Keith Levit/Shutterstock.com

An analysis of roadway suffixes in six major U.S. cities reveals differences rooted in history.

For folks who've visited Chicago and thought, Damn, this city has a lot of avenues—that's a spot-on assessment. In fact, 35 percent of Chicago's roadways end in "Avenue," which is substantially higher than New York (about 20 percent) and Philadelphia (10 percent).

We know that thanks to data scientist Seth Kadish, who's made a fun visualization of the urban distribution of street-name suffixes. "I visualize any public data I find interesting, and city-data portals are a great source," emails Kadish, who's 30 and lives in Portland, Oregon. "I've done geographic analyses of streets, but I felt this would be a fun, albeit simpler, visualization."

(Vizual Statistix)

Kadish analyzed six major cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco), looking at how various suffixes like "Way" and "Drive" stacked up against the total number of streets in each. He didn't take length into account—L.A.'s 43-mile Sepulveda Boulevard carried the same value as Philly's block-long Salter Street—and roadways with no suffix, like "Bowery," and rarer suffixes like "Grove" and "Bayou" went into the "Other" box. "No street went uncounted!," he notes.

A couple of things jumped out at Kadish while he was crunching the data. "New York is interesting due to the high percentage within the 'Other' category," he says, "which includes suffixes like 'Loop' and 'Parkway.'" Though he cautions he's no historian, he guesses that it's this crush of loops, bridges, expressways, highways, and alleys that determines New York's otherness.

"I originally graphed other cities as well, like Austin, which had a strange affinity for 'Cove,'" he adds. "Aside from avenues, 'Drive' is the only suffix that comes close to 20 percent of a city's names (in New Orleans)."

Some other theories: San Francisco's legion of hills and steep, winding roads must account for it being the leader of "Terraces." New Orleans' status as king of "Courts" perhaps comes from its cultural roots with aristocratic France. And as for Chicago also ranking highly for "Boulevard," Reddit member "planification" offers this explanation:

Another trend in parks [in the 1800s] came from Paris, which was to create grand landscaped roads that ran throughout the city. Part of the motivation was beautification, but underlying that the idea was that by providing people with open space, you could prevent the spread of disease. Chicago borrowed this idea and created a boulevard system that can be traced through the city.

Top image: / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Multicolored maps of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Tampa, denoting neighborhood fragmentation
    Equity

    Urban Neighborhoods, Once Distinct by Race and Class, Are Blurring

    Yet in cities, affluent white neighborhoods and high-poverty black ones are outliers, resisting the fragmentation shown with other types of neighborhoods.

  2. Design

    There’s a Tile Theft Epidemic in Lisbon

    With a single azulejo fetching hundreds of euros at the city’s more reputable antique stores, these tiles, sitting there out in the open, are easy pickings.

  3. Life

    The Cities Where You Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

    There may be another metro within a day’s drive where the costs of living are a lot lower and salaries go a lot further. Is is worth moving?

  4. Design

    The Curious Politics of a Montreal Mega-Mall

    The car-dependent suburb it’ll be built in wants to greenlight Royalmount against the city government’s wishes but it needs them to pay for the public infrastructure.

  5. Equity

    Capturing Black Bottom, a Detroit Neighborhood Lost to Urban Renewal

    “Black Bottom Street View,” now exhibiting at the Detroit Public Library, thoughtfully displays old images of the historic African American neighborhood in its final days.