to the west of the dividing line. That applies to Alabama Street as well, and I imagine that east of the dividing line, which for Alabama appears to be at Spur 527, there are "E's" on the Alabama Street signs.

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:wacko: Unless, of course your "address on Alabama" happens to be on W Alabama, which is, after all Alabama Street as well. Gee, how have people ever been able to locate the Alabama Ice House or Alabama Theater? With names like that confusing them, one would think they would be wandering around over there somewhere east of Spur 527. ;-)

btw: I am aware of the distinction between Virginia and West Virginia. States are quite different things than city streets; perhaps you've noticed that. :D

I'm not sure how we got to this particular tangent. My initial point was and remains, that the W on street signs merely indicates you are on a street with an east-west bearing and you are to the west of the dividing line. That applies to Alabama Street as well, and I imagine that east of the dividing line, which for Alabama appears to be at Spur 527, there are "E's" on the Alabama Street signs.

I'll concede the Alabama Theater (which, after all, is on neither Alabama nor W Alabama.) However, I cannot concede the ice house. Google "alabama ice house" (with quotation marks) and every reference is to West Alabama Ice House.

My point (and I do have one) is that there is not an E Alabama. It's just called Alabama east of Main St., and no Metro buses run down it. Not even the misnamed 78 Alabama bus.

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I finally found SOMEthing on the city's website addressing this. It's not much, but it's somthing...

They have a page named Street Name Change Procedures and Standards.

Included in the standards:

"Street name prefixes such as North, South, East, and West may be used to clarify the general location of the street. However, such prefixes must be consistent with the existing and established street naming and address numbering system of the general area in which the street is located."

Your link is wrong. ;)

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