DDOT

Street grids of necessity.

If you love the geometry of street grids – the spare way they convey differences in scale, density, and development patterns – the below maps reduce a city's shape to something even simpler: those essential arteries worth plowing in a snow emergency.

With this elegant (but functional!) map of Washington, D.C.'s emergency snow routes in mind, we tracked down maps of several cities as they appear on days like today on the East Coast, in the heart of a sweeping snow storm. Bad weather reduces a city to its critical bones, as most of us stay home. All but the most important roads remain inaccessible. Residential neighborhoods stay snowed-under in favor of commercial corridors and highways. Major bus routes take precedent over side streets, as do downtown districts over peripheral communities.

Compare these maps against each other, and they also reveal an underlying logic in how each city is organized, by grid (Chicago), by waterway (Philadelphia), or by relative chaos (we're looking at you, Louisville).

If you live in any of these cities, you may also know these routes by another name: When it's snowing, this is where you dare not park.

This is the emergency snow route map in Washington, D.C.:

In Philadelphia:

Baltimore:

These are the Chicago streets prioritized for plowing above 2 inches of snow:

Here is radial Richmond:

And Louisville:

Oklahoma City:

Minneapolis:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Don’t Throw It Away—Take It to the Repair Cafe

    This series of workshops aims to keep broken items out of the landfill, and it might help you save a few bucks, too.

  2. An illustration shows two alleys in Detroit.
    Design

    Finding the Untapped Potential of Alleys

    “We’re starting to realize they’re just as powerful as a park or plaza.”

  3. POV

    What ‘Skyscraper’ Doesn’t Get About Skyscrapers

    The Rock’s new movie should have gotten more thrills out of high-rise design, an engineer argues.

  4. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  5. Design

    The Sensory City Philosopher

    Architect, engineer, and inventor Carlo Ratti envisions a future for urban design that's interactive.