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Detroit’s street grid is a lot stranger than...

Detroit’s street grid is a lot stranger than it seems

There’s something pretty unique about the network of streets that criss-cross through Detroit, and we didn’t see it staring at us from the map. It has to do with the direction our roads are oriented, and brought to our attention by Geoff Boeing, an urban planning academic who has us hooked on his data visualizations about urban design.

Boeing recently compared street orientation in 25 major cities, plotting streets by frequency to show how well they adhere to the four cardinal directions and how well they align with each other — the more streets running a particular direction, the longer and more isolated the line on the graph. A city like Manhattan, with a very orderly grid (albeit tilted at an angle) appears as four clean lines, while a city like Boston, where streets run in every direction, comes out looking like a spiky blob.

So what does Detroit’s histogram look like? See if you can figure it out. (Hint: Manhattan is row three, column three).

city streets no titles
Courtesy Geoff Boeing. Click for labels.
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